Pseudodoros clavatus visiting a spring ladies tresses orchid


Not only humans enjoy ladies tresses orchids. Their small flowers present no obstacle to the variety of bees, flies, and beetles that visit them, nor to the tiny spiders that lurk among their folds.

Here, a syrphid fly with the impressive name Pseudodoros clavatus comes in for a landing. As an interesting side note, this little fly has no common name, unless you’re willing to count “that thing that looks like a wasp.”  Johan Christian Fabricius, a Danish zoologist, named the species Dioprosopa clavata  in 1794, but a 1903 revision resulted in Pseudodoros clavatus.

It’s been suggested that the wasp-like shape may help to protect the insect from predators. Taking on a syrphid fly is one thing: attacking a wasp quite another.

Can you see the infinitesimal headphones the little fly’s wearing? No? Well, if you could, and if it shared them with you for a moment, you might find it’s listening to perfect music for visiting a Spiranthes — Spyro Gyra’s Morning Dance.”


Comments always are welcome.

61 thoughts on “Incoming!

    1. What’s especially amusing about that scientific mouthful is that it’s one of the few I can remember. I suppose that supports your point — it does have a nice sound to it.

    1. I just remembered Spyro this morning. I’m surprised they didn’t come to mind when I was posting my initial photos of these beauties. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed them; the full Morning Dance album’s a gem.

  1. Restaurants may have a cover charge; syrphid flies give us a hover charge.

    Because I saw “Morning Dance” before I saw “Spyro Gyra” I thought of Grieg’s “Morning Mood” from the Peer Gynt Suite.

    1. I recognized Grieg’s music immediately; I just didn’t remember the title. “Morning Mood” would do nicely for butterflies, too, with their languid dipping from one flower to another.

      What we don’t know, of course, is whether flowers demand a cover charge from their visitors!

      1. About an hour after my comment I headed out for the prairie. When I turned on the car radio, KMFA began to play that Grieg piece.

        If wildflowers require a cover charge from visitors, I’m years in arrears.

    1. When I first tried to identify this one, I thought it was a wasp of some sort. I can’t remember which search term surfaced its image for me, but I was greatly surprised.

      1. Here’s my favourite Peanuts character – along with Woodstock. And here’s the link to my favourite birthday card, which Mary gave me two years ago:
        You need to click on the first and the on the third thumbnail to see what happens when you open the card. It’s so funny, how Snoopy’s ears go up.

          1. As I said, I LOVE that card, especially the way those ears get up and convey utter astonishment – if not to say disgust even – when one opens the card. :D
            And you’re right: he could take off just flapping his ears. ;)

    1. It’s an amazing little fly. I managed to capture an image of what I think was a carpenter bee hanging on one of the flowers, too. It was so big, I had to smile; it really looked funny on such a tiny bloom.

  2. I am beginning to lose my confidence in identifying insects. Earlier this year, I photographed a bee that looks like a hornet and now here’s a fly that looks like a wasp. Yikes!

    1. Clearly, nature’s greatest consistency is inconsistency — or so it seems to me. I laughed this morning when I saw your lady beetle. I found several this weekend, and none had any spots at all. I always wonder what leads to the development of these different forms. Keeping track of them can be a challenge, for sure.

    1. Speaking of coyly calling, the pitcher plants are out. There are a lot of curious little flies and other insects, and no matter how attractive the plant, no matter how seductive the call, some of them learned a life lesson the hard way.

  3. I’d have run from this one, Linda — I don’t like wasps, and for all the world, that’s what it looks like, so I guess its disguise is a success. Thanks for the info. In future, I’ll probably still steer them a wide berth — I don’t want to chance guessing incorrectly!

    1. This one wouldn’t look nearly so threatening in real life, as it’s only about an inch to an inch and a half long. There’s nothing like a macro lens to multiply the effect! The one that made me nervous for a good while is called a cicada killer. They’re wasps, and quite large, and I really didn’t know what they were up to. Now, I know — they don’t want to attack people, they just want to find a cicada to bury in the ground for the sake of their babies.

      1. I am quite taken by that image. Your photos are lovely. I’d never heard of Ladies Tresses before and I live in Texas. My Canon 100mm macro lens arrived Saturday. I’m glad I splurged.

  4. Will you look at the detail on that! Every little “hair” shows up so beautifully. The gossamer wings. A gorgeous bloom that is photographed with perfection.

    1. What’s interesting about those hairs is that this is the only species of ladies tresses that has them: at least, in Texas. I didn’t know that when I was trying to identify this one; at least I know it now, and it confirms that I got at least one of the species right. The more I look at these flowers, the more their detail amazes me.

  5. I am quite sure that there are more unnamed insects than those with names, common or scientific, to say nothing of those yet undiscovered. At the rate we are destroying the environment, and cutting down and burning forests we will certainly never encounter many of them.

    1. Even if there weren’t any environmental degradation, there are thousands — and more — that we’ll never see, or even know about. That’s all the more reason to be responsible. Saving the monarchs is good, but saving the unknown and the unremarked is good, too.

  6. I gave these flies a wide berth until I figured out they weren’t wasps and were harmless. It’s good to finally know what they are, so thank you. And I think I’ll go pull out my old Spyro Gyra for a listen, too.

    1. I mentioned above my distress when the cicada killers showed up. Finally, a fellow blogger identified them for me. I was greatly relieved to learn they came by their name honestly, and were more interested in cicadas than in nervous humans.

      I’m still listening to Spyro Gyra tonight. I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed their music.

  7. You really know your bugs, Linda, even their musical preferences! What a great jazz fusion band! and you just know that I’ve got to mention, from Buffalo New York!
    How about “Wasp Ish” for the common name, is that one taken?
    Great shot of that bomber zooming in for a landing!

    1. I didn’t know much about their history as a group, so I spent a few minutes on their website. It amused me to learn that ‘Spyro Gyra’ became their name when the name they’d intended — ‘Spirogyra’ — was misspelled. Now, I want to take a listen to their album Vinyl Tap: a compilation of instrumental covers of rock classics.

      ‘Wasp Ish’ is better than ‘Wasp? Eeesh!’ I say we go with it!

  8. Enjoyed the music and the clavatus. I’d be hesitant to hassle it. Stunning but not stinging. We have plenty of the stinging type around here. Interestingly, we buy a man-made contraption that looks like a large wasp nest and hang it outside. The normal, real wasps quickly get out of Dodge! –Curt

    1. Your use of a faux nest to repel the real thing reminded me of the only wasp nest of that sort I’ve found in the woods: this one. If I were a different species and came across a nest like that, I’d give it a wide berth, too. (Now that I think about it, I am a different species, and I did give it a wide berth.)

  9. Fine images both, both fly and orchid look great. Many syrphid flies are bee or wasp mimics. I’ve learned to look for the number of wings (two wings for flies = Diptera) so I’m not taken in by the resemblance. The most interesting bug I found on an orchid was a moth on a pink ladyslipper, nestled in the cleft of the pouch.

  10. Didn’t our musical tastes nicely coincide again. Spyro Gyra brings back memories of whiling away a lazy Sunday afternoon working jigsaw puzzles while listening to their lovely music. I discovered them about the same time I discovered Tingstad and Rumbel. These are a nice pair of photographs. Perfect in a “two-holer” mat in an oblong frame for a gentle touch of color.

    1. Or a well-disguised drone, perhaps. I’ve read that the techie sorts have devised stealth “insects” that can serve as drones — we’ll never know!

  11. Beautiful and dainty in this lovely photo with the fly coming in for a landing, I’ve only seen the native orchids in photos and your pic here is a wonderful vision for my eyes.

    1. I found another native orchid last weekend. I’m having a hard time getting the photos sorted and ready for posting, but it will be up soon. It’s one that Steve Gingold’s shown, too — I found it in east Texas, in the woods. They’re sure not prairie flowers!

      I’m glad you like this one. It’s such great fun to watch the pollinators when they’ve decided on a target: especially the bees and flies. They seem a little more focused than butterflies!

    1. It really is fun to observe the flower/pollinator relationships, and the ways they complement one another. The ones I get a kick out of are the flowers that entice a bee or a fly to have a little drink of nectar, then trick them into spreading a little pollen when they leave.

  12. Handsome little devil and a good mimic of a wasp. Not quite thread-waisted but close. It’s amazing how many insects are mimics for their safety. Both look very nice and detailed, especially the edges of the ladies’-tresses.

    1. I’m used to thinking of the red and black of milkweed bugs, and that butterfly that looks like a dead leaf, but this was a new one. It was even more surprising to learn that it’s not alone. Apparently a good number of flies and beetles have figured out that no one wants to mess with a wasp.

  13. That’s quite the shot of coming in for a landing. Was he hovering and lowering the landing gear or was it a perfectly timed bombing run?

    1. Until he got to the flower, it was the most purposeful insect flight I’ve seen. There was no question where he was going, that’s for sure. His ability to pull up at the last minute was pretty remarkable — and thank goodness for burst shooting, that allowed me to see the whole thing in retrospect and get a couple of decent images in the process.

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