Cannibal Encounter at Creek Bend Farm

Meadow at Creek Bend Farm - early fall (800x533)

Meadow path at Creek Bend Farm

Silver-spotted Skipper on thistle (800x741)

Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus)

Here in northwest Ohio we’re enjoying some very comfortable fall-like weather lately. After spending most of the summer with temperatures in the 80s and 90s, I’m very grateful for this change that makes me want to be outside all the time. I’ve been riding my bike a couple times a week, and going for more nature walks too. Today I had a bit of a false start when I drove an hour to one of the Toledo metroparks and hardly found any wildlife activity at all. Very few birds or butterflies, and far too many people. (I should have expected the people on this holiday weekend…oops.)

So after putting in a good effort for about 90 minutes, I headed back toward home feeling a bit frustrated. Then I decided to stop at Creek Bend Farm, a place that’s become one of my favorite local birding spots in the year since I moved here. I walked out through the meadow, moving slowly to lessen the chances of scaring off any interesting insects or birds.

Cabbage White - Pieris rapae (800x759)

Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae)

I saw quite a few dragonflies but none of them landed anywhere so I couldn’t get photos. The butterflies were more cooperative though, and I saw a Silver-spotted Skipper, some Pearl Crescents, lots of Cabbage Whites and Sulphurs, and a nice Viceroy. And I think I saw a Monarch too, but it was too fast for me to confirm that.

Viceroy Butterfly (800x533)

Viceroy butterfly (Limenitus archippus) 

There was a big flock of Tree Swallows moving over the meadow, and a couple times the flock came down low and swarmed all around me. It was a glorious experience!  I took a short video of the wildflowers blowing in the breeze — I think this will help you imagine what it felt like out there today:

Oh, so you’re probably curious about my cannibal encounter, aren’t you? Okay, so the meadow paths eventually wrap around and intersect the path that borders the creek. This is the path I was walking on:

Path at Creek Bend Farm with coneflowers (800x533)

Soon after I turned onto the creek path, I heard the unmistakable buzz and squeak of a hummingbird. I turned around just in time to see this little one fly into a tree and begin a preening session.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird v2

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

I’m assuming this is a female, but it could be a young male. (At this time of year it’s hard to differentiate the two because the juvenile male won’t have his red throat yet.) I always get a thrill when I see a hummer out in “the wild” like this, away from a feeder. So I watched her for a few minutes, snapping photos as best I could manage through the leaves. I thought you might like to see this one because it shows her using her foot to scratch her throat, in a way that reminds me of how cats and dogs do it. I hope you can see it here…the photo isn’t the greatest.

Ruby-throated hummingbird preening with foot

Ruby-throated hummingbird v3

I started to move on down the path but only got three steps away from the hummingbird’s location when I heard another loud buzzing. I looked up and saw a large insect land in a tree beside me. My first impression was that it was a cicada.

Robber fly - maybe Red-footed Cannibal fly - see closeup (800x666)

But as I grabbed my binoculars for a closer look, I saw that it was one of the coolest insects ever, a Red-footed Cannibal Fly. And it had a victim already clasped in its legs, a large bee. It had already begun injecting enzymes into the bee to liquify the insides so they could be sucked out. Sounds appetizing, doesn’t it?

Robber Fly - maybe Red-footed Cannibal fly v2 - see close up (800x610)

This is a type of Robber Fly in the genus Promachus. I’m not positive of the species, but it has red legs so that seems like it fits the Red-footed Cannibal Fly (Promachus rufipes). I was so excited to see this, but I had a heck of a time trying to get a photo in the depths of shade under the tree. Then the fly moved to another branch with better light and I got this one that shows more detail of this creature’s interesting body.

Robber Fly - maybe Red-footed Cannibal Fly - promachus genus (800x547)

My first encounter with this fascinating insect was at Blue Heron Reserve last fall, where I took this photo of two of them resting on a boardwalk:

Red-footed Cannibal Fly - 2 of them (800x535)

They’re a couple of inches long and very intimidating. Especially if you’re a smaller insect! And I discovered that these predators have been known to prey on…wait for it….hummingbirds! So I guess the little hummer in the next tree was very lucky this hungry killer had already found a victim.

Okay, this has been long already, but I don’t want to leave you with visions of gut-sucking cannibals, so here are some pretty dogwood berries. I hope that makes up for it. 🙂

Either Gray Dogwood or Red Osier Dogwood

Dogwood berries

This entry was posted in Insects, Ohio, Wildlife and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Cannibal Encounter at Creek Bend Farm

  1. Kim it must have been like heaven with all the birds flying past you I soak up those moments and I would have been overjoyed to see the hummingbird in the wild too. They fascinate me and one day I hope to go travelling overseas to see one. (on my bucket list of birds to see). The fly captures were beautiful too he looks very intimidating yet interesting. Glad he didn’t get the bird.

  2. David Sours says:

    I’ve had a good look at the photography you’ve posted in your blog and I’m blown away how amazingly good it is. This makes me wonder if your actually a professional nature photographer and you haven’t said so before. In any case only someone with nature so close to their soul could produce such stunning results. Keep up the great work, we all anxiously await your next post.

  3. Dave Lewis says:

    Oh….those give me the creeps every time I see one! I’ve never been lucky to get a great photo like yours though. Nice!…but still a little creepy…ick.

  4. Littlesundog says:

    I see robber flies with bumble bee victims almost daily this time of year. I’m always a bit sad to see the lifeless bumble bee hanging in the clutches of the robber fly. Sometimes I see them carrying large wolf spiders and other huge insects. You did great with your images… another beautiful and educational blog post Kim!!

    • Thanks Lori! I’m glad it was educational — you’ve inspired me with how you teach us so much in your blog, and I’m enjoying trying to do that here lately too.

      As for the robber fly and its prey — I usually only feel sad if I see the victim struggling as it dies. I almost imagine that I can feel the fear and/or pain of the prey animal as it struggles and dies. (I think that has to do with my HSP temperament.) If I happen to come upon it when it’s already dead in the clutches of the predator, it doesn’t seem to bother me as much.

  5. sharee says:

    I learn something new every time I read your blog. I always look forward to the email that lets me know another of your blogs has arrived. Loved the video, I have mentioned to you before how much I miss Ohio, so with that video I got a glimpse of fall starting its season. I had never heard about the cannibal fly before, will now look at flies to see if they have red legs. I actually do not like the insect and dislike more knowing they attack humming birds. Thank you for sharing all your interesting pictures and video. I will be looking forward to your next blog.

    • Sharee, you’ve made my day. Thanks for telling me how much you enjoy the blog! As for that cannibal fly, believe me, if you see one of these you’ll know it. It’s a couple of inches long, hairy, and unmistakably ferocious-looking!

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