We did it again

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My apologies to those among you who have missed seeing new posts on AVFTBR. I’ve been eyeball deep in school, and also editing a local magazine called ABOUT the River Valley Magazine based in Russellville, Arkansas. Busy times. Truth be told, October always seems busy because I’m always scrambling to get stuff done and get to the woods. But I haven’t been able to steal away to the treestand often, and my freezer is suffering because of it. Things are leveling out a little now so fingers crossed that the combination of more tree time and an approaching whitetail rut will bring venison home.

Being busy with school also cost me a trip to Fontana Village Resort in North Carolina. Fontana Village was the site of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association’s 50th annual conference where A View from the Back Roads took first place for the Realtree Website Horizons Award. The award goes to the website judged best based on written content, photo content and overall design. This was AVFTBR’s third award from Realtree, taking first place in 2012 and second place — along with my third place finish in SEOPA’s magazine short feature story category — in 2013.

Mind blown. That first win in 2012 still hasn’t really sunk in.

To be honored alongside some supremely talented outdoor communicators (which left me a little starstruck upon meeting them for the first time) is, in a word, surreal. As  a kid and young adult I knew these men and women from their work on the pages of literally hundreds of outdoor magazines stacked in my bedroom. To think that I could ever share the stage with them seemed impossible.

So here’s to realizing a dream. And with graduation coming up in spring 2015, here’s to taking A View from the Back Roads even further.

Thanks for reading, y’all!

Red footed cannibalfly

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Is it a dragonfly? Is it a wasp? Nope, it’s a robber fly. Robber flies are predatory insects in the Asilidae family. Arkansas is home to several species of robber flies ranging in size from 3mm up to two inches (5.08 cm if you want to keep it in the metric system). The species pictured is Promachus rufipes, common name red footed cannibalfly, which measures about 4cm long. Another name for this species is bee panther. A perfect nickname judging by the picture.

Large, fierce and just flat-out cool looking, the red footed cannibalfly’s body shape reminds me of an attack helicopter. And just like attack helicopters they are fearsome. Size of prey is no deterrent, adult cannibalflies attack wasps, bees, dragonflies, grasshoppers, other flies, spiders and even hummingbirds. They intercept many soon to be meals in mid-air by grasping them with those bristly legs then, using a sharp proboscis, the fly injects a venomous cocktail of nerve toxins and digestive enzymes. Prey is quickly immobilized and digestion by the robber fly has started. The fly then finds a quiet perch, usually a sunny spot like in the photo, and slurps the liquefied innards through that proboscis much the same as you slurp a chocolate milkshake through a straw.

The larval stage of robber flies are worm-like, but  voracious predators, too. They live in soil, rotting stumps and other moist organic material, but due to a secretive and solitary life have been much harder to study.

Robber flies are closely related to horseflies, and though they don’t feed on blood, they can deliver a painful bite. My introduction to a robber fly, which I believe was in fact a cannibalfly, came when I was around 8-years-old in the form of a nip on the leg and resulted in a revenge smashing of the devilish looking insect with a fly swatter when it landed on the porch swing after biting me. Bites on humans are rare, though, and besides the pain are harmless.

Robber flies are supreme predators in the insect world, and though vicious play an important role in ecological balance.