Stinkfliege: A Xylophagid Fly

Subject: Red & yellow insect I saw at the park (NJ)
Location: Alpine, NJ / Palisades
June 7, 2014 10:50 pm
Hello. I was exploring around the park yesterday with my camera and came upon this lovely insect hanging out on a leafy plant on the ground. It looks to be some kind of large, colorful fly, maybe? I have been searching around online to see if I can figure out what it is, but I’m having no luck.
The photo was taken June 7, 2014 in Alpine, NJ in the afternoon.
Thank you!
Signature: Tara

Unknown Fly
Unknown Fly

Hi Tara,
You are correct that this is a Fly, but beyond the identification to the order Diptera level, we haven’t a clue.  We hope we can quickly identify this unusual looking fly.  Though you did not specify a size, you did indicate that it is a large fly.  We quickly scanned BugGuide and there are some similarities to the male Small Headed Fly,
Ogcodes dispar, in this image of a mating pair on BugGuide, but we would love a second opinion.  The antennae just don’t look right to us, so we do not believe that is a correct identification.

Eric Eaton Provides and Identification:  Xylophagid Fly
Getting lots of these lately….Coenomyia ferruginea, a type of xylophagid fly (Xylophagidae).  This one looks like a female.  I may want to do a blog post on these.  Could I simply credit this image to your website if I use it?

Thanks so much Eric.  Yes you have permission to use the image on your blog, BugEric.  We see on BugGuide that the common name for this species is a Stinkfliege, which joins the term Hellgrammite as an unusual common name for an insect.

13 thoughts on “Stinkfliege: A Xylophagid Fly”

  1. Hello, and thank you for all of the info you were able to provide!
    Unfortunately, I do not know the measurement of the bug, but it was much bigger than the common houseflies I see around normally. At first glance I actually thought it was a cicada molt left behind on the leaf before I looked at it, so I’d say around 1″?
    The male small headed fly in that picture is the closest thing I have seen so far to this bug, so it’s possible it is that or a related species. Hopefully we can get a definite ID! Always interesting to learn about new insects I have never seen before.

    • Since you posted this comment, we have provided an identification: A Stinkfliege in the family Xylophagidae, thanks to the efforts of Eric Eaton.

      • Oh, my, that common name sounded German to me, so I looked it up. Yes, the common name Stinkfliege means stinking fly in German, named for their stinky-cheese smell. Really!

        • We also thought the name sounded German, and when we searched the name, all the sites we found were in German. We didn’t read anything about the flies smelling like cheese though.

    It’s Wikipedia, but here it is with Google’s translation from German to English;
    The Stinkfliegen (Coenomyiinae) are one consisting of only 25 species subfamily in the family of wood flying . In Germany only the type exists Coenomyia ferruginea , which is 16 to 18 mm body length are already among the rather large species.

    The flies are stocky and red-brown to almost black in color. You have hairy and crashing in the male eyes, the antennae are much shorter than the head. The labels behind the breast section carries two small spines, which are typical for the family. They got their name from the intense smell, reminiscent of green cheese. To find the most sluggish flies are common on leaves near the river, the larvae often live in soil or brittle wood.

    The domestic Stinkfliege ( Coenomyia ferruginea ) is brown in color and has brown yellow wings of the upper wing vein ( Costa loader ) are completely surrounded. The males are slightly darker and have yellow spots on the side plates of the abdomen, the females are brighter with narrow golden stripe (tires). Its distribution area covers the middle and high mountains from Western Europe to South Siberia and North America.
    Main J, Main H (1998): Flies and Mosquitoes: Observation, lifestyle , nature book, Augsburg
    Honomichl K, Bellmann H (1994): Biology and Ecology of Insects ; CD-Rom, Gustav Fischer Verlag, Stuttgart.
    The family Xylophagidae, according to Wikipedia, are also known as Awl-flies in English, “The family is known by the English name awl-flies.
    The larvae are often saprophages, and many can be found in rotting wood.”

      Translated from German to English by Google:
      flies and larvae spread an unpleasant smell cheese. Indicator: The flies have a plump body and are colored red to blackish brown. On the labels they have two spines. The wings are brown yellow and completely enclosed by a wire. In the female (see picture above and Figure 2 ), the eyes are separated, as they collide in the male. Body length: 16-20 mm Habitat: Middle and high mountains, often near water. Development: The flies are found from June to July. The larvae develop in humus-rich soil or in rotten wood. nutrition: larvae live on detritus (dead plant material, detritus). distribution: Europe, Asia (South Siberia), North America.

        • Here’s a Google-translated item from Wikipedia, German edition:
          The type is from Western Europe to the south of Siberia and in North America spread. The animals occur in middle and high mountain areas, especially near watercourses and rest there on the vegetation. They feed on nectar and honeydew and can secrete a pungent odor in certain situations [1] , which is also described as cheesy smell [2] . The larvae live in the upper layers of humus-rich soil and in dead wood [1] . They feed on detritus [2] and other insect larvae [1] .

          • Hi Ellen,
            Some of the translations you have provided are quite amusing, and we have always been intrigued by the inherent failure of translations.

        • OK, love this one from Wikipedia Commons, the fly’s names:
          Coenomyia ferruginea (Scopoli 1763)
          English: Stink Fly, Cheese Fly, Awl-fly
          Deutsch: Stinkfliege

  3. Wow, awesome! Thanks for the identification! Will you post a link to your blog? I would love to check it out and learn more about this species. How interesting about the cheese smell :-D!

  4. Lived in Germany for five years, but don’t read German well enough to translate scientific articles myself. Had to rely on Google. Got carried away, listed too many articles; such interesting insects and the names are fascinating.
    Have always loved research. Need to focus on my work for the upcoming months now, which actually includes some research, so that’s fun for me, but won’t have free time for bug watching. Best wishes to you both.


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