This chic creature with its carapace like black japan could easily be mistaken for a parasitic wasp, but it is in fact the snail killing fly Sepedon sphegea (Sciomyzidae), or in French Sépédon sphex.
They are relatively large and can be easy to spot if you are down amongst the Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus at the waters' edge by a pond or river. My French field guide describes them as 'espèce svelte, toute noire, aux pattes rouge jaunâtre', 8-11mm long and flying from April to October.
This picture, taken at Chaumussay, shows the fly in a typical pose, head down on an iris blade. If you get too close, it will sidle around to the other side of the leaf in preference to flying, rather in the manner of a damselfly keeping out of sight.
The fascinating Sciomyzidae
live out their lives by some old pond or stream,
and in the night their hungry larvae dream
of fresh snail flesh for breakfast lunch and tea.
During the day the adults wander free
on often fuscate and attractive wings
searching for flowers and other tasty things,
as well as mates to share their repartee.
The thought of escargot eternally
alive, uncooked, bereft of garlic sauce
does not inspire me, but then of course
I’m not a fly to live so frugally,
or flit so freely through the summer’s haze
and die untouched by winter’s bitter days.
By Gordon Ramel, 2008, and more of his poetry can be seen at Some Poetry from a Blue Magpie. Gordon is currently running a biodiversity study at the fabulous Lake Kerkini Wetland Project in Greece and is the author of the rather wonderful Earthlife.net website.