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Fly nurseries....

Posted by Erica McAlister Nov 22, 2011

Thought that I had better get a blog piece in quickly as for the next couple of months it will be all about the travel.

 

So before I had off to the wilds, I thought that I would write about something that was brought to me by one of the Botanists; a most exciting specimen of some bracket fungus (Ganoderma applanatum). It was not the fungus that was intriguing me though but what was on it/in it .....

 

There were hundreds of galls caused by Agathomyia wankowiczii (I guess over a hundred years ago that name did not sound as silly as now!) larvae. This is a type of fly called the flat-footed fly (aptly named as they have enlarged hind tarsi i.e. large back feet!). Talking of silly names, there is a book called Bizarre Books, a compendium of Classic oddities by Russell Ash and Brian Lake and one of the books that they cite is our very own Peter Chandler's (of Diptera Handbook and Checklist fame) book 'The Flat-Footed Flies of Europe' - many many librarians etc found this title amusing!

 

800px-Wkppezid.jpg

 

See in the image above the enlarged final section of the hind leg - very distinctive!

 

Now in the UK we have 33 species of these relatively small flies although this little one is a fairly recent arrival to our shores. And it’s the only insect species to form galls in Fungus in Britain- a very special fly. The galls are where the larvae develop and they are able to do this as the fungus is a slow growing species and so does not decay before the grubs have developed. Once fully grown they create a whole at the top of the gall (which is the bottom as they are on the underside). Gravity does the next bit and once landed they dig down into the soil before eventually pupating and the adults emerge. The adults are either found running around on leaves (they feed on honeydew) whilst some species e.g. Microsania are known as smoke flies since they like to swarm in fires! (a rather unusual pastime). The species in question is also the only orange one in the UK (and it is bright orange!!) and so is conveniently call the Yellow flat-footed fly…….

 

Aga w 5 23rd Aug 018a.JPG

Agathomyia wankowiczii © Judy Webb. This is exceptionally yellow

 

Now very little is known about the distribution of these flies and we have none in the National Collection! but at least we do have this very fine specimen now to show off! If you do come across them though the Dipterists Forum would love to know their locality data www.dipteristsforum.org.uk

 

Agathomyia (2).jpg

 

It still amazes me that there is so much we don't know about the British Fauna - Just goes to show you how much is happening all around us without us realising.....

Erica McAlister

Erica McAlister

Member since: Sep 3, 2009

I'm Erica McAlister, Curator of Diptera in the Entomology Department. My role involves working in the collection (I have about 30000 species to look after and over a million specimens), sometimes in the lab, and thankfully sometimes in the field.

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