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Posts Tagged ‘Red-footed Cannibalfly’

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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