Rainy day on the patio

Several days ago as storms moved through the area, I stood on the patio enjoying the first climatic sign of spring to grace these here parts.  I have two words for this season’s atmospheric excitement: Bor. Ing.  But anyway…

I didn’t really set out to photograph anything except the weather, assuming of course that it offered something to photograph.  Well, not so much.  The storms passed us before they energized into tornado-spawning severe weather.  Heck, I think I saw all of two or three flashes of lightning.  Yawn.

Yet while I stood slipping into a weather-induced coma, I took the chance to snap a few images of the life sharing the patio with me.  Obviously I wasn’t the only one staying out of the rain.

A bagworm moth (Dahlica triquetrella) inching across the patio fence (2009_05_07_018462)

A bagworm moth (Dahlica triquetrella).  Scarcely twelve millimeters/half an inch long.  Mostly they look like bits of detritus, at least until they move.  But when disturbed the caterpillar vanishes into its mobile home, and then it really looks like some kind of debris.  This would be a female because this species doesn’t need males; the females are parthenogenic, meaning they lay viable eggs without the help of a male.  Now where’s the fun in that?

An omnivorous platynota moth (Platynota rostrana) resting on the patio wall (2010_04_07_052443)

Omnivorous platynota moth (Platynota rostrana).  Cool name for such a small critter.  I do like the snout and the cape-like shape of the wings.  Either this one sleeps deeply or this species isn’t overly sensitive to major drama unfolding around them.  I lost my balance and fell against the wall, nearly smashing my face against this earth-toned flier.  And it never budged.  Heck, it didn’t even blink.  (I made a funny!  Didn’t blink.  Ha!)

A brown-shaded gray moth (Iridopsis defectaria) perched above the patio window (2009_05_13_018569)

Brown-shaded gray moth (Iridopsis defectaria).  A not so cool name.  In fact, it’s bland.  With so many insects to name, I suppose I understand how being original now borders on impossible unless the name has nothing in it but a physical description.  Of course, that doesn’t really explain gray catbird or red fox or…  Oh, never mind.

Moths weren’t the only things on the patio.  Isopods, arachnids, mollusks, reptiles, wasps and flies also could be found in respectable numbers.  Then there was this cool critter.

A stilt-legged fly (Rainieria antennaepes) waving its front legs while it rests on the window screen (2009_04_26_016456)

A stilt-legged fly (Rainieria antennaepes).  Awfully thin and not sizable at all, they’re still pretty darn neat.  They spend a great deal of time waving their front feet around in front of them as if conducting an orchestra.  With those little white booties, this habit makes them easily locatable.  Assuming one is looking for teeny tiny legs waving about with abandon.  I popped off one shot before the fly bolted.  Apparently having my lens all up in its business was too much to bear.  Which irked me because I didn’t quite have the right settings for the photo, so a little patience would have been appreciated.  And given this fly’s size, a little patience is all they have.

9 thoughts on “Rainy day on the patio”

  1. I see a fair few stilt-legged flies, but am still not sure what the deal is with those front legs. The movements like very much like they are trying to mimic something… I’d guess a wasp.

    Any ideas?

    1. Ted and Morgan nailed the idea I had on the behavior, Peter. Everything I’ve read suggests it’s mimetic. Given the fly’s general shape and appearance, it would add to the deception and make it look more like a wasp. Knowing they’re not dangerous makes the behavior all the more entertaining for me (and more entertaining for those watching me as I crawl about on all fours trying to follow and photograph them).

  2. I suspect the white-band on the front legs is intended to make the front legs look like wasp antennae – they even wave their front legs around in a manner that is strikingly similar to the movements of wasp antennae. Add to that their long slender form and black/red coloration, and it would be enough to give me pause were I a small avian predator.

    You have quite a fauna that lives on your patio!

    1. Thanks for your insight, Ted. With these flies, I can see the behavior as a defense mechanism. And though in some cases it’s been obvious grooming, I’ve seen some muscids and flesh flies waving their legs in front of them, but they didn’t look like anything other than a fly. I wonder if it serves other purposes in those cases–or if it was just clumsy grooming.

      Living at a 2200-acre lake park does bring in a lot of wildlife. That’s the joy of it: even if the weather’s bad, I can stand on my patio and enjoy a veritable safari. And that’s a mighty fine thing!

  3. I’ve never seen a bagworm coming out of its “bag.” Cool. I agree with Ted, it seems you’ve got a patio teeming with life. Your special talent is looking closely and frequently enough to see them all, and being diligent enough to capture the images and share them.

    …sorry about your face. that doesn’t sound quite right, does it? 😉

    1. These little bagworms swarm all over the patio from spring through autumn, so it’s easy to catch them inching about. I also have some shots of the larger bagworm (Thyridopteryx ephemeraeformis) as it lowered itself from the tree canopy. I’ll have to post those soon.

      Well, I’ve always said that if one is going to live in Dallas, White Rock Lake is the only option given its beauty and the overwhelming amount of nature that can be found here.

      Oh, the face is fine. I only almost hit it on the wall. My forehead is a different matter–that’s what did hit the wall. Ouchie!

  4. Great micropezid shot! peteryeeles and Ted are correct with their guesses about the leg-waving behaviour; most of the flies in this subfamily of Micropezidae are excellent batesian mimics of Hymenoptera, usually Parasitica like Ichneumonidae and Braconidae. One genus is such a compelling ant mimic that males have been recorded trying to mate with ants, which resulted in their swift demise! Check out my introductory post on these flies for more info, including photos of sympatric model and mimic!

    1. Thanks, Morgan! I appreciate your feedback on the behavior. I’m no expert in such things and am only capable of parroting what I’ve read, which isn’t always the smartest approach.

      On the micropezid photo, I went through my collection and found almost every photo I have of them shows them waving their legs. Only in a few instances were they standing on those legs. So I guess they’re pretty serious about looking dangerous when they’re sitting still.

      Your post really shows the mimetic relationship. The braconid wasp is the perfect example. It would be easy to mistake the fly for the wasp if you didn’t stop to look closely. Very cool!

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