Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Dancing in the Valley of the Lilies

The air was crystal clear in the meadow under the warm May sun, blue sky above and blue camas lilies below. That was the Mountain Dawn Farm Prairie, surrounded by trees and by more blue in the distance, the Cascade Mountains.

Many flower visitors buzzed along coming and going busily, most of them bees and bumblebees, but there were others; one in particular caught our attention. It had emerged from the ground after long winter sleep, along with numerous brothers and sisters. We called him SBF, a silly name but we all knew what we were talking about. SBF was a handsome dance fly with bright eyes, a hunch on his back, a slender abdomen and a thin, long tongue that had earned him the other name by which it is known, dagger fly. He delved deeply into flowers with his tongue and drank the nectar. He could also use his dagger for other purposes as we'll see later.

The nectar fueled his flight and he was doing a lot of flying that day. In his short life as an adult he had only one purpose, to find the girl of his dreams, seduce her with a well chosen present and make love to her. If time allowed he would find another girl of his dreams the next day. But for now he was busy searching for a wedding present that could satisfy the most demanding damsel. Midges were perhaps the best choice. He wanted one big enough to be appealing to his intended but not too heavy that he could not carry it for a certain stretch of time. He knew that at some point he would end up carrying both the prey and his beloved, so he had to make a careful choice.
When he saw a suitable one, he quickly pounced on it and stabbed it repeatedly with his dagger to subdue it and also to start preparing the delicious meal that he knew ladies willing to mate would favor.

After that he wrapped his gift with silk of his own making. Then he flew through the meadow in search of a meeting place, the equivalent of a singles bar. How do dance flies know where to congregate? I wouldn't know. But he did find a gathering with several suitors holding nuptial presents, just like the one he was carrying. He noticed with satisfaction that his gift compared favorably to most of the others. He joined the group suspended on the air, flying up and down, back and forth, holding his precious cargo on front of him, just as all the other bachelors. If you come into a cloud of them, you would think that they are dancing. That is how they got their name. More and more bachelor flies joined the ranks of dancers, all of them holding a present and all of them quivering with expectations and desire.

Meanwhile, somewhere in the same meadow a young female had emerged from the ground, the same as her brothers and had started her search. She looked very similar to the boys with one big difference, instead of a slender belly; hers was like an oval, loaded with eggs. Let us call her FBF. For those of you who are wondering about the names, SBF is a nickname, the full name being: Skinny Black Fly, so it is only appropriate that his plumper female relative be called Fat Black Fly. FBF needed protein to nourish the eggs that were her future children but she wasn't about to waste her precious energy on the search for food. She would let her lover take care of that. So she tried to make herself more seductive in order to attract the best suitor, one strong enough to provide a worthy and nutritious gift. Knowing that the males love well endowed ladies she plumped her stomach as much as she could. A little deception doesn't hurt, besides the boys were not beneath adding extra wrapping to their presents making them look bigger than they really were, so they were even. A fat belly in a female is a sign that she has a full load of mature eggs; neither he nor she knows that but they behave as if they knew it.
Off she went searching for the nearest gathering, wondering if she would find her knight in shining armor. Arriving at a meeting place, one handsome fellow caught her eye immediately, it was SBF. The gift that he was holding looked quite satisfactory so she approached him avoiding one or two overly eager fellows with their puny offerings. SBF was overjoyed when he saw her and gave her his package. She took it without ceremony and proceeded to devour the delicacy folding her wings and letting him carry her. For a few seconds the extra weight caught SBF by surprise but he quickly adjusted to it and flew some distance seeking privacy. There was no time to wait. He wanted to make love to her for as long as the meal permitted and so he did.

There isn't very much else to tell about this brief romance, other than soon FBF found the right place on the ground. It had some rich decomposing organic matter that would supply nourishment to her future babies and also warmth and shelter through the long months of winter. She laid her eggs there starting the new generation that would repeat the flower visits and the sun dance the next May.

List of articles

No comments: