Possible Robber Fly?
August 6, 2009
Photos taken today, 8-6-09, of our latest Prehistoric Pet in Coryell County, Central Texas. Is it a Robber Fly? BZZZZT!
It can keep the gigantic Tarantula Hawks company. So nice to have (Huge. Black. Flying.) insects buzzing from tree to tree. Makes a nice change from bird watching. :o)
Coryell County, Central Texas, semi arid scrub country with oaks, mesquite, limestone and clay soil
There are several insects with common names that are associated with the devil, like the Devil’s Coach Horse and the Hickory Horned Devil, but few have the distinction that your Robber Fly has. According to BugGuide, your Mallophora leschenaulti is the Belzebul Bee Eater. Flies have had a long association with Satan in writing and this has been further communicated in numerous Hollywood films as well as foreign films like the Dario Argento classic Suspiria. If ever a fly’s appearance warranted such an association, it is the huge and hairy Mallophora leschenaulti, though it is worth noting that this frightening predator has no interest in biting humans. That said, we would not try to carelessly handle a living specimen for fear that the captive might bite out of self defense. The Belzebul Bee Eater is one of the large hairy Robber Flies in the genus known as Bee Killers, and members of this genus can be distinguished by the thin terminal segment of the antennae. BugGuide reports that “Eggs of M. leschenaulti laid on upright stems but the larva are soil living. Sometimes concentrated in animal pens with dung and decay or in compost heaps.” We would surmise that the larvae do not feed on decaying matter, but that they are predatory and feed upon other insects attracted to this foul environment. BugGuide lists the geographical range of the Belzebul Bee Eater as Texas and Mexico.
Thank you, Daniel. Having a decent sense of self preservation, I kept my distance from our visitor as far as possible, hence the not-quite-in-focus photos. It did not like the yardstick and buzzed around the yard for awhile, kind of like a cargo plane, before alighting again. I shamelessly ran for cover while it was flying. In one photo you can see it eyeing me. Yikes.
I appreciate your speedy and interesting reply!
Sadly, we do not have many bees this year, although we do have some visiting our crepe myrtle trees, which is where the Belzebul Bee Eater was hanging out.
Thanks for the follow-up information Ellen. Though the photo with the yardstick did not make it to our site as it did not have as much detail as the other photos, it did appear that the abdomen of the Belzebul Bee Eater was in contact with the branch. We wonder, perhaps, if the fly was ovipositing as indicated on BugGuide.