A few minutes ago I was busy taking a close-up shot of the minute blooms on a magenta spirea when this colorful insect appeared in my viewfinder—giving me a momentary start. The black-and-yellow fly was no more than a quarter-inch in length. Its eyes were prominent and bulging, a deep burgundy. Wings were clear, the abdomen flattened. As I watched, the tiny fly—using its two front legs—grasped one of the flower’s hair-like stamen filaments which it then bent towards its mouth. I couldn’t tell for sure, but it appeared the fly was eating pollen or something off the anther’s tip. At first I thought the creature was some sort of bee. Later, when I looked it up in my copy of The Audubon Society’s Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders, I narrowed it down to a species of hover fly—which further research convinced me was probably Toxomerus geminatus. Some texts call these insects syrphid flies, or “flower flies.” The latter name is pretty logical since the little flies are most often found on flowers where they feed on nectar. That’s what the fly was doing when it seemed to nibble at the stamen tip—drinking nectar. Hover flies (they do “hover” over the flowers—hence their alternate name) are totally harmless, being unable to either bite or sting. Interestingly, the larva of these hover flies feed on aphids; my Audubon guide says hover fly larva are probably as important as ladybug beetles when it comes to controlling aphid populations. The adult flies are quite beneficial to farmers as crop pollinators. Even when observing the minuscule, it’s never wise to judge something on looks alone! There's also a profound truth to the notion that the closer you look, the more you see. Yet so often we fail to look at things unless they're big or bright or bold. Thus we look only at birds and blooms and gaudy sunsets…and in doing so we miss the wonder and beauty of the diminutive. We gaze at a tree and overlook the splendor of its leaves. We recognize the magnificence of a sweeping beach, but never see the exquisite details in its grains of sand. I was focused on the flowers—and almost missed the dainty elegance of the little hover fly. I guess we all need the occasional reminder.