Deer Fly with Red Eyes

2014 July 16

This Deer Fly was trying to bite me on the head while I was biking home on July 17, 2013. I managed to catch it without killing it, so that the eye colors wouldn’t fade.

This is a rather dark, almost black deer fly, unlike a lot of the other species which are lighter colored. I’ve noticed that, in general, northern insects tend to be darker colored than their southern relatives, probably so that they will warm up faster in the sunlight.

The bright red eyes with black splotches are pretty. Pity that they are on an otherwise quite objectionable insect.

Based on the dark body, dark banding on the wings, and eye color I think this is Chrysops carbonarius or one of its close relatives. These are all generally northern deer flies, whose larvae live in the margins of fast-flowing streams. Since there is a fast-flowing stream right next to the road I was pushing my bicycle up at the time[1], that would probably be where she came from.

And yes, I killed her after taking the picture. Mostly I don’t kill my photographic subjects, but in the case of the bloodsuckers I make an exception.

[1] We live on Old Mill Hill Road, which runs from the top of the hill straight down to the Portage Canal, with a drop of several hundred feet. It is a 12% grade in spots, which is why I push my bike up it instead of pedaling it. The road runs right down a valley that was cut by a small creek, with significant cliffs on either side. If the road hadn’t followed the creek bed, it would have been even steeper. The creek is still there, running alongside the road (there are actually two streams along most of the road, with the main channel on the west side and a couple of pipes under the road to bring in the east channel). It’s fed by a couple of swamps and a number of springs oozing water out of the cliff face, so the stream runs all year even though it isn’t very big.

2 Responses
  1. July 18, 2014

    Terrific photos as always, sir! Looking at them, I was thinking that an interesting innovation in cameras would be to make a macro mode that did rapid, sequential shots over a small range of focal lengths, effectively focally-slicing the subject along the axis of the camera lens.

  2. July 21, 2014

    Apparently the new (as in, just released last month) Olympus TG-3 camera is the first off-the-shelf camera that can do exactly that, and also will go ahead and do the extended-depth-of-field processing right on the camera if desired. From a review at

    “According to Olympus, the focus stacking function of the TG-3 isn’t just new to the camera, but a world’s first. Until now, you needed to combine multiple images with variant focus on your computer to achieve expanded depth of field for macro shooting, but the Olympus TG-3 can now do this in-camera. To do so, it shoots eight frames in quick succession, varying the focus distance between frames. The sharpest areas in each photo are then combined to create a single image with a depth of field covering several centimeters. So long as your subject is reasonably static, that could be the difference between a usable macro shot, and one with an unidentifiably-blurred subject. If you prefer to merge images yourself, though, the TG-3 can also bracket focus without combining images in-camera.”

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