Fly Seduction

It’s no secret to fly tiers that fashioning a good mimic for the water can be addicting. Our handiwork never holds a candle, however, to the wild and surprising forms of mimicry found on land. Take the plant pathogen known as “anther smut,” which mimics the male reproductive organs of the plant known as soapwort, replacing the plant’s anther sack with a structure containing noxious black smut spores. Many varieties of orchids push the mimicry envelope a step further, putting on a veritable burlesque comedy in the garden with parts that remind insects of their own species’ female organs. Read that again: a flower mimicking the female genitalia of an insect. Without getting too graphic, the process amounts to seduction of the highest (or lowest) form. The flower produces a come-hither structure that bamboozles the male insect into trying to mate with the flower. Right there in front of the day lilies, roses, and chrysanthemums. Of course, the intention is that the flower’s pollen will somehow hitch a ride to the next orchid. But that only happens when the insect tries to mate with the next flower the same way. Some flowers have all the luck, and presentation couldn’t mean more.


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