Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Not a Robber Fly...What Is It???

I love puzzles. I love to find a mystery plant, bug etc... and try to figure it out by looking through books, internet sites and other methods and use clues to solve it. I like the challenge.

My friends and I recently found a mystery bug. At first glance, it was posed like an ambush bug, with its legs up. Then we noticed the wings and knew it couldn't be that, it just wasn't shaped right. Had to be in the fly family. We thought, because it was so hairy and poised a certain way, it was a possible robber fly.

After looking at robber fly portraits until I couldn't see straight, I finally noticed the face wasn't right. I read on Bugguide.net that the robber fly has a mystax, a moustache-like projection on its face that makes it look like a muppet or Magnum PI, whichever you prefer. The mystery fly did not. Wish I had figured out the mystax part BEFORE I had looked through the 117 pages of Robber Flies on Bugguide.
So now I knew I did not have a Robber Fly. I knew I had a fly, but the question was what kind of fly. I started looking through the various families of Diptera, the scientific order for flies, and wallah, there was a picture of our fly. A Golden Dung Fly!

I don't know about you, but I don't think the words "golden" and "dung" should be combined to name anything. Sounds like it should be the name of an award I would not want to get. "You just won the Golden Dung Award for kicking a puppy." Yep, Yellow Poop-eating Fly, would be better. The word "golden" just doesn't quite belong with "dung".

Anyway, it gets its name because it is obviously yellow in color and the young maggots eat poop. The female lays eggs in a pile of feces and the young maggots feast away for 21 days. One site said the larvae were also predatory on larval species found in the feces. The larvae will bury into the soil beneath the dung to pupate, then eventually turn into adult flies.

The adults are voracious predators and will attack other flies and insects, even ones much larger than them, and eat 'em. The scientific name is Scathophaga stercoraria. Scatho for "scat or dung" and phagein means "to eat". Stercoraria also refers to dung, so the scientist who named this really wanted you to know that this fly has a close association with feces.

Golden Dung Flies are found almost everywhere in the northern hemisphere. Keep your eye out for this furry little fly with the weird name.
Special thanks to John Howard for the pics!

1 comment:

Taka said...

Yes, it's an interesting species, this Dung Fly.

As far as my information goes, the larvae do not eat poop, but predate exclusively on other creatures living in the poop.

There is mixed information about the food of adults. For example the English wikipedia article states that adults mosty predate on smaller insects. The German wikipedia article states that adults visit flowers and only occasionally prey on other insects.