Fairy fly

By Grant Jacobs 22/05/2011 3

Alison has challenged me to another biological image duel.[1] Here’s my response:

Fairy fly. (Credit: Spike Walker. Source: Wellcome Images.)
Fairy fly. (Credit: Spike Walker. Source: Wellcome Images.)

Fairy flies are tiny wasps and we’re told include the smallest insects found with a length of 0.21mm for male Alaptus magnanimus. (The species in the image is Mymar pulchellus.)

In contrast to their romantic common name they are parasitoids, killing their hosts. Adult fairy flies lay their eggs in the eggs of other insects.

Fairy flies are found worldwide, including in New Zealand, either flying or under the surface of the water using it’s wings as paddles.

Wikipedia is best used as a starter source that should be independently verified–you can tell I’m short on time, right?–but let me list a few factoids from their fairy fly entry:

  • Fairyflies can be found at great altitude, their small size leading to easy dispersal by wind currents.
  • An individual of these genera of fairyflies can stay underwater for up to 15 days. To exit the water, they climb onto a the stem of a plant that breaks the surface.
  • There are 1401 species of fairyfly and 100 genera.
  • Fairyflies are difficult to collect, and thus, not surprisingly, little is known about them. This is an area of entomology where an amateur naturalist could make a significant difference.

The photographer, Spike Walker, has won many awards for his photomicrographs, including the one above.


[1] I invariably lose! 🙂 While I think this image is striking, I love what fluorescent images like the one Alison presented reveal. Fluorescent images literally show more than just the surface.

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