1 Aug 2010

Aren’t hoverflies brilliant!

And daisies are too!

And oft alone in nooks remote
We meet thee, like a pleasant thought
When such are wanted.

William Wordsworth: To the Daisy. 1807.

Flowers seem intended for the solace of ordinary humanity.   John Ruskin

I love daisies. If pressed, I might even declare them my overall favourite flowers. But they’d have a tough fight for that title, along with the likes of snowdrops and daffodils. I even love dandelions, when properly looked at, they’re quite fabulous.

But the sheer simplicity of a daisy makes it near perfect – its cheerful brightness is often all you need in a flower – something Mr Wordsworth obviously grasped. Yet it isn’t actually simple at all. It just lets you think that it is. The structure, when examined, is quite a magnificent piece of natural engineering.

Please click on the photographs for a larger view, the photos tend to look rather dark here on the page.

The white so called petals, aren’t actually petals at all, but white bracts – the flower(s) is actually the cluster of tiny yellow florets at the centre – rotating from the centre in a complex, tightly packed, geometric spiral.

So I always have daisies of some variety in the garden – I love big pots of them. This year I have one huge tub at the end of the table and despite horrendous weather for the last month or so, has had a continuous fabulous show of cheering flowers.

I went out today to do some work between showers and the garden was full of hoverflies today – lots of them busying away around the various flowers – they seem especially drawn to both lobelia and my daisies – and they do look so fabulously colour co-ordinated against the daisies, so I grabbed my camera.

I just used my compact camera as it was to hand, I’d really like to do some more with the big guns – the compact is way too slow to react to catch them taking off and landing which I was hoping to catch.

Despite a shutter speed of 1/1000 second, the wings of this hoverfly are a barely visible blur.

There are something like 6000 species of hoverflies globally, with around 300 species in Britain and I spotted at least 6 distinctly different ones today on the same plant – although all the best photos I got seemed to be of the same species, so they must move slower than the others.

I love hoverflies, they’re docile and fascinating to watch and just don’t bother with you. Quietly going about their business and despite their dangerous looking colouring which mimics wasps and the like, they’re totally harmless to humans.

If you watch one hovering quietly and gently put your finger underneath, they’ll often lower their undercarriage and rest for a moment on your finger. When they realise you’re not a source of food, they just raise their legs again and take off.

More photos with a DSLR:

I went out into the garden again when the light had supposedly improved. By the time I’d attached lenses and established focus, using extension tubes, the light was worse than ever. The hoverflies had now seemingly exhausted the food from the daisies and most were working other areas of the garden.

I managed a few shots before I decided that the exposures I was securing weren’t worth persisting with. These were all taken at 1600ISO and some with shutter speeds slower than 1/100 second. Just as well that they don’t move that fast when eating.

I hadn’t noticed their metallic jackets before.
If I had wings, I’d like them to be delicate and iridescent like these.

3 thoughts on “Aren’t hoverflies brilliant!

  1. I know exactly what you mean Maisy – they’re so gentle and just never bother with you. They don’t fly at your head or buzz near your hair, just mind their own business in a serene manner.

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