48. Tabanidae – dilemma

So far I have been a virtuous dipterist, only counting fly families that I have caught myself. But spending a week in the company of experts was bound to bring problems, problems that I brought on myself by telling everyone on the first evening that I was on a family quest. So it wasn’t long before, like a lady empid, I was being presented with fly-gifts by eminent dipterists to tempt me from the path of righteousness. Easy enough when it was things like enormously-antennaed sciomyzids, a stylish scathophagid, a colourful dolichopid – these were mere boxes of chocolates and flowers that I could gratefully accept without compromising my integrity since they were from families I had already caught.††

Tabanis sudeticus, a male

But what of this – the most impressive fly that I have yet had the pleasure of meeting – caught twenty yards from where I was standing by someone putting more effort into their sweeping than I was. It’s a (much) bigger version of the more familiar cleg whose silent approach and stealthy bite I have often suffered from in the past. I wanted it, I needed the family (Tabanidae) for my Year of the fly mission, surely counting it wouldn’t be right. In my confusion I submitted to the humiliation of what I was informed was the traditional fly-on-the-face selfie. After narrowly avoiding crawling up my nose it dropped off, hovered for a moment to warm up its wings, and then took of like a torpedo, saving me from having to decide about whether to keep it or not. †

For a day or two I wrestled with the issue of whether or not I could add Tabanidae to my list, my conscience fighting desire in a finely balanced contest until, happily (!), a cleg found me out and sucked my blood until I got a tube over it. Not quite as large a beast as T. sudeticus but the eyes are dazzling, as is the glossy frons between the eyes and the purposeful mouthparts. Note also the quality of the image obtained on a modern microscope – dilemma? What dilemma.

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