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Bug Spotlight!

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U.C. Riverside
Department of Entomology
Photo by: R. Vetter
Panthophthalmid Fly, Panthophthalmus bellardi (Diptera: Brachycera: Pantophthalmidae) by Doug Yanega.

Pantophthalmidae is a small family of giant flies.  There are only 22 species in the family, all of them Neotropical, and while they resemble Horse Flies (Tabanidae) they are only somewhat related to them, and do not bite.  In fact, the adults don't feed at all, spending most of their lives as large grubs boring in trees, especially in roots, so the adult stage is only a very brief portion of the life cycle, similar to cicadas.  There is at least one species, Pantophthalmus roseni, which is a minor pest, attacking oaks in Mexico , apparently boring into various parts of the living tree.  Adult females of this family, such as the one shown on the left (male on the right), can reach two inches in length, which makes them the second-largest living flies (only a few species of Mydas flies are larger).  A few species are mimics of Tarantula Hawk Wasps (Pompilidae, genus Pepsis).  The species shown here, Pantophthalmus  bellardi, occurs throughout Central America south to Peru and Brazil, and the specimens in the photo are from Pico Pijol National Park in Honduras, where they fly for only a short time, exactly at dusk, sometimes enticing enthusiastic but careless entomologists to get tangled  in the vegetation and break their ankles, as these specimens did.

 

2006  ERM-UC Riverside