While recently poking about a local prairie patch, thinking to make a few photos of butterflies and blacked-eyed Susans, I chanced upon a humble bumble bee working a pink clump of fragrant milkweed. Deciding it might make a good shot, I zoomed in, focused and—just getting started—clicked off a single image.
Huh? Something fast and shadowy swooped through the viewfinder. The bee suddenly disappeared.
I lowered the camera and began looking around…and there on a nearby stem was the answer: the breakfasting bumble bee had become breakfast for a marauding robber fly.
Talk about a good morning gone bad!
Robber flies are the insect equivalent of saber-tooth tigers. Fast-flying aerial predators with sharp eyesight and a proboscis designed for stabbing, through which they inject a powerful neurotoxic venom along with digestive juices to liquify their victim's innards—which the robber fly then sucks up like a sort of smoothie.
Amazing creatures, really. Though truly bad news if you're a bee. The old folks sometimes called them a "bee panther." Which is pretty apt…and puts me in mind of that old Ogden Nash ditty: "When called by a panther, don't anther."