Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Fly Month

This morning, as I was conducting the sixth of the eight forest breeding bird census counts that I do each year in late spring and early summer in Papermill Woods, I noticed my first hoverflies of the year cruising a sunny patch of woodland understory.

Adult hoverflies are a bit intimidating because superficially they resemble wasps or bees.  While the larvae of most species are carnivorous, the adults are exclusively nectar feeders (hence the family's other common name: flowerfly [family Syrphidae]) so I have no reason to be anxious. 

As the forest birds settle into their territories, the forest quiets down quite a bit, providing me opportunities to observe other wildlife like the hoverflies.  This morning, there were four of the flies in the patch.  All were facing the same direction, and they all "hung" in the air, lined up side-by-side about eight inches apart, patrolling their own tiny patch of air space.  Occasionally, one would break ranks for a second, zooming away (usually backwards!) but returning almost instantly to take up exactly as it had left off.  Their world is unfathomable to me, but they are endlessly fascinating to watch.                                                                   
I refer to June as Fly Month. It's the month when mosquitoes make their first appearance and when deer flies are most maddeningly abundant.  Furthermore, I'm no fan of hot weather, so the addition of pestiferous flies to the mix only makes June all the more challenging.  Of course, the forest nesting birds will soon have plenty of new mouths to fill, so perhaps I shouldn't complain about the superabundant dipterans too much. 
Submitted by David Robertson
Executive Director