As a wildlife photographer, my adventures take me to some of the most remarkable places on Earth, allowing me to witness the wonders of nature up close. Yesterday, at the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma, I had a captivating encounter with a rather unusual subject – a Horse Fly (Tabanus spp.). While these insects are often perceived as bothersome pests due to their painful bites, I couldn’t help but marvel at the intricate beauty of their eyes when one landed on the hood of my pickup truck. This photo opportunity was too good to pass up!
Eyes: A Gender Reveal
Through my research, I discovered a fascinating fact about the eyes of male and female Horse Flies. In females, the eyes are widely spaced, while in males, they are remarkably close together, almost touching. This phenomenon is evident in the Horse Fly I photographed, making it highly likely that it was a male. This peculiarity adds another layer of interest to these already intriguing insects.
Hunger for Protein: The Bloodthirsty Females
Female Horse Flies have a voracious appetite for blood, particularly as it is crucial for their reproductive process. Despite being primarily nectar and plant juice feeders, they require protein to produce eggs. This means they seek out the blood of various animals, including horses, cows, sheep, rabbits, and even humans. The bite of a female Horse Fly is sharp and painful, often resulting in a distinctive red lump that forms immediately.
Encountering a female Horse Fly is an experience many of us would prefer to avoid due to their relentless pursuit of a blood meal. When bitten, victims instinctively try to swat them away. However, unlike some other insects, Horse Flies do not give up easily. Many females will persistently pursue their target, even if it tries to flee. This persistence can make them a real challenge to deal with during outdoor activities.
A Male’s Mission
Fortunately for me, the Horse Fly that landed on my truck was a male, which explained its more tranquil behavior. Unlike the females, male Horse Flies do not require blood for egg production. Instead, they primarily feed on nectar and plant juices. The male I encountered was most likely in search of a mate rather than a meal, and after a brief moment of admiration, it gracefully took flight in pursuit of a potential partner.
My encounter with the Horse Fly at Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge was a reminder of the astounding intricacies that exist in the natural world, even in seemingly mundane creatures. The close-up view of the metallic green sheen in the Horse Fly’s eyes left me in awe of nature’s artistry. It also served as a valuable lesson about the diverse roles and behaviors of male and female insects in the pursuit of survival and reproduction.
As I continue my journey as a wildlife photographer, I am humbled by the countless secrets waiting to be unveiled in nature’s grand theater. Each snapshot becomes a testament to the wonders of the wild and a reminder that there is so much more to discover, just beyond our line of sight.
Steve Creek – Wildlife Photographer
- Camera: Fujifilm X-T3
- Lens: Canon EF 100-400 mm f/4.5-5.6 L IS II (attached with a Fringer EF-FX Pro)
- Location: Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge (Oklahoma)
- Date and Time Taken: July 20, 2021 (7:07 A.M.)
- Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority
- Aperture: f5.6
- Shutter speed: 1/1900
- ISO: 2500
- Exposure Compensation: 0
- Focal Length: 400 mm