Louse Fly! Self defense or carnage?
August 13, 2009
This handsom fellow decided to scuttle off a patient I was holding and onto my shirt. While I’m very bug friendly, something about a tick with wings was scary. The patient I was holding was a red tail hawk, so needless to say I couldn’t let him go as I was more concerned about raptor claws than the ugly flat bug. After searching it looks like this is some kind of louse fly, you only seem to have one from England on your web page so here is another. I hmm impaled it on a very small 25 g needle, though it looks like a railroad spike in the pics. I didn’t want it jumping ship and visiting some of our more domestic patients avian or otherwise. From your one post it looks like they are species specific like lice. I still call it defense, at least of the patients in the animal hospital, but maybe it’s carnage? Oh he’s 1 cm long and flat as a tick, flies at a moderate pace, and scuttles sideways when walking.
Rhode Island, USA
Extenuating circumstances are always considered when we try to decide if a posting with a dead insect should be tagged as Unnecessary Carnage. You are off the hook on this one in our mind, but another jury may decide differently. We believe this is a Pigeon Louse Fly, Pseudolynchia canariensis, an introduced species from Europe. BugGuide has the following information on the Pigeon Louse Fly: “Range Found wherever pigeons are encountered in tropical, subtropical, and temperate areas with mild winters worldwide. It occurs throughout the Southeastern United States. Imported from Europe.
Food A common ectoparasite of pigeons and doves
Life Cycle Louse flies have a very interesting reproductive strategy. The female produces one larva at a time and retains the developing larva in her body until it is ready to pupate. The larva feeds on the secretions of a “milk gland” in the uterus of its mother. After three larval instars, the larva has reached its maximum size, the mother gives birth to the white pre-pupa which immediately begins to darken and form the puparium or pupal shell. The pupa of the pigeon louse fly looks like a dark brown, egg-shaped seed. The pupa is found in the nest of the host or on ledges where the birds roost. When the fly has completed its metamorphosis, the winged adult emerges from the puparium and flies in search of a host.
Remarks Both adult males and females feed on the blood of their host. They are adapted for clinging to and moving through the plumage and pelage of their hosts. Strongly specialized claws help them cling to the hair or feathers of their particular host species. Pigeon flies retain their wings for their entire adult life. This fly is a carrier of a protozoan disease, pigeon malaria.” Since hawks prey upon pigeons, we suspect this Pigeon Louse Fly may have “jumped ship” when its intended host was snatched by the hawk.
We do have additional images of Louse Flies on our site, but when we migrated last year, we did not sub-classify the flies. Our archive is so extensive. We are trying to create subcategories for new postings, and the old ones may have to wait for a paid intern. That sounds like an excellent opportunity for a grant for a graduate student.