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Friday, July 29, 2011

Robber Fly- Only 7000 Cousins

robber fly

I learned something interesting with this picture. First, the parts I already knew. This fly was flitting around on some flowers, but then landed on this bracken fern. I noted that it looks a lot like a bumblebee. However, it has only two wings, not four- therefore, not a bee. It also doesn't fly like a bee. If an insect is sitting on a leaf like this, it's probably not a bee at all. It was definitely a fly- Order Diptera (two wings). After that, I was at the end of my knowledge and had to go hunting.

Flies that look like bees are robber flies. They are in the genus Laphria. But there are more genera which are all called robber flies in the family Asilidae. Worldwide, there are more than 7100 species of them. They are noted for having a long proboscis which they use to stab victims. They then inject a neurotoxin to kill the prey. The saliva also dissolves the internal organs of the victim, and the robber fly sucks this meal back through the proboscis. Yum.

To see another kind of robber fly, Ratty once posted a picture of a Giant Robber Fly

Most of these cousins have to get by with sharing the same common name. I think this one's formal name is Laphria thoracica


Rick (Ratty) said...

This one does look very much like a bee. I'll have to watch for bee-like bugs on leaves. I bet your search for it was much more organized than my search was for mine. :)

Ann said...

Well isn't that interesting. Rather gruesome sounding how they kill their prey though

Secondary Roads said...

He certainly looks like a bumbly bee.

betchai said...

oh, thanks so much for your information, I will remember that, if an insect sits like this on a leaf, it must not be a bee, he does look like one.

vanilla said...

Well, that doesn't sound very friendly. All 7100 of them can stay away from me.

john bain said...

Think I'll give robber flies a miss.

Sharkbytes said...

Ratty- well, I'm not great with insects, but I've tried to retain the things I once knew about the orders- diptera for flies, etc

Ann- insects have so many specific and strange ways of eating!

Chuck- it was flitting around a flower too. Some flies help with pollination, not sure if this one does.

betchai- the wings are very different. I'll see if I can get a pic.

vanilla- they don't suck the insides out of people, but that would be quite a horror tale if they did

john- they are everywhere, we just don't notice them much because they don't try to eat people.

Geri O'Hara said...

God I hate flies they give me the heebie geebies (all creepy crawly insectie things do)! but this article was really fascinating...

in a uugh yuk sort of way

RNSANE said...

Yuck, I'm leave it to its other victims. I prefer not to be one!

Sharkbytes (TM) said...

Geri- what a great compliment! I'll take a yucky sort of way.

Carmen- nah... they don't suck out human insides, although that might make a good horror story.