Flies of the Diptera Order or the true flies

Two Winged Fly

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Flies, a look at these familiar creatures

" God made the fly-

Then forgot to tell us why"

Diptera from the Greek di=two+ ptera =wing. is an Order of two winged flies that consists of two sub-orders Nematocera {includes Eudiptera} and Brachycera.

Here we have the true flies which may be distinguished from all other winged insects by one simple fact-the hind wings are absent and in their place are a pair of stalked knobs known as halteres.

In older reference books they were classed as being the sub-order Orthorrhopa, however, in modern times comes under the above mentioned Brachycera. This sub-order of the Diptera is a significant sub-order comprising 120 families.

General characteristics of Diptera species

The functional wings are usually transparent with not more than 7 longitudinal nervures { the stiff chitmous rods that form the supporting framework of the wing}. The compound eyes are generally large and conspicuous { compound -the convex eye of insects consisting of numerous separate light sensitive units 'ommatidia' }.

When present, the mouth parts are greatly modified so as to serve for piercing or sucking, or, for sucking only. The antennae vary greatly under one form there are two or three sharp joints of which the terminal is large or nearly globose with a bristle springing up from its upper-side or from the apex. Under another form there are several joints which form a more or less spindle shaped antennae with or without a terminal bristle.

While in the gnats, daddy long legs {cranefly} etc, the antennae are long and slender, many jointed and sometimes beautifully decorated with whorls of hair, there are many intermediate

The tarsi are five jointed. The commonest form of foot consists of a pair of curved claws above a pair of flat sucker like hairy pads. The claws vary in form and the pads in both form and number there being 2,3 or rarely none.

Among the Diptera that are only able to suck, all the mouth parts except the labium { a lip like structure} having become obsolete. But the labium is a versatile organ, when not in use it lies in a cavity beneath the head, however, being jointed it can be extended when the insect is feeding.

The labium pad is traversed by numerous ducts that act as tributaries to two main tubes which interact in the mouth, acting as a sort of sponge, readily absorbing liquids, or even small bodies such as pollen grain. The fly is able to flood the ducts of the pad with saliva to soften or dissolve harder substances that would otherwise be unsuitable for food. In this manner the house fly is able to eat sugar.

The family Bibionidae of the sub-order Nematorcera includes some stoutly built flies with relatively short antennae. The sexes differ remarkably in colour, the females more brightly coloured garbed with yellow or red, the males a more sombre black. The larvae of these flies feed on the roots of grasses and other plants.

The so called sand midges of the Family Simulidae of the sub-order Nematocera, infra order Culimorpha, are small black or greyish coloured flies, of which their are about a dozen British species. They are remarkable for their blood sucking habits and the annoyance they cause to man and beast. The larval stage of their lives are passed in running water, where they feed on minute vegetable organisms such as diatoms

Crane fly

The halteres that have replaced the hind wings of the Diptera flies.
The halteres that have replaced the hind wings of the Diptera flies. | Source

The common grey gnat and other species

The common grey gnat {mosquito} is another troublesome blood sucker which can spread diseases such as the Japanese encephalatis, meningtis and urticaria. In the USA it is said to spread the West Nile Virus. This virus was first identified in New York City in 1999 and in subsequent years it has spread throughout the USA. { various species of mosquito spread the virus, many carried on passerine birds}. The larvae which are aquatic feed on minute organisms both animal and vegetable in nature.

Those of the genus Culex of the family Culicidae { 1216 species known in the world} are the familiar 'wrigglers' that are so common in water butts and cisterns during the summer months. They breathe with the aid of a respiratory tube near the end of the tail. The pupae float on the surface and breathe through a pair of trumpet-like tubes on the thorax.

With one or two possible exceptions this blood sucking habit among this group of flies is confined to the females. The males, if they feed at all, make do with vegetable juices, as indeed the females are capable of doing , if blood meals are not available.

Above Adult Culex pipiens- Below the larva of Culex festuans

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The Brachycera group

In the group Brachycera, the species never have more than five joints in the antennae, usually only three. The larvae have small retractile heads and are much more maggot like than the mosquito group.

The Family Stratiomyidae {from the Greek word indicating soldier}, are a family of flies that contain about 15500 species in 400 genera and includes the broad bodied 'soldier' or 'chamelon' flies, as well as others that are much more slender in form. The species are often prettily coloured, sometimes with metallic sheens. Although some of the larvae feed in decaying matter, they are in the main aquatic in many species. The adults frequent flowers.

The robust gad flies {horse flies} and their kindred make up the family Tabanidae of which there are 4,500 species. the also have the alternate common names such as cleg fly, breeze fly and deer fly. It is a tenacious insect and there is no greater assidious assailant when in search of a blood meal from animals and man. Throughout this family the piercing mouth parts are well developed in the females of many species which readily attack cattle, horses and deer, and, are regarded as a serious pest for the annoyance that they cause. The males on the other hand are rarely seen and are quite harmless.

The species Tabanus bovinus ranks among the largest British Diptera measuring 25-30mm long and has its specific name suggests prefers bovine animals. To humans they are much less harmless than the deer flies of the genus Chrysops.

The larvae of Tabanidae are found in water, earth or decaying wood, where thy feed on worms, molluscs and beetle grubs.

The ever alert hairy robber flies of the family Asilidae {7,100 species known} have been called the savages of the insect life, for it preys on lesser species with a tenacity and they are extremely voracious. Indeed a member of this group is rarely seen without some insect or other in its grasp. Most of the species {UK} are of a dull and sombre appearance, but the species Asilius crabroniformes is decidely handsome and has the general appearance of a large wasp or hornet. Here in the UK it is confined to the southern counties of England and south west Wales. It features on the endangered species list in the UK. The larvae of robber flies are found burrowing in damp earth.

The bee fly,Bombylius major is a typical member of this family. It is a thick set and hairy insect, it might easily be mistaken for a small bumble bee. The flight of this fly is rapid, it rests with its wings stretched out on either side. The mouth parts which form a stiff, long, proboscis are of the piercing type, but they are only utilised to extract flower juices. the eggs are laid and flicked by the female towards the entrance of the under ground nests of solitary bees and wasps. When hatched the larvae feed as parasites on the bee grubs.

robber flies-Asilius crabroniformes

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The bee fly is often mistaken for a small bumble bee.
The bee fly is often mistaken for a small bumble bee. | Source

Muscidae

The enormous family Muscidae { 4,000 species in 100 genera} includes some of the species that commonly visit the habitatioons of mankind. The house fly,flesh fly,blue and green bottles, and many more less familiar kinds. The maggots of all these feed on decaying animal and vegetable substances, each species having its predilection and habits.

One fly known as Stomoxys calcitrans calls for a special mention, because it is nearly related to the dreaded tretse flies of Africa, and like them have piercing mouth parts,{very exceptional among Muscidae}, with which it is able to suck blood. It is very much like, and is often confused with the common house fly Musca domesticus { which accounts for 91% of all flies found in human habitations} and as it rarely enters houses, except before rain, there was a popular belief that flies, in general, begin to bite before rain.

The common housefly, having only suctorial labium, never bite at all. However, it does contaminate food with germs and diseases and every possible means of extermination should be adopted.

The bluebottle Calliphora vomitoria is a common blow fly of the family Calliphoridae is another species commonly encountered in houses and like the common house fly is a conveyor of germs and diseases. The eyes are red, wings transparent. The legs and antennae are black and pink. The abdomen is bright metallic blue with black markings. They are larger and bulkier than the house fly.

The green bottle as its common name suggests has a bright metallic green abdomen are less often encountered in houses than the former species.

Stomoxys calcitrans

This fly that is capable of sucking blood is often mistaken for the common house fly.
This fly that is capable of sucking blood is often mistaken for the common house fly. | Source

Green bottle

The green bottle is commonly seen in gardens but does not enter houses in the same numbers as the larger bluebottle.
The green bottle is commonly seen in gardens but does not enter houses in the same numbers as the larger bluebottle. | Source

List of the flies that feature on the UK BAP list.

Below is a list of the flies that appear on the UK list of Priority species of conservation concern. Any creature that features on this list is subject to a species action plan {SAP} that has been formulated and currently being implemented on the creatures behalf in order to halt the decline and to eventually reverse the trend. This decline may be due to population or/and distribution declines of over 50% in the last forty years or so.

Hornet robber fly--------------Asilus crabroniformis.

Black fungus gnat------------Asindulum nigra

------------Btera falax

Heath bee fly------------------Bombylius minor

Fanseca's seed fly----------Botamophila fonsecai

Golden hoverfly--------------Callicere spinolae

Fancy legged fly-------------Campsicemus nigra

Royal splinter cranefly----- Gnophomyia elsneri

Aspen hoverfly-------------- Hammerschmidita ferrunginea

Six spotted cranefly---------Idiocera sexguttata

Cigarillo gallfly---------------Lipara similis

Scottish yellow splinter-----Lipsothrix ecucullata

Northern yellow splinter----Lipsothrix errans

Southern yellow splinter---Lipsothrix nervosa

Scarce yellow splinter------Lipsothrix nigristigma

Viking sword fly--------------Lonclarea ragnan

Western woodvase hoverfly-- Myolepta potens

------------Neoempheria lineola

Barred green colonel -----Odontomyia hydroleon.

Hairy cranefly---------------Phaonia jaroschewskii

Mottled bee fly-------------Thyridanthrax fenestratus

Dune snail killing fly-------Salticellii fasciata

River shore Cranefly------Rhabdomastix japonica

--------Rhamphomyia hirtula



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Comments 5 comments

D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

Nettlemere Hoverflies are interesting species {there is an article on my website}. Thank you for your kind comments best wishes to you.


D.A.L. profile image

D.A.L. 3 years ago from Lancashire north west England Author

FullOfLoveSites, thank you for taking the time to read the hub and for taking the time to place your comments which are appreciated. Best wishes to you.

cat on a soap box, sorry to hear about your horrible experience. here in the UK that would be a very rare occurrence thankfully. Your kind comments are appreciated. Best wishes to you.

Nettlemere, Thank you for visiting, the photograph of the halteres you mention do show them clearly, however, they are much more difficult to spot on a live cranefly.


FullOfLoveSites profile image

FullOfLoveSites 3 years ago from United States

Much as the fly is a very annoying pest, it turns out to be pretty interesting too. Great and very informative hub. :)


cat on a soapbox profile image

cat on a soapbox 3 years ago from Los Angeles

Hi D.A.L.- Wow, What a wealth of information! This is a huge category from which you've written a really interesting hub:)

Do you ever write about the creepy Bott Fly? The subject makes one's skin crawl! On a trip to Waimea Canyon on the island of Kauai, I had one lay an egg-sac in my eye. The pain was unrelenting, but no one could see anything! The next day when I saw the transparent larvae shimmying across my iris, I was thankful that my friends had sterile saline solution for contact lenses! We were very remote, and I was able to flush the critters out. I guess they usually choose goats. :) Thanks for the good read.


Nettlemere profile image

Nettlemere 3 years ago from Burnley, Lancashire, UK

Such a bewildering array of flies I can't get to grips with many of them, but enjoyed watching hoverflies this year and trying to identify some of the species. Love the picture of the halteres on the cranefly -I must have seen millions of them but never looked close enough to spot the halteres.

Great hub packed with information.

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