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See a prize-winning photograph of mating golden-tabbed robber flies

SMALL, quick and often fleeting, it can be difficult to catch insects in all their miniaturised glory. Yet these close-up photos emphasise the beauty and intricacy of these critters in astonishing clarity.

The photos are from the Insect Week Photography Competition 2022, organised by the UK’s Royal Entomological Society as part of its annual initiative celebrating insect science. Pete Burford scooped the top prize for his photo, main image, of a pair of mating golden-tabbed robber flies (Eutolmus rufibarbis), so-named for the characteristic golden tufts of hair on the underside of males. Native to the UK, they are found in heathland in the central southern and central eastern parts of England, although they are a scarce species.

Burford, who took up macro photography two and a half years ago, during one of the UK’s covid-19 lockdowns, spent several fruitless hours at a nature reserve only for the flies to land on his leg midway through mating when he got home and sat down on the sofa. He managed to pick them up on a stick and capture his winning shot, entitled It Takes Two.

Pictured above is one of the competition’s highly commended entries, taken by Benjamin Salb and showing a fragile forktail damselfly (Ischnura posita), a species native to eastern North America. Reaching a maximum length of 3 centimetres, it is one of the smaller members of the flying insect family that includes dragonflies – not that this hindered Salb. He stacked multiple images together to create the sharp final result.

Insect Week 2023 runs from 19 to 25 June in the UK and Europe.

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