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Posts Tagged ‘Red-footed Cannibalfly’

Do you chase wildlife or do you wait for it to come to you? I tend to be in the former group and will sometimes walk for hours and hours in search of suitable subjects.

On Wednesday, however, the action came to me. I was returning from a walk along a stream hunting for dragonflies and was shocked as I approached my car to see a pair of Red-footed Cannibalflies (Promachus rufipes) mating on my car. I watched in fascination as they moved from one part of the car’s exterior to another, locked in the peculiar tail-to-tail position that robber flies use for mating. (Even before this incident, I knew that I needed to wash my car, as you can readily see in the second photo.)

I must confess that I have long had a fascination with this insect species—there is something really cool and slightly horrifying about the macabre moniker ‘Red-footed Cannibalfly.’ They are fierce predators who reported have been able to take down a hummingbird. They inject their victims with a toxin that paralyzes them and liquifies their insides so that the cannibalfly can more easily ingest their innards. If you are not totally creeped out by now, you might agree that cannibalflies are cool insects.

I have written over 3500 blog postings over the past eight years and my most-viewed regular posting is one that I published in August 2013 with the simple title of “Red-footed Cannibalfly,” with 2595 views. Yes, a lot of people seem to be interested in this insect and somehow find their way to that blog posting each year. It is a good posting, I think, but neither the prose nor the photos are great, but sometimes that doesn’t matter for popularity in this digital world. (You can judge for yourself by clicking on the title of the posting that I linked to the original posting.)

Some of you may have noted that I used the term “regular posting” in describing my posting on the red-footed cannibalfly. In November 2014 I was fortunate to be at a local nature park during the rescue of an injured bald eagle by the animal control officers of the local police department and documented it in a blog posting entitled “Rescue of an injured Bald Eagle.”

Several news outlets picked up the story including the Washington Post , some local radio and television stations, including WTOP, and the Fairfax County Police Department News. A number of them included a link to my blog posting, which had over 3000 views in a couple of days, but has had relatively few views since that time. I had authorized the Police Department to use my posting and photos and as a result of that exposure I was contacted by a number of media organizations asking permission to use my photos, which I agreed to, requesting that they give attribution and, if possible, a link to my blog.

A small number of media organizations, including the Washington Post, used my photos without asking for permission, though the Washington Post did at least give attribution. When I contacted the reporter, he said that he had “assumed” it was ok, because he had obtained the photos through the Police Department site. I have not had to deal with the media since, but know now to be a bit careful in doing so.

Red-footed Cannibalfly

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes), a kind of robber fly has just about the coolest (and creepiest) name of any insect. I spotted this female Red-footed Cannibalfly last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. If you look very closely at the image, you can actually see some of its tiny red feet. However, this insect is not known for being cute—it is a particularly fierce predator that can take down much larger prey, reportedly including hummingbirds.

On a personal basis, I have a particular fondness for the Red-footed Cannibalfly. On 31 August 2013, I did a posting called simply Red-footed Cannibalfly. The posting had some decent photos and and some interesting information and had a modest degree of success, with a total of 44 likes.

Amazingly, though, the posting has been viewed 2530 times to date. Apparently when folks go searching with Google, Bing, or some other search engine, they come across my posting and are intrigued enough to view it. I know that search engine algorithms are closely-guarded secrets, but for this one particular topic, I seem to have broken the code. If you do a search for “red-footed cannibalfly,” you might see my name pop up on the first page of results—it’s a weird claim to fame, but life on the internet is often a mystery.

 

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Thanks to all of you for your overwhelming positive responses to a recent posting Some favorite photos of 2018 that showcased some of last year’s photos that I really like. Check out that posting if you have not seen it yet.

Interesting enough, not a single one of them was from my most-viewed posts of the year. How many views do you regularly get for one of your blog postings? One of my average postings tends to get about 60-80 hits. It is a rare and happy occasion for me to get as many as 100 views for any posting.

Here are links to my five most-viewed postings of 2018 and an indication of how many views they received in 2018 and since they were originally published. You’ll probably notice that four of them were taken in 2013 or earlier. Somehow these postings apparently appear in searches in Google and other search engines and that is how viewers find their way to my blog.

The photos below are ok, but they are certainly not among my favorite or best photos. A review of these statistics reinforces in me the notion that “views” are not a very accurate measuring tool for deciding if a posting or a photo is “good.”

Here is one fun fact about my blog—Red-footed Cannibalfly has been my most-viewed posting for the fourth year in a row. Who knew that so many people were fascinated by this fearsome insect?

Take a look at that posting (or any the others below) by clicking on the highlighted title. Maybe you will be able to discover for me the secret behind their relative popularity.

Red-footed Cannibalfly (31 August 2013) 366 views in 2018 (2457 views since published)

red-footed cannibalfly

Fuzzy white caterpillar (3 August 2013) 341 views in 2018 (1209 views since published)

fuzzy white caterpillar

Blue-eyed garter snake (9 May 2016) 218 views in 2018 (503 views since published)

garter snake

Yellow Garden Orbweaver with a Grasshopper (29 August 2012) 166 views in 2018 (214 views since published)

Insects gone wild (29 May 2013) 125 views in 2018 (901 views since published)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Imagine an insect so powerful that it is reportedly able to take down a hummingbird. Then give it the macabre monniker of Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes). If I were an insect, I would be really worried. Actually I don’t think that I would want to allow one to bite me, because a cannibalfly stabs its prey with its proboscis and injects saliva that help to liquify the prey’s insides. Then the cannibalfly sucks out the liquid through its proboscis.

I don’t know why exactly, but the last week or so I have seen a lot of Red-footed Cannibalflies during my trips to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Here are a few of my recent shots. The first one reminded one of my Facebook viewers of The Lorax, a Dr. Seuss character with a big mustache. Maybe this insect needs to overhaul its public image so that it is viewed as being less threatening. One possible first step might be to change its name to the Bee Panther, a nickname that is sometimes used for this species.

On a side note, each of the last four years, including this year, a 2013 posting entitled simply Red-footed Cannibalfly has been my most viewed posting. If I calculated correctly, the posting has been viewed almost 2400 times, including 293 times in 2018.

Why is that posting so popular? Apparently a lot of people do Google searches for “red-footed cannibalfly” and stumble onto my blog posting. I’m proud of a number of my postings and the images that I have captured, but I must confess that I don’t consider that 2013 posting as one of my best.

It’s a little scary to think that I may be inextricably linked in some people’s minds with Red-footed Cannibalflies. Yikes!

Red-footed Cannibalfly

Red-footed Cannibalfly

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the insect world, Red-footed Cannibalflies (Promachus rufipes) are fearsome predators. Yesterday I spotted one at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia that appeared to be subduing a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) that it had just captured.

What happens next? Wikipedia describes the tactics of a robber fly, the family to which the Red-footed Cannibalfly belongs, in these words:  “The fly attacks its prey by stabbing it with its short, strong proboscis  injecting the victim with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which very rapidly paralyze the victim and soon digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied material through the proboscis.”

Yikes!

red-footed cannibalfly subdues hummingbird moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Although it looks a bit like a tug of war, I think that these two Red-footed Cannibalflies (Promachus rufipes) actually were mating when I spotted them on Friday at Huntley Meadows Park. (Don’t ask me any anatomical questions–I am not sure how it works for them.)

This photo was taken from a pretty good distance away with my 150-600mm lens and is a little soft, but I thought I’d post it today as an accompaniment to my earlier macro shot of what I think is a female Red-footed Cannibalfly.

mating Red-footed Cannibalflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes) is one of the coolest and creepiest insects that you can encounter in the wild. A type of robber fly, Red-footed Cannibalflies usually feed on other insects, but they reportedly are capable of taking down a hummingbird. I spotted this “beauty” during a visit this past weekend to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland after a fellow photographer pointed it out to me.

Red-footed Cannibalflies are special to me for an unusual reason—a posting that I did about one in August 2013 has proven to be my most widely viewed normal blog posting over time. (I did have a couple of postings about the rescue of an injured bald eagle that received a huge boost in readership when linked in local media reports, but that spike was  a one-time occurrence and I tend to exclude those posts in my calculations.) The enduring popularity of that posting is a bit of a mystery to me. Yes, the subject is fascinating, but the accompanying photos are not really my best work.

Why then do I keep getting viewers for this posting? The posting, for example, had 512 views in 2015 and 612 views in 2016. During this year, there have already been 211 views, including 39 in August. I don’t know what kind of algorithms Google and the other search engines use in deciding how to rank order listings when searches are conducted, but somehow I have frequently made it onto the first page of the listings when a search is done for “red-footed cannibalfly.”

I receive offers all of the time for something called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that promises me that, after I have paid a fee, my posting will rise higher on the Google results.  I am not sure that it would be possible for me to get any higher on the list than I already am—I think that my posting has on occasion been as high as fourth on the Google results.

I am a little amused that my name may have become associated with Red-footed Cannibalflies in the minds of some viewers after a Google search. On the whole, readership statistics remain a mystery to me. I can sometimes guess which of my postings will have a good number of viewers when originally posted, but I am clueless in figuring out which ones will have additional views after a couple of days have passed.

For better or for worse, my postings seem to have a life of their own. I never know when or how a viewer somewhere in the world may stumble across my words and images. Wow! How cool is that?

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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How do you measure popularity? WordPress keeps track of a lot of different statistics and one measure of a post’s popularity is the number of times that it has been viewed. For most of my blog postings, the majority of views come within a few days of the posting date. Occasionally I’ll have a few additional views when someone else posts a link to my post.

When I did a posting in November 2014 on the rescue of an injured bald eagle that I witnessed, a few news outlets in Washington D.C. ran a story with my photos and links to my blog. That posting has had 3396 view to date, far and away the most views for a single posting. In some ways I consider that post an anomaly, with much of the activity caused by the newsworthiness of the event that I photographed.

When it comes to “normal” posting, one that I did almost exactly three years ago stands head and shoulders above all others with 1327 views, including 244 within the last thirty days. The posting was simply called Red-Footed Cannibalfly and it has remained remarkably popular over an extended period of time. In fact, if you do a search for “Red-footed Cannibalfly” in Google, my posting has risen to the first page of results, occasionally rising as high as third place.

A lot of the spam I receive in WordPress informs me that  there is a secret to getting your material higher in Google search results using Search Engine Optimization and the senders undoubtedly want me to pay them to share the secret with me. Sorry, guys, I seem to have stumbled on it by myself, though I am not sure I could replicate that success.

I was thinking about all of this yesterday when I spotted a Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes) while wandering about Huntley Meadows Park. I’d hesitate to call a Red-footed Cannibalfly beautiful, but there is something fierce and distinctive about its appearance and I love its macabre moniker. I captured this image from a distance with a long telephoto lens and I am happy that I didn’t get close enough for one to land on me—I can’t help but remember that this insect paralyzes its victims, liquefies their insides, and then sucks up the liquefied material.

The Red-footed Cannibalfly may be a bit creepy, but seems to be quite popularwith a lot of folks, judging from my blog statistics.

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I never realized that I was surrounded by cannibals. No, I did not discover a pile of skulls or a string of shrunken heads, but almost every time recently that I have gone out into my local marsh, I have spotted Red-footed Cannibalflies (Promachus rufipes).

These insects are big and they buzz as they fly by me, so they are hard to miss. I have read that they are vicious predators, but I had never caught one red-handed with prey (or perhaps I should say red-footed) until yesterday. I can’t quite identify the prey, but it looks like it might be some kind of small bee. If so, it wouldn’t bee too surprising, given that one of the nicknames for this species in the “Bee Panther.”

I know that I shouldn’t be worried about these cannibals, but a slight chill went through me yesterday when one of these insects landed on the lenshood of my camera and looked up at me, looking very much like he was sizing me up

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking through my local marsh yesterday, I caught sight of a giant flying insect. Upon closer examination, it proved to be a pair of mating Red-footed Cannibalflies  (Promachus rufipes).

They eventually settled on a leaf, just above eye level. It was a heavily vegetated area and it was tough getting a clear line of sight and a good angle of view (and standing on my tiptoes probably is not an optimal shooting position). This first shot was the only one I got where both of these giant insects were in focus.

At a certain point of time, one of them, which I suspect was the female, tried to escape and I got the second shot, capturing an unusual moment in time. In the original version, the background was mostly light colored, but there were some ugly smudges of greenish gray.  I tried to remove them hastily in post processing to highlight better the subjects, but I noted that I didn’t do a very good job when, after the fact, I looked at the posting on a computer screen, vice my laptop, on which it was composed..

The second shot seems to be begging for a clever caption. Does anyone have a suggestion?

 

Mating Red-footed Cannibalflies

Matting Red-footed Cannibalflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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There is something both creepy and compelling about the fearsomely-named Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes). I first spotted one last summer and noted in a posting that these insects, sometimes referred to as Bee Panthers, are reported to be capable of taking down a hummingbird.

I caught sight of this specimen earlier this week as I was making my way along a creek in the back area of my local marsh, searching for the equally fierce Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus). The Dragonhunter is a very large dragonfly that, as its name suggests, specializes in hunting other dragonflies (along with bees, wasps, and butterflies).

The Red-footed Cannibalfly is part of a larger group of giant robber flies of the genus Promachus, a name that in Greek means “who leads in battle,” according to Wikipedia. I am fairly confident of my identification, but would welcome any corrections from more experienced insect hunters.

Be sure to look carefully at the claws on the front legs in the image. I am sure that it’s almost impossible to escape when this predator sinks those claws into you and injects you with a toxin that paralyzes you and liquifies your insides.

As one blogger so eloquently put it, “Be thankful these insects aren’t the size of Sandhill Cranes.”

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of us have heard that female praying mantises eat their mates after mating, so what happens when a pair of cannibal flies mate?

I was quite a distance away when I spotted this pair of insects, but I immediately recognized them as  Red-footed Cannibalflies (Promachus rufipes), a species of giant robber flies. These flies are really big and have a very distinctively shaped body (and I had done some research on them for a previous posting). Cannibalflies are fierce predators and are reportedly very aggressive. Would the male survive the mating process?

I observed the pair for quite a while and concluded that the “cannibal” in this insect’s name refers to its behavior toward other insects. The male cannibal fly flew away unscathed.

robber_mating_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If you were an insect or even a hummingbird, you would definitely not want to encounter this large insect with the macabre moniker of Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes), also known as the Bee Panther.

This insect is considered to be a giant robber fly. Robber flies in general are predators that wait for their prey to fly by and then attack it. Wikipedia describes the attack in this way, “The fly attacks its prey by stabbing it with its short, strong proboscis  injecting the victim with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which very rapidly paralyze the victim and soon digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied material through the proboscis.”

It’s hard to believe that a fly could actually take down a hummingbird, but bugguide, which I have found to be a good reference for insects, notes that there have been reports of a Red-footed Cannibalfly attacking a Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

When I first saw this insect fly by, I thought it was some strange kind of hairy dragonfly, but the more that I looked at it, the more I realized that it was not a dragonfly—the eyes and wings were all wrong. I have spotted several of these flies already, but so far have not seen any with captured prey.

I came across a wonderful commentary on these insects in a blog called Ohio Birds and Biodiversity that sums up my feelings about them—”Be thankful these insects aren’t the size of Sandhill Cranes.”

big_insect_blogcannibal_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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