Hungry?? [Warning!: Graphic photos of hungry insects]

Posted: January 24, 2010 in butterflies, macro photography
Tags: ,

Hungry Enough To Eat Something Bigger Than You?

Robber flies (Order: Diptera –> Asilidae) are predatory flies who will take on prey bigger than themselves, such as this common dragonfly below (Neurothemis Fluctuans).

Dragonflies will eat butterflies that's for sure.  But the robber fly will eat both animals in the food chain and then go on to eat somemore.  wasps, bees, grasshoppers and even some spiders.

Note on photo above:  The robber fly is able to fly while holding onto a victim much larger than it is.  I thought it was an extremely odd flying moth until it landed.  According to, the above appears to be female with its broad abdomen tapering to a point.

There are a good number of species of robberflies worldwide.  However, I couldn't find an internet resource online to help with the identification of Diptera in Singapore.  The robber fly above looks a lot like an American species shown on but I am reluctant to think that it is, without confirmation, considering their huge geographical differences.  Unfortunately they don't take identification requests for species outside of their region.

Note on photo above: The Robberfly licking the victim's eye just before flying away.

Robberflies attack and kill their prey in midflight, with some species of robberflies attacking their victims while they are stationary 'sitting prey' (Leptogastrinae) (read this great article on this species here).

Robber flies kill their victims by first stabbing them and injecting them with saliva that contains neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes and then taking their time to suck up the dissolved insides.

For more information on robber flies and their extraordinary predatory behaviour, read these great information pages:

1) Bug Guide



One Hungry Butterfly

When I saw the grey sailor dangling in mid air, I thought that it must have been trapped by a spider web.  When I approached it however, it was something else, entirely!

The Grey Sailor had its proboscis stuck into a dead insect!

Outside of their fancy reputation as beautiful insects that feed largely on flowers, butterflies do obtain nutrients from bird droppings and animal waste. 

The fact that the Grey Sailor was feeding off this already-dead moth like creature shouldn't be surprising.  However, seeing it actually feasting on another insect was so incongruous with its reputation as a non-predator, it does make one stop and stare.

I Am Not A Moth,.. (however I like their fashion sense)

I initially thought the insect the butterfly was feasting on was a moth, but it turns out it belongs to the Order (Homoptera).  The difference lies in the absence of scales on its wings and no obvious feathery antennae. 

And The Rest

Activity was good today, with many butterflies spotted over a small area which had been empty for a long time.

Besides the ones here which had a good shot, Emigrants (many), Cabbage whites (many), Psyches (many), Autumn leaf (1), Common Mormons (many!), Commander (1), Painted Jezebels (2, surprisingly little), Malayan eggfly (1) and a Tagiades Calligana which got away before I could get a proper shot. 

Note on photo above: Pristine Commanders and female Common Mormons make a photographer's day.

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  1. Emjay says:

    Stunning photos Ellen.

  2. Thanks Emjay! You don't easily get the heebie jeebies from looking at these photos huh? 😀

  3. Thanks Apolline :).. I'm glad that it helps you!

  4. Emjay says:

    No – I find it fascinating… 🙂

  5. very impressing photos- thank you for posting it.

  6. Waterbaby says:

    wow, I learned a lot here, esp. about robberflies. Fascinating.

  7. Glad you find it helpful Water Baby 🙂

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