I haven’t posted a “Flyday” for a very long time. Originally, my goal was to post a different fly photo every Friday [“Flyday”, get it?…Yeah, I know groan…], but I dropped that ball a long time ago. Sigh…
A little warning, if you are eating right now you might want to wait and read this blog after you have finished…
These pictures are of a specimen (or specimens, it’s hard to know) of Muscina. This is a small genus of flies (less than 30 species) that are found worldwide, commonly hanging around livestock facilities, restrooms, outhouses, cadavers…you can see where this going can’t you? Yup, many of these flies breed in manure and on corpses. As if that wasn’t enough, they also defecate on food and spread disease by transferring fecal material stuck to their feet to food or open wounds. Hence the common name “filth fly”. To be fair, “filth fly” seems to be a widespread term for any type of fly that is attracted to feces, urine or dead things and tends to also be applied to flesh flies (Sarcophagidae) and blow flies (Calliphoridae). Apparently another name for the Muscina is “disease-causing flies”, but that just doesn’t have the same ring to it.
So how do you photograph these critters? Well, first you get some filth…
I took these pictures last summer the day after I had put out a piece of salmon carcass to attract flies to photograph (I do this quite often, see for example: Macro photographs of insects feeding on salmon: take 2). The salmon was long gone (thrown in the garbage after the shoot), but the “essence” of dead fish must have still been present on the wood the fish had rested on. Interestingly, the fresh fish had mainly attracted flesh flies, blow flies and yellow jacket wasps (Vespula sp.). But the next day (when the fish smell would have been rancid) it was these flies that were hanging around—along with the bald faced hornet that was trying to catch them. I wonder if that is the succession of arrivals at a corps too. I’ll have to check on that…
Anyhow, getting the shots was just a matter of patience—waiting for a fly to pause long enough, and in the right position for the picture. I shot at F11 as a compromise between depth of field and resolution.
I hope you agree that despite their rather unpleasant but ecologically very important natural history (well, maybe except for the whole defecating on food thing), they make for great photos!
The technical stuff:
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5
Lens: Zuiko 60mm micro four thirds macro
Settings: manual exposure (F11 @ 1/160 sec)
Lighting: Olympus flash (I don’t remember which one or the setting—oops!)