Red-eyed poop!

I was looking at some of my older files and ran across these photographs taken in early 2011 in Campinas (São Paulo state), Brazil. They’re not my best photos from a compositional and technical perspective, as I was still on the steep part of the learning curve with the Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens. This lens is no doubt powerful and allows amazingly close-up photographs, but it is rather a beast to learn in the field, especially hand-held. I could quibble endlessly about missed focus and suboptimal composition with these shots, and that is probably why they never made it to the front of the line for being posted. Nevertheless, they still depict some interesting natural history by one of nature’s most famous natural history poster children—the treehoppers (order Hemiptera; family Membracidae).

An adult next to a cast nymphal exuvia.

Bolbonota sp. (Hemiptera: Membracidae), upper right | Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil. Note cast exuvia.

The treehoppers shown in these photos were found on a low shrub in a municipal park and are all that I could manage before my clumsy, unpracticed molestations caused the few adults and nymphs present in the aggregation to disperse. The dark coloration of the adult and its globular form, corrugated pronotal surface, and lack of any horns identify the species as a member of the genus Bolbonota in the New World tribe Membracini (another similar genus, Bolbonotoides, occurs as a single species in Mexico). Species identification, however, is much more difficult, as there are at least a dozen species recorded from Brazil and perhaps many more awaiting description. We have a similar though slightly more elongate species here in eastern North America, Tylopelta americana. I don’t know if this is a specific character or not, but I don’t recall seeing any members of this genus with smoldering red eyes—it gives them an almost devilish appearance, especially the blackish adults (see last photo)!

Bolbonota sp. late-instar nymphs clustered together.

Bolbonota and similar genera are often cited by evolutionists as examples of insects that mimic seeds. I can see such a resemblance if I force myself, but honestly I don’t really buy it. To me they seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to the chlamisine leaf beetles which are thought to mimic caterpillar frass. As with the beetles they resemble, frass-mimicry seems to make much more sense than seed-mimicry, especially given their preference for positioning themselves along the stems of the plants on which they feed (when was the last time you saw seeds of a plant randomly distributed along its stems?). Another thought I’ve had is that this is not an example of mimicry at all, but merely an accidental consequence of the heavy, corrugated body form they have adopted, which likely also affords them a reasonable amount of protection from predation. Confounding both of these theories, however, are the radically different appearance and form of the adults versus the nymphs, and indeed even between the different nymphal instars (see early- and late-instar nymphs in photo below). The later instars seem perfectly colored for mimicking unopened leaf buds, but why they would start out dark in early instars before turning mottled/streaked-white as they mature, only to revert back to dark when reaching adulthood, is a mystery to me. If my thoughts are anywhere close to the truth, it would be a remarkable case of different life stages mimicking the products of two different taxonomic kingdoms (plant parts as nymphs, animal poop as adults)!

Bolbonota sp. nymphs tended by Camponotus sp. | Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil.

An ant (presumably Camponotus sp.) tends a first-instar nymph alongside a later instar.

Of course, if either/both of these lines of defense fail then there are the ant associates that often protect treehoppers and other sap-sucking, aggregating insect species in exchange for the sweet, sugary honeydew that such insects exude as a result of their sap-feeding habits. I presume this ant belongs to the genus Camponotus, perhaps C. rufipes or C. crassus which are both commonly encountered treehopper associates in southern Brazil. I have written previously about ant-treehopper mutualism in the stunningly-marked nymphs of another treehopper, Guayaquila xiphias, and its ant-associate C. crassus in Brazil Bugs #15 – Formiga-membracídeos mutualismo (a post that has become one of this blog’s most popular all-time). Maybe this post will never match that one in popularity, but I do find the third photo shown here remarkable in that is shows no less than five elements of this treehopper’s natural history (early-instar nymph, late-instar nymph, cast nymphal exuvia, partial adult, and an ant-associate) within a single frame (shot by a person still on the steep portion of the MP-E 65mm learning curve!).

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2013

Brazil Bugs #16 – Royal Moth Larva

Citheronia laocoon? 1st instar larva | Campinas, Brazil

I was sure Super Crop Challenge #6 would be a win for the house, but Troy Bartlett scored an impressive points sweep by correctly deducing that the structures shown were the spines of an early instar caterpillar of “something akin to a hickory horned devil (Citheronia regalis).”  I found this caterpillar feeding on the foliage of a small tree in the Ciudad Universitaria (Distrito Barão Geraldo) area of Campinas, Brazil last January.  I must confess that I spent considerable time trying to identify it myself before I finally threw in the towel and called on the experts for help.  The spines made me think it must be some kind of nymphalid butterfly larva, although I had never seen such “fly swatter” clubs at the ends of the spines, so I sent the photo to Phillip Koenig, a local butterfly expert who has collected extensively in Ecuador.  He, too, was puzzled and forwarded the photo to Charley Eiseman, who himself didn’t know what to make of it and forwarded it on to Keith Wolfe, a lepidopterist who specializes in butterfly immatures.  After stumping his Brazilian contacts, Keith had the idea that perhaps it wasn’t a late-instar larva—as we all had assumed (this larva was a good 15–20 mm in length), but rather one in an early stadium.  A quick search of several standard websites revealed this to be the L1 or L2 larva of a species of Citheronia (Saturniidae, Ceratocampinae).  To support his ID, he provided links to larval photos of C. splendens (Arizona) and C. lobesis (Central America).  The L1 larva of both of these species bears the same “fly swatter” spines, and the latter is remarkably similar in color pattern as well.

In trying to determine what species of Citheronia occur in southeast Brazil, I came across this link with photos of a caterpillar from southern Brazil—the L1 looking nearly identical—that was eventually identified as the common Brazilian species C. laocoon.  Troy suggested C. brissotii—another good possibility as that species is found from southeastern Brazil through Uruguay to Argentina.  However, in perusing a number of online sources, it appears there are several other species of Citheronia that also occur in Brazil, so a species ID for the larva in this photo may not be possible.

Troy’s win vaults him into 3rd place in the current session overalls, but steady Tim Eisele took 2nd place with 6 pts and takes over the session lead.  Newcomer Roy rounds out the podium in 3rd place with 5 points.  Dave’s pity points are nothing to sneeze at, as they helped him retain sole possession of 2nd place in the overall standings (let that be a lesson to those who don’t play because they’re “stumped”!).  There will be at least two more challenges in the current session before a winner is crowned, so look for an opportunity to shake up the standings in the near future.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Brazil Bugs #15 – Formiga-membracídeos mutualismo

Of the several insect groups that I most wanted to see and photograph during my trip to Brazil a few weeks ago, treehoppers were near the top of the list.  To say that treehoppers are diverse in the Neotropics is certainly an understatement – South America boasts an extraordinary number of bizarre and beautiful forms that still, to this day, leave evolutionary biologists scratching their heads.  The development of this amazing diversity is a relatively recent phenomenon (thinking geological scale here), as there are no known membracid fossils prior to Oligo-Miocene Dominican and Mexican amber – well after the early Cretaceous breakup of Gondwanaland split the globe into the “Old” and “New” Worlds.  With its origins apparently in South America, numerous groups continued to spring forth – each with more ridiculous pronotal modifications than the last and giving rise to the dazzling diversity of forms we see today.  Even North America got in the evolutionary act, benefiting from northern dispersal from South America’s richly developing fauna via temporary land bridges or island stepping stones that have existed at various times during the current era and giving rise to the almost exclusively Nearctic tribe Smiliini (whose species are largely associated with the continent’s eastern hardwood forests).  Only the subfamily Centrotinae, with its relatively unadorned pronotum, managed to successfully disperse to the Old World, where it remains the sole representative taxon in that hemisphere.  With a few notable exceptions, treehoppers have virtually no economic importance whatsoever, yet they enjoy relatively active study by taxonomists, evolutionists, and ecologists alike – due almost completely to the bizarreness of their forms and unique mutualistic/subsocial behaviors.

I did manage to find a few species of treehoppers during the trip (a very primitive species being featured in Answer to ID Challenge #4 – Aetalion reticulatum), and of those that I did find the nymphs in this ant-tended aggregation on a small tree in the rural outskirts of Campinas (São Paulo State) were perhaps the most striking in coloration and form.  Most were jet black, although a few exhibited fair amounts of reddish coloration, and all exhibited sharply defined white bands of wax and long erect processes on the pronotum, mesonotum, and abdomen.  I’ve seen a fair number of treehopper nymphs, but I did not recognize these as something I had seen before, and given the incomplete state of immature taxomony I feared an identification might not be possible.  Still (and I know this is probably beginning to sound like a broken record), I gave it the old college try.

I usually like to start simple and get more creative if the results aren’t satisfactory, so I went to my old friend Flickr and simply typed “Membracidae” as my search term.  Predictably, pages and pages of results appeared, and I began scanning through them to see if any contained nymphs at all resembling what I had.  After just a few pages, I encountered this photo with very similar-looking nymphs, and although no identification beyond family was indicated for the photo, I recognized the lone adult sitting with the nymphs as a member of the tribe Aconophorini – a diverse group distinguished from other treehoppers by their long, forward-projecting pronotal horn.  Luck was with me, because I happen to have a copy of the relatively recent revision of this tribe by Dietrich and Deitz (1991).  Scanning through the work, I learned that the tribe is comprised of 51 species assigned to three genera: Guayaquila (22 spp.), Calloconophora (16 spp.), and Aconophora (13 spp.).  The latter two genera can immediately be dismissed, as ant-interactions have not been recorded for any of the species in those two genera – clearly the individuals that I photographed were being tended by ants.  Further, the long, laterally directed apical processes of the pronotal horn, two pairs of abdominal spines, and other features also agree with the characters given for nymphs of the genus Guayaquila.  In looking at the species included in the genus, a drawing of a nymph that looked strikingly similar to mine was found in the species treatment for G. gracilicornis.  While that species is recorded only from Central America and northern South America, it was noted that nymphs of this species closely resemble those of the much more widely distributed G. xiphias, differing by their generally paler coloration.  My individuals are anything but pale, and reading through the description of the late-instar nymph of the latter species found every character in agreement.  A quick search of the species in Google Images was all that was needed to confirm the ID (at least to my satisfaction). 

In a study of aggregations of G. xiphias on the shrub Didymopanax vinosum (Araliaceae) in southeastern Brazil, Del-Claro and Oliveira (1999) found an astounding 21 species of associated ant species – a far greater diversity than that reported for any other ant-treehopper system.  The most frequently encountered ant species were Ectatomma edentatum, Camponotus rufipes, C. crassus, and C. renggeri, and after perusing the images of these four species at AntWeb I’m inclined to believe that the ants in these photos represent Camponotus crassus (although I am less confident of this ID than the treehoppers – corrections welcome!).  The authors noted turnover of ant species throughout the day in a significant portion of the treehopper aggregations that they observed, which they suggest probably reflects distinct humidity and temperature tolerances among the different ant species and that might serve to reduce interspecific competition among ants at treehopper aggregations.  Since treehopper predation and parasitism in the absence of ant mutualists can be severe, the development of multispecies associations by G. xiphias results in nearly “round-the-clock” protection that can greatly enhance their survival.

Update 3/3/11, 9:45 a.m.:  My thanks to Chris Dietrich at the Illinois Natural History Survey, who provided me in an email exchange some clarifying comments on the origins and subsequent dispersal of the family.  The first paragraph has been slightly modified to reflect those comments.


Del-Claro, K. and P. S. Oliveira. 1999. Ant-Homoptera interactions in a Neotropicai savanna: The honeydew-producing treehopper, Guayaquila xiphias (Membracidae), and its associated ant fauna on Didymopanax vinosum (Araliaceae). Biotropica 31(1):135–144.

Dietrich, C. H. and L. L. Deitz.  1991.  Revision of the Neotropical treehopper tribe Aconophorini (Homoptera: Membracidae).  North Carolina Agricultural Research Service Technical Bulletin 293, 134 pp.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Brazil Bugs #14 – Fusquinha

Despite their hyperdiversity, leaf beetles (family Chrysomelidae) as a group are for the most part among the most easily recognized of all beetle families, and within the family none are more recognizable than the tortoise beetles (subfamily Cassidinae).  Named for their distinctively armoured elytra and prothorax and associated behavior of drawing the head and legs under them when threatened, they are worldwide in distribution and especially diverse in the New World tropics.  Even though I know little about the group (chrysomelids as a whole are far too intimidatingly diverse a group for me to add to my already burgeoning list of interests), I can’t resist collecting them whenever I encounter them.  Having traveled to Mexico and South America many times over the years, I’ve accumulated almost a full Schmidt box of these beauties – most of which remained unidentified, save for the well-known representatives from our relatively depauperate North American fauna.

Thus, when I encountered this striking example on a leaf in the Barão Geraldo District near Campinas, Brazil, I figured the photos I took would go into one of those “Brazil Bugs” posts featuring a variety of pleasing to look at but otherwise unidentified insects.  Still, after having had success identifying some other Brazilian insects using Google, Flickr, and carefully selected search terms, I figured I should at least give this one a try.  It didn’t take long – searching on nothing more than “Cassidinae” in Flickr yielded a very similar looking beetle on page 6 from Panama identified by Rob Westerduijn as Paraselenis tersa.  While not likely the same species, it seemed almost certain to represent the same genus, so further searching on the genus name eventually led me to the cassidine mother lode: Cassidinae of the World: An Interactive Manual.  This web page, authored by Lech Borowiec, features species lists, identification keys and images of a large number of specimens, including nearly all of the 29 species currently placed in this exclusively Neotropical genus (you can bet I’m bookmarking this site – perhaps my Schmidt box of specimens will finally get some attention!).  A quick perusal through the images yielded an ID: Paraselenis (Spaethiechoma) flava, recorded broadly across South America.  Everything fit – the black scutellar marking, the elytra broader than the prothorax, the bicolored antennae, the thin black anterior elytral marginal band, and – appropriate for the species name – the even yellow coloration.  My ID was confirmed when I found a key to all the species of Paraselenis (Borowiec 2003).  I surmise this is a female based on the more rounded humeral elytral projections, which seem to be more strongly and angularly produced in the males based on the photos I looked at.

Interestingly, this particular species is considered a pest of sweet potato and commonly referred to as “fusquinha”¹ (Montes and Raga 2010).  Many species of tortoise beetles, in fact, utilize as host plants members of the sweet potato family (Convolvulaceae).  This individual was not on a convolvulaceous plant, but a small tree.  I looked for additional individuals but didn’t find any, nor did I find larvae or any evidence of feeding, so this must have been a wayward individual – probably searching for a suitable host on which to oviposit.

¹ “Fusquinha” is the Brazilian Portuguese word for “Volkswagon Beetle”!


Borowiec, L.  2003.  Two new species of the genus Paraselenis Spaeth, 1913 (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Cassidinae).  Genus 14 (3): 403-411.

Montes, S. M. N. M. and A. Raga. 2010. “Fusquinha” Paraselenis flava (L. 1758) praga da batata-doce. Instituto Biológico – APTA, Documento Técnico 004, 8 pp..

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Answers to ID Challenge #5 – Artrópodes em casca de árvore morta

Dead tree in Campinas, Brazil

After checking into my hotel in Campinas, Brazil I couldn’t wait to start exploring the grounds to see what insect life I might be able to find.  Almost immediately, I encountered this dead tree in back of the hotel.  To a beetle collector, a dead tree is an irresistible draw – especially one that is still standing and with loosely hanging bark, as in this one.  I approached the tree, gave it a look up and down the trunk to see if any beetles or other insects might be found on the outer surface of the bark, and when none were seen began carefully peeling sections of the bark away from the trunk.  Out from beneath the first section darted a small, black lizard – it reminded me in general form of our North American fence lizards (genus Sceloporus), but honestly it darted so fast up the trunk that I didn’t get a good look at it (much less even the chance to attempt a photograph).  Peeling the bark further away from the wood revealed a goodly number of what I took to be beetle larvae, although they were unlike anything I’d ever seen before.  They were fairly good-sized – about 25mm in length, and although there are a number of beetle families whose larvae may be encountered under the bark of dead trees, there aren’t many with larvae of this size.

Coleopteran larva (Tenebrionidae?) under bark of dead tree.

Despite their odd appearance, their basic gestalt suggested to me that they might be something in the family Tenebrionidae (darkling beetles).  Sadly, the state of beetle larval taxonomy is far from complete, especially in the tropics, and given the extraordinary diversity of the order as a whole I knew it could be difficult to impossible to identify them.  This task was further complicated by the fact that I did not collect any voucher specimens.¹

¹ Insect collecting permits are required in Brazil and are exceedingly difficult to obtain.  Although enforcement is lax, a few unlucky foreigners have been caught and suffered tremendous inconvenience at the hands of notoriously unsympathetic authorities.  This being a business trip, I had no desire to tempt fate for the sake of a few larvae in a group I don’t even study.

Despite a millipede-like appearance, six legs and loose cluster of ocelli indicate its true identity.

After consulting all of the print and online resources at my disposal and failing to find a convincing match at even the family level, I began to second guess not only whether these were tenebrionids, but larvae or even beetles.  I’m not aware of any tenebrionids with larviform adult females, but such are common in the Lampyroidea.  That didn’t seem to fit, however, as the latter tend to be much more flattened and armored in appearance, and the round head is really unlike the elongate and narrow head so often seen in that group.  The actually began to wonder if it was even a beetle – most xylophagous beetle larvae are light-colored and rarely so heavily sclerotized, and the antennae are unlike the typical 3-segmented antennae seen with most xylophagous beetle larvae.  In fact, the antennae and the shape of the head actually reminded me of a millipede, but the obvious presence of six legs (and no more) made this untenable (even though 1st instar millipedes are hexapod, the large size of these individuals precludes them from being 1st instar anything).  Eventually, I could only conclude that they were coleopteran – possibly a larviform adult, but more likely larval.  As a last resort I sent photos to Antonio Santos-Silva, a coleopterist at the University of São Paulo.  Although he specializes in Cerambycidae, I reasoned this might be a fairly common species since I had found good numbers on a single tree in an urban area near São Paulo, and as such it might be something he would recognize.  Antonio quickly replied saying that he agreed it was the larva of a species of Tenebrionidae, with an appearance similar to the larvae of Goniodera ampliata (a member of the Lagriinae, formerly considered a separate family).  I’ve not been able to find photos of the larva of Goniadera or related genera, but these do bear a striking (if more glabrous) resemblance to these presumed tenebrionid larvae from Australia.  Until a more convincing opinion is forthcoming, Tenebrionidae seems to be the consensus.

Polyxenid millipedes and two types of Collembola (several Poduromorpha and one Entomobryomorpha)

Three tiny adult coleopterans (family?) surround a large larval coleopteran

Although nobody zeroed in on Tenebrionidae for this challenge (#5 in the ID Challenge series), I must say that I enjoyed the diversity of opinion about what it might represent.  Moreover, congratulations to those who ‘took nothing for granted’ and noted the presence of several other organisms in the photo – this is where the big points were to be earned, and several participants successfully ID’d what I take to be a number of poduromorph collembolans, a single entomobryomorph collembolan, a central cluster of polyxenid millipedes, and several indistinct but clearly coleopteran adults (see super crops above).  David Hubble got the most correct answers to earn 15 points and the win in this inaugural post of BitB Challenge Season #2, while Dave and Troy Bartlett earned 13 and 10 points, respectively, to complete the podium.  Seven other participants got in on the fun and earned some points – I hope you’ll join the fun next time, too!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Brazil Bugs #12 – Desafio de identificação #5

Here we go again – 2 pts each for any correct taxon name up to and including order and any supporting information you can provide.  Standard ID Challenge rules apply.  Hint: don’t take anything for granted – this one is going to separate the men/women from the boys/girls!

Edit 2/11/11, 8:32 a.m.: I should probably make points available for class as well (with the caveat that those with comments already in queue will get credit if due – no need to recomment unless you want to add something).  Also, we’ve had enough of these by now to know that common names and “taxon by implication” generally yield fewer points than correctly presented scientific names. 🙂

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Brazil Bugs #11 – Formigas cortadeiras

This week is Army Ant Week, and while Alex Wild’s stunning photographs of this diverse and charismatic group reign supreme, some of the cooler bug bloggers are nevertheless getting into the spirit of things with army ant posts of their own.  I have no such photos, but I’m hoping I can sneak onto the bandwagon with these images of leafcutting ants that I photographed last month in Campinas, Brazil.

These were among the first insects I saw during the trip once I got a bit of free time to walk the hotel grounds.  Watching them crawl along the lower edge of the hotel wall was a welcome sight, as nothing says “tropics” to me more than columns of these ants carrying their bits of leaves back to the nest for use in their hidden fungus farms.  While taxonomically they may be unrelated to army ants, their precise single file marches in dutiful service to the colony are as military as it gets.  Army ants may have the jaws, but leaf-cutters have spines – they don’t just carry weapons, they are the weapons!

The thing I like most about leaf-cutter ants is that they are one of the few ant groups that I feel confident enough to hazard an attempt at identification.  Several genera comprise the group, and most people who are at all familiar with them think of the genus Atta first.  However, I recalled reading something on Alex’s blog about spines as a diagnostic character for attine ant genera – sure enough, in this post Alex explains how species in the genus Atta have two pairs of spines on the promesonotum, while those in the genus Acromyrmex bear three pairs.  On this basis, I’ll go out on a limb and declare the individuals in these photos as Acromyrmex sp. (of course, which species is another story – James?  Alex?).  If I’m proved right, it will confirm the worthwhileness of all my blog trolling.  If I am wrong – well, there’s still nothing wrong with idle entertainment.

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011

Brazil Bugs #10 – A mosca mais legal que eu já vi!

Nerius sp. (Diptera: Neriidae) - Campinas, São Paulo state, Brazil. ID by Fernando Carvalho-Filho.

I found this bizarre-looking fly outside of Campinas, Brazil (on the same tree as the Aetalion reticulatum that I showed earlier).  There were a few of them, and although they weren’t especially flighty they did have the annoying habit of constantly moving to the backside of whatever branch I tried to photograph them sitting on.  The tree (a small one with green, flexible wood and short, stout spines along the branches) was hanging on the edge of a hillside itself, so a period of careful branch-bending and precarious body-contortioning was required before I finally got one of the flies suitably placed within the viewfinder.  At the start and before all of my disturbance, they were perched head-downward and outward on the more vertically-oriented branches.

This fly is unlike any I’ve ever seen (or at least noticed), and I really had no clue to the family (or even superfamily).   I wish I could be happy just posting photos of interesting, though unidentified insects and be done with it, but something inside me doesn’t get much enjoyment out of that – I’m compelled to at least attempt an identification.  For my recent Brazilian exploits, I’ve found Flickr to be a useful tool in the identification arsenal – enter a search phrase such as “Brasil Diptera” and scan the results for any possible matches.  I don’t remember which particular phrase finally brought up a hit, but eventually I was clued into marsh flies of the family Sciomyzidae.  Another search for all Flickr photos tagged as such brought up several pages of more or less similar looking flies, including more than a few that were indeed very close matches.  My work seemed to be done.

Still, something about Sciomyzidae bothered me.  We’ve got sciomyzids here in the Midwest, and while there is certainly a resemblance, the overall gestalt of this and the similar appearing Flickr-ID’d flies just didn’t seem right.  So I opened up a broader search on Google images looking for more authoritative confirmation of the ID.  Eventually, I happened upon this photo by Brazilian photographer Enio Branco of a fly that, for all intents and purposes, looks exactly like mine.  The fly in that photo had been assigned to the family Neriidae (cactus flies), and further searching for information on the family in South America quickly turned up a recent faunal treatment of the family in the Brazilian Amazon (Carvalho-Filho and Esposito 2008).  According to that work, these distinctive flies can be distinguished from nearly all other acalyptrate flies by the antennal arista being situated apically on the postpedicel (third segment).  This character is readily visible on the fly in this photo and also on the similar appearing and apparently misidentified flies in the Flickr photos.¹  I figured I’d give the Amazonas key a go to see if an ID might be possible, but I immediately ran into trouble at the first couplet trying to decide if the antennal pedicel was elongate (Odontoloxozus peruanus), or if not whether the forecoxae were dark brown (Glyphidops spp.) or yellow (Nerius spp.) – they look light brown to me!  It’s entirely possible that this fly, photographed in southeastern Brazil, represents a species (or even genus) not included in the Amazonas key – hopefully one of the dipterophiles out there will be able to provide some insight.

¹ This could be an example of how one misidentified photo can create a growing pool of misidentified photos.  It serves to caution against accepting apparently solid IDs from open sources too quickly.

The most interesting feature of this fly (IMO) are the elongate head and legs with spinose forefemora.  Although appearing raptorial in design, apparently the males of this family engage in rather spectacular sexual combat, rearing up on their hind legs and striking each other with their forelegs or the ventral surfaces of their heads, even attempting to place each other in a head-lock.  I regret that I didn’t get the chance to witness such behavior.

Photo Details: Canon 50D w/ MP-E 65mm 1-5X macro lens (ISO 100, 1/200 sec, f/13), Canon MT-24EX flash w/ DIY oversized concave diffuser. Typical post-processing (levels, minor cropping, unsharp mask).

Update 02/07/11: I just received the following message from Fernando Carvalho-Filho, lead author of the Amazonas paper referenced above. Dr. Carvalho-Filho was kind enough to reply to my query regarding the identity of this fly as follows:

Dear Dr. Ted,

Thanks for the message. Congratulations, your photo is marvelous! Great macro. The best photo of a Neriidae that I have seen. Your webpage is very cool and has good pictures. In my opinion, the fly is a Nerius. It is difficult to determine the species, since they are separated based on the thorax color pattern.


My appreciation to Dr. Carhalho-Filho for his identification.


Carvalho-Filho, F. S. and M. C. Esposito.  2008.  Neriidae (Diptera: Schizophora) of the Brazilian Amazon: New records of genera and species, and key to species. Neotropical Entomology 37(1):58–62.

p.s. An early 2-pt lead in the new BitB Challenge series to whoever provides the most correct translation of the title – your prize for making it through the whole post!

Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011