Currently viewing the category: "March Flies and Lovebugs"
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Small orange and black bug sucking on nectar of goldenrod
October 6, 2009
Hi. I came across this bug at my home in Sayville, New York. There were many individuals sucking the nectar from some goldenrod flower heads. I have never seen this bug before. What is this?
Derek Rogers
Sayville, New York

March Flies

March Flies

Hi Derek,
These are March Flies in the family Bibionidae.  We believe they are Dilophus spinipes, a species represented on BugGuide with several images taken  in New York a few days ago.  Those specimens were also pictured feeding on yellow flowers.  For some reason, we are unable to access any additional information on BugGuide this morning.  March Flies often appear in a very small window of time, and they appear in great numbers.  The infamous Love Bugs from the Southern States are a prime example.

March Fly

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Black wasp / hornet / fly (?) with red paws
October 2, 2009
I’ve found this insect on the beach of Portmahomack (Scotland). It was there on a rock near the sea. I saved it from drowning in a little amount of water between the rocks in which the sea was washing in and out.
M
Portmahomack, Scotland

Heather Fly

Heather Fly

Dear M,
About six weeks ago, we identified a very similar St. Mark’s Fly or March fly in the genus Biblio as the Heather Fly, Biblio pomonae, with the help of Karl who frequently contributes identifications to our site.

That’s him. Thanks!
I forgot to mention, but the picture was taken in august, indeed. In their peak season (as mentionned on that link you gave me).

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A scary looking fly, what is it??
August 20, 2009
I was camping in the uk last week and noticed a few of these strange looking flies, I thought nothing more of it until I have noticed very nasty bites on my ankles and my head, I was wondering if you could identify it for me, and tell me if i need to worry!
Karl Chapman
Derbyshire, UK

St. Mark's Fly

Heather Fly

Hi Karl,
We hesitate to tell you not to worry, but you need not worry about this insect.  We believe this is a March Fly in the family Bibionidae.  We are going to leave actual species identification to a Dipterist, but we found several UK species with similar looking photos.  There is a Fever Fly, Dilophus femoratus, that is shown in close-up on the Bio-Images Virtual Field Guide (UK) page that looks close.  A closer match would be Biblio johannes, called a St. Mark’s Fly, on the same Bio-Images website.  Though the color doesn’t match, the spine at the joint of the foreleg matches another St. Mark’s Fly, Biblio marci, also pictured on the Bio-Images website. The Nature Observer’s Scrapbook page has this to say about St. Mark’s Flies:  “St Mark’s fly owes it’s common name to its annual habit of appearing around St Mark’s day, 25th April.
It seems odd to me that an insect as substantial as this should be deemed to be a ‘midge’. This is the largest of the 18 strong Bibionidae family of black day flying midges. The females are about 13mm in length and the males about 10mm.
It is slow and cumbersome in flight with its legs dangling clumsily – and that is while it is on it’s own. When they are mating, it is not unusual to find them in even more unwieldly flight, still coupled together with the larger female dragging the hapless male to the next resting place.
The differences between male and female can clearly be seen in the upper image. The female is significantly larger but has a much smaller head with smaller eyes set on either side of the head. The male on the other hand has large eyes touching each other.
The single, strong, forward pointing spine on the outside of the tibia of the front legs (highlighted in the lower image) is an identifying feature of the Bibio family, helping to distinguish it from the similar Dilophus family – to which the fever-fly (see below) belongs.
The conformation of the wings is such that when folded, one wing completely overlays the other.
It breeds underground and the larvae feed largely on decaying vegetation but are also blamed for damage to crop roots.
One ‘oddity’ of Bibio species is that the larval structure appears to be more primitive than the adult fly conformation would lead one to expect, indicating some evolutionary aberration in their development.”  Based on the head, this fly is a female since males have much larger eyes.

St. Mark's Fly

Heather Fly

Clarification from Karl
Hi Karl:
There are apparently 13 species of ‘March Flies’ in the genus Bibio listed for Great Britain. From what I can tell the closest match to yours is B. pomonae; the Heather Fly. It was the only one I could find with red colouring on the legs that doesn’t extend beyond the femur. The peak of the flying season in GB is July-August so the timing would be right. The species is very widely distributed in Europe, Iceland to Russia and down to the Mediterranean. According to some references it prefers higher elevations, hence the common name; others give hedgerows as the preferred habitat. The larvae feed on roots and the adults eat nectar, so I suppose your bites remain a mystery. For reference you could check out http://www.diptera.info/photogallery.php?photo_id=865 or http://www.commanster.eu/commanster/Insects/Flies/SuFlies/Bibio.pomonae.html. Nice photos bye the way. Regards. K

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Higher evolution?
Sun, May 31, 2009 at 1:57 PM
Hi Lisa Anne and Daniel, twice I have found mating March Flies (?) with the head of one being miniscule in comparasion to the other. Could they be as their human counterparts in that the male’s thinking has been usurped by another body part? Perhaps this then is our future.
Just curious,
Dwaine
near Casper, WY

March Flies (male on left) Mating

March Flies (male on left) Mating

Hi again Dwaine,
While your evolutionary comment is highly amusing, the flaw in the logic is that the male March Fly has the larger eyes, and larger head.  We are not certain what species your March Flies in the family Bibionidae represent.  Lovebugs in the genus Plecia are a group of March Flies with considerable notoriety.

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Love Bug Romance
For your Bug Love section: A romantic dinner for two…love bugs at the Seminole County Environmental Studies Center, Longwood, Florida. Dining on Saw Palmetto blossoms. I never thought I’d say, “Awwww” about a love bug!
Their juicy bodies, when hit by a car, can actually eat away at the paint.
Pat Burkett

Hi Pat,
Though we have never witnessed the swarming nuptial flight of Lovebugs, we understand that they can be quite plentiful. Thanks for your lovely photo.

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Now there’s MORE of them!
Hi again–
Wrote a few days ago when I was trying to identify this fly/wasp like bug. They were flying about in the hundreds–well now they are flying around nearer the thousands… …and today I saw a few pairs mating on the driveway. Noticed that one gender has a large head, whilst the other has a rather tiny one. I won’t venture near guessing which is male or female. They are not much more than 3/8″ long.
J Cannon
North San Diego County, CA

Hi J,
These are March Flies in the family Bibionidae and they are right on time. BugGuide has numerous images of mating pairs. The big eyed male has the bigger head. According to BugGuide, the larvae feed on decaying organic matter. There are several genera of March Flies, and we are not sure which your specimens belong to. The infamous Florida Love Bugs, Plecia nearctica, get so plentiful, and are often found copulating, so there is much information available online including on Wikipedia.

What's That Bug? does not endorse extermination