Essay and photos by Chuck Nafziger
Hover flies recently changed from words in nature books to creatures all around me. I had known that one small black and yellow fly was probably a hover fly, but I was not really sure. I vaguely remembered that a hover fly looked a little like a small wasp, but it did not sting or bite and maybe even was a predator of other insects,
I had descended into the bug world when Transition Chuckanut agreed that a program "Black and Yellow Bugs, Pests, Predators and Pollinators" might be of interest for a January or February get-together. I knew we needed photos for a slide show, so I started taking my point-and-shoot camera along while I took my goats to browse on the blackberries and reed canary grass on the pipeline along side of my property. When the blackberries were in bloom, there were interesting bugs on the blossoms. The auto focus on my camera rarely picked out what I was shooting at, and I became convinced that I needed an SLR camera. Now I need better close up lens. But with my present lens, I am now getting one good photo in ten instead of one in a hundred. Digital photography encourages taking many shots, but it was frustrating to take thirty shots of a little critter and then find that all thirty were blurry.
While shooting with my new camera, I found a bug as big and hairy as a big bumblebee nectaring on a blossom. This bug hovered and then instantly accelerated to fast flight, very unlike a bumblebee that bumbles from flower to flower. I had no idea what this new bug was so I emailed a couple photos of it to my neighbor, Belinda, who is the best bug photographer around. She sent me one of her beautiful photos of a hover fly and suggested I look at the link https://www.flickr.com/search/?q=syrphidae
which shows hundreds of examples of the family Syrphidae, the family of hover flies. Hover flies suddenly went from a single species of fly to a Family of flies with such diversity that it needs Sub-Families, Tribes, Sub-Tribes and Genera before a single species can be pinpointed.
I checked my other photos and found that I had several hover flies miss-filed under bees and wasps: what an eye-opener. I had been confirming some of my questionable identifications with Belinda when she pointed out that in one of my photos, on the shiny back of one hover fly, you could see my reflection holding the camera. Even knowing that in the past Belinda had done a long series of photos that all contained the reflection of the camera, I had to study the photo for a long time, before I was sure that I was "reflecting on a hover fly;" how appropriate.