The Red-footed Cannibalfly, one of the largest species of robber flies, can measure over 1 1/4″ in length. Known for its predatory lifestyle, this insect’s body design supports quick streamlined flight and powerful leg movements, thanks to its muscular thorax.
As a natural born killer, the cannibalfly preys on other insects, helping to control populations as part of the ecosystem. With an impressive size and unique hunting methods, it truly deserves its intimidating name. To learn more about this fascinating creature, continue reading this comprehensive guide where we’ll dive deep into its features, characteristics, and the role it plays in the environment.
Red Footed Cannibalfly Basics
The Red Footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes) is a fascinating insect belonging to the Asilidae family, commonly known as robber flies. These fierce predators exhibit extraordinary acrobatic skills and predatory proficiency.
- Order: Diptera
- Family: Asilidae
- Species: Promachus rufipes
Robber flies are adept hunters, preying on a variety of insects. They showcase exceptional prowess, even when attacking larger or armed prey. Their agile flying abilities and keen eyesight contribute to their hunting success.
|Features||Red Footed Cannibalfly||Other Flies|
Key characteristics of the Red Footed Cannibalfly include:
- Large, powerful body
- Long, spiny legs for grasping prey
- Piercing mouthparts to inject venom
Overall, the Red Footed Cannibalfly stands out as a remarkable species within the world of flying insects due to its exceptional predatory capabilities.
The Red-Footed Cannibalfly (family Asilidae) is known for its distinctive appearance and excellent predatory skills. Let’s delve into its physical characteristics for a better understanding:
Size: An adult Red-Footed Cannibalfly can grow to a considerable size, with some reaching up to 3 inches (7.6 cm) in length 1.
Color: Predominantly black in color, this insect can easily blend into its surroundings.
Eyes: They possess large, prominent eyes that enable them to easily spot and track their prey.
Wings: The Red-Footed Cannibalfly has strong wings that allow it to perform impressive acrobatic maneuvers and pursue prey effectively.
Pointed Ovipositor: Female Red-Footed Cannibalflies are equipped with a sharp, pointed ovipositor for laying eggs.
Black Rounded Tip: This insect has a noticeable black rounded tip on its abdomen, which may aid in identification.
In summary, the Red-Footed Cannibalfly boasts multiple distinguishing features that contribute to its success as a predator.
Habitats and Range
The Red Footed Cannibalfly is native to North America. They can be found across the United States, southern Canada, and Mexico.
In the United States, they are commonly spotted in North Carolina, where they thrive in various habitats. Examples of these habitats include:
This species prefers areas with abundant prey and vegetation. They are predators, feasting on insects like bees, wasps, and other flies.
The Red Footed Cannibalfly can adapt to different environments. However, they are more common in meadows, where they have easy access to both prey and vegetation.
Here’s a comparison table of their prevalence in selected countries:
To summarize, the Red Footed Cannibalfly inhabits various habitats across North America. They are frequently found in meadows, forests, and gardens, with a higher prevalence in the United States, particularly North Carolina.
Prey and Predation
The Red Footed Cannibalfly is an impressive predator in the world of insects. As a member of the arthropoda phylum, it possesses notable hunting skills.
- Common prey: bees, wasps, grasshoppers, spiders
- Method: ambush or chase
It is not picky when it comes to their diet, targeting a variety of arthropods. As an example, they hunt bees, wasps, and grasshoppers. These predators are also known to prey on spiders.
The Red Footed Cannibalfly employs two main predation techniques. It either ambushes its prey or chases them down until it can catch them.
Here’s a comparison table of its most common prey:
The Red Footed Cannibalfly’s adaptability helps it maintain an abundant food supply, contributing to its success as a predator.
Reproduction and Life Cycle
Red Footed Cannibalfly reproduction occurs in summer. Male and female animalia engage in mating rituals.
- Example: Males display colorful patterns to attract females.
After mating, females lay eggs on vegetation. Larvae emerge soon after.
- Larvae: Predatory, feed on other insect larvae.
As they grow, larvae undergo several stages (instars) before pupating.
- Pupation: Takes place in soil.
Adults emerge and the cycle repeats, contributing to ecosystem balance.
|Role in Reproduction||Courting, mating||Egg-laying|
In summary, the Red Footed Cannibalfly life cycle involves mating, egg-laying, larval stages, pupation, and adult emergence.
Identifying Red Footed Cannibalfly
The Red Footed Cannibalfly belongs to the family Asilidae and is part of the Orthorrhapha and Asiloidea subgroups, specifically the Asilinae subfamily. To identify this fascinating insect, let’s look at some of its key features:
- Large size (over 1 1/4″ in length) 1.
- Long, narrow body, aiding in streamlined flight 1.
- Stout thorax packed with muscles for wings and legs 1.
The Red Footed Cannibalfly’s eyes are another notable aspect. With a dramatic, large appearance occupying most of its head, these eyes help the cannibalfly efficiently locate and capture prey.
Interestingly, Red Footed Cannibalfly has been observed preying on large insects, such as the Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1. Additionally, their distinct yellow markings on the body and red feet make them easily distinguishable among other species.
In conclusion, identifying the Red Footed Cannibalfly involves examining its size, body shape, thorax, eyes, and distinctive color patterns.
Threats and Interactions
Red Footed Cannibalfly, also known as the Red-footed Robberfly, is a fascinating species of the Asilidae family.
Red Footed Cannibalfly is a predator itself, preying on smaller insects. It faces threats from larger predators like birds and spiders. To help protect itself, the Red Footed Cannibalfly uses its coloration to blend into the environment.
The Red Footed Cannibalfly has a sharp and powerful bite, which it uses to catch its prey. It injects saliva containing enzymes, these enzymes help break down the prey’s internal tissues for easier consumption. The bite is typically not harmful to humans, but it can be painful.
- Sharp bite: Efficient for catching and feeding on prey
- Enzymes in saliva: Aids in breaking down the prey’s tissues
- Aggressive predators: Attack and feed on other insects
- Fast and agile flyers: Can catch their prey mid-air
- Strong forelegs: Used for gripping on to their prey while feeding
Enzymes and Other Adaptations
The Red Footed Cannibalfly possesses several specialized adaptations for its predatory lifestyle:
- Enzymatic saliva: Breaks down prey’s internal tissues
- Long, sturdy proboscis: Can pierce through the tough exoskeletons of prey
- Spiky hairs on legs: Helps grip prey and provides stability during feeding
|Feature||Red Footed Cannibalfly||Other Robberflies|
|Leg hairs||Spiky hairs||Various styles|
In summary, Red Footed Cannibalfly is a fascinating predatory insect with specialized adaptations to catch and consume its prey. It faces threats from larger predators but uses its coloration to blend in and evade them.
Photography and Documentation
The Red Footed Cannibalfly is an interesting subject for photographers and enthusiasts. Capturing stunning photos requires a few essential steps.
- First, visit BugGuide for information on the species and useful tips for photography and identification.
- Join the ID Request or Frass Forums to connect with others interested in this fascinating insect.
To document your observations, consider the following:
- Store images in a digital portfolio as a record of your journey with the Red Footed Cannibalfly.
- Submit your photos to the BugGuide Calendar of Upcoming Events for a chance to be featured.
Here’s a comparison table of two popular methods for photographing this captivating insect:
|Macro Lens||Detailed close-up shots||Expensive equipment; requires precision|
|Smartphone||Conducive for casual photography||Limited in terms of image quality and flexibility|
Sharing your findings and documentary work through forums, calendars, or events will not only inspire others but also help establish a community of enthusiasts who can learn from each other’s experiences.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Bug of the Month August 2010: Red Footed Cannibalfly
August 4, 2010
We apologize for losing track of time, and posting this Bug of the Month a few days late. There has been a flurry of submissions of Red Footed Cannibalflies in the past week, so it is a very appropriate selection.
Weird, Beautiful Dragonfly/Hornet
Location: Northern Kentucky, near Cincinnati, OH
August 1, 2010 1:46 pm
I saw this über-fascinating alien bug yesterday, 7/31/10, in my yard. I’ve never seen anything even remotely like it. It was close to 3 inches long. Its head and thorax look like a dragonfly in shape. It has 2 matte black eyes, practically no antennae, and its head, thorax, and legs are fuzzy. It has a pair of very pale brown, nearly transparent wings that lay flat down its back like those of a wood cockroach.
Its pale yellow and black striped tail is long, segmented, and straight, starting thick at the thorax and ending in a long black tip which I sincerely hope is an ovipositor. It looks like it has lost a portion of one of its front legs. Otherwise, it’s a beautiful specimen. I have many fabulous pics of it. I even caught it in flight! Can you help identify this weird beauty?
You have taken excellent documentary photographs of a Giant Robber Fly in the genus Promachus. These Giant Robber Flies are also called Bee Killers because they prey upon bees and wasps that they are able to catch in flight. According to our Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders: “The Bee Killer often rests on leaves and branches with a clear view of flowers visited by Honey Bees. It seizes its victim from above, pierces its body and sucks out juices, then drops the emptied prey. A dozen or more bodies may pile up on the ground below a favorite perch.” Based on the red legs and dark tibiae, we believe your specimen is the Red Footed Cannibalfly or Bee Panther, Promachus rufipes, and you may compare your images to those posted to BugGuide. We also agree that that is an ovipositor, which makes her a female. You can compare your image to this photo on BugGuide. It is worth noting that generally, the name of an insect that is a compound word ending with “fly” is not a true fly, like a dragonfly or butterfly, and when the common name is formed of two words like Robber Fly or Crane Fly, the insect is a true fly. The Red Footed Cannibalfly is an exception, since the compound word is used for a true fly.
Thank you so much for the wonderful info. That is indeed my bug! Yesterday, I heard a loud, fast buzzing and spied another, much smaller one. I immediately assumed that it was a male. Oddly, the female made almost no sound when in flight.
I’m guessing that the Robber Fly probably doesn’t hang out much in the ‘city’. Perhaps this pair is just another casualty of a shrinking habitat. 🙁 . I have large, lush flower beds that teem with bees, albeit only the rare ‘honeybee’. The female was perched on the fence railing overlooking the beds below, just like in your description.
Even though she doesn’t sound like a particulary ‘nice’ lady, I feel privileged that she’s come to pay a visit to my little patch of nature in the city. 🙂
Thanks again for your prompt reply and fascinating insight. You all really go above and beyond. I suspect it is a true labor of love.
Thanks for getting back to us. Now it is our turn to thank you. Your letter with its gorgeous photos prompted us to do the species search. Because of your posted letter, a second letter arrived today from Indiana. The person who wrote was able to properly identify the Red Footed Cannibalfly in question based on your excellent images. We were also prompted to check on a letter submitted on July 28 from Tennessee, and that time we only identified the Red Footed Cannibalfly to the genus level of Promachus. Because of your letter, we were able to take the identification to the species level Promachus rufipes.
August , 2010
Wow! You guys made my day! I’m always taking pictures of everything nature, and it is so nice to find a place to share those images. I’m really enjoying your site and it gladdens my heart that there are people like you out there that truly believe in co-existing with nature and encourage knowledge and tolerance.
I’ve already learned so much, but I admit that I had to stop reading the ‘unecessary carnage’ section because it’s so heartbreaking. That horrible woman who killed all those beautiful moths! 🙁
I’m going to submit more images to you, in hopes that ou may find them interesting. You may well have created a monster….
We look forward to receiving any additional photographs you send to us, but since we have such a small staff, we are unable to post but a fraction of the mail we receive. Please do not give up should your emails go unanswered.
Baron von BugMan, the creator of monsters
Letter 2 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Is this a hornet of some sort?
Location: on the coast of NC
July 20, 2011 8:51 pm
Hi. I was just wanting to find out what kind of bug this is and if it stings. It sure is big and looks mean so I am on the internet trying to figure it out. Can you help me? Thanks.
You have encountered a Giant Robber Fly in the genus, Promachus, and we are nearly certain it is a Red Footed Cannibalfly or Bee Panther, Promachus rufipes based on photos posted to BugGuide. These adroit hunters prey upon large flying insects like bees and wasps.
Letter 3 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats House Fly
please identify this carnivorous? bug
August 19, 2011 8:06 am
seen outside yesterday north of boston
Signature: -bugged out
Dear bugged out,
The predator is a Robber Fly known as a Red Footed Cannibalfly and it is eating a House Fly.
Letter 4 – Red Footed Cannibalfly in Insect Collection
Location: Piedmont, SC
September 4, 2011 2:29 pm
My son is doing an insect collection, and we found this bug and he has an interesting stinger and eyes! He is about 2 inches long and we found him in Piedmont, SC. Can you help with identification? Thanks for your help!
Signature: Juli & Cole
Dear Juli & Cole,
Your question brings up many ethical issues for us, so please allow us a bit of broadcast time on our soapbox before responding to your question. The most popular posting on our website, which currently contains over 13,000 postings, remains What’s That Bug? Will Not Do Your Child’s Homework and we continue to support the stand we took nearly a year ago with regard to this matter. We believe children need to do their own homework. We were severely chastised more recently by a the mother of a fourth grader after we identified the insect in question. We are guessing that your situation might be much like the mother who chastised us. We suspect you probably monitor your child’s use of the internet because of the amount of internet content that is not appropriate for young children, and we sympathize with your dilemma. The fact remains that we do not enjoy responding to desperate identification requests for projects that are due immediately. We also have a question or two for you. Is the insect collection part of a class science project? Was the project assigned by the teacher or was the student able to create some science project of his or her choosing? Was any instruction given on the insect identification process in class prior to requesting that a collection be made? We ask these questions because we would like to know if there is an entire class of students who have each been “required” to bring in a specific number of dead and pinned insect specimens. Collecting of insects for decorative reasons is an activity that we abhor, and it pains us to see the life spans of these magnificent creatures cut short just to provide decorations and conversation pieces. Collections for scientific research are another matter and we fully support those activities. Requiring an insect collection as part of the learning process in school can also be justified, but there are many situations where we feel other methods might be equally effective. Photos can be taken and studied, though that sometimes requires cost prohibitive equipment. Dead insects can also be collected and submitted, though insects that have died either through predation, accident or old age are not usually as attractive as healthy specimens that are captured with a net and then killed and pinned. We wonder how much instruction was given prior to the insect collection assignment. Did the teacher actually provide any information on the classification of insects? or was the collection just assigned to provide the mandatory homework for a course? A quick inspection of the anatomy, including the atypical one pair of wings on this insect that distinguishes it from most other flying insects that have two pairs of wings, would clue the student that this insect is in the order Diptera. Once the order has been determined, then browsing through a well organized website like BugGuide can provide subcategories to narrow the field until a species identification can be obtained. Sometimes the taxonomy gets quite confusing, and only a genus or family can be determined, but even that information contributes to the learning process. Now, regarding your question, this is a Robber Fly, and we believe it is a Red Footed Cannibalfly or Bee Panther, Promachus rufipes, which you can verify on BugGuide. Red Footed Cannibalflies are adept hunters, and we believe they look much nicer living than dead and pinned in a collection.
Please feel free to disregard the request as we were not asking to “chastise” anyone. Yes, my son and the entire 4th grade class was given direction to have a collection of 14 types of dead insects. This was not our choice, but a project that was due for his science class. We found this bug and thought maybe it fit into the wasp collection… But found your website and thought we could ask. This was NOT a desperate request… We are not experts on bugs AND we were told to help our children with this project. My son is NOT allowed to search the internet at 9 years old because of some bad websites that could pop up.
Again, disregard the request, and I also ask that my registration is discontinued from your website. Please respond to let me know this is complete.
Hi again Julie and Cole,
We meant no disrespect. Though registering for our website does not carry any negative side affects, we will request that our webmaster discontinue your registration. Please understand that our intent was to have you question the validity of creating an insect collection at the expense of the lives of lower beasts.
Thank you for canceling my registration… And in case it matters, we found that bug dead in a building and did not kill it. Just in case you wanted to know. It was already missing its “foot” as you can see in the picture.
Thanks for providing that information Juli. We have been grappling with the ethical issues of the insect collection for quite some time, and whenever we post letters on the subject, there is often a lively debate on our website, like the one that surrounded this posting from 2009.
Letter 5 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Yellowjacket
Subject: Bug eating yellow jacket
Location: Just east of Toledo Ohio
August 18, 2017 2:07 pm
What’s this bug? Seen on a F150 killing a yellow jacket. Really big and interesting. Thank you
This Giant Robber Fly in the genus Promachus appears to be a Red Footed Cannibalfly. Giant Robber Flies frequently prey upon large stinging insects like wasps and bees.
Wow tyvm. It was the most interesting bug I have seen in a very long time. Never seen it before is it rare?
Sightings on BugGuide cover about 1/4 of North America, and sightings generally occur from July to September. We get numerous identification requests for Red Footed Cannibalflies each summer, so we don’t believe they are considered rare.
Letter 6 – Another Red Footed Cannibalfly
Red Footed Cannibalfly?
Location: Central Indiana
August 2, 2010 10:15 am
My daughter snapped this photo of what we believe is a Red Footed Cannibalfly based on the information on this site. We live in the central part of Indiana. This photo was taken August 1, 2010. This guy was hanging out on our deck rail near our Sunflower plants. It appears as if he is having his lunch.
Your letter excites us for numerous reasons. We are happy someone used a recent posting to correctly identify a previously unknown to them creature. We are also excited to get a second letter with an awesome Food Chain image of this gorgeous stealth hunter. We are also a bit proud that we were able to identify the image of the Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes, we posted this morning and the colorful common name was just the morale boost we needed before going off to a difficult day at work at the college. We wish we were proficient enough to identify the Hymenopteran prey. It is not a Honey Bee. Could it be a Yellowjacket? or a solitary Sand Wasp? Might it be a solitary Bee? Hopefully, a hymenopterist or a gifted amateur enthusiast will email the correct identification.
Letter 7 – Drowned Red Footed Cannibalfly
Location: Athens, GA
August 29, 2010 5:16 pm
This poor fellow flew into our rain barrel and I searched online to find anything like it, but had no luck. I feel like it’s some sort of fly, but neither the deer flies, horse flies, snipe flies or syrphid flies here looked like it. What the heck is this thing?
It’s about 1.5-2inches long.
Now that we have looked at the full sized file of your Robber Fly, we have realized it is our featured Bug of the Month, the Red Footed Cannibalfly.
Immediately after hitting ‘send’ on my email, I noticed that too! I rushed outside to scoop the poor thing out of the water (since anything that eats wasps is a good bug in my book), but it didn’t move. I then remembered something I read online earlier this week about how pouring salt on a seemingly drowned fly will sometimes suck the water out of it and revive it. I quickly grabbed the salt shaker and covered it in salt, then shook it around in a dish. After about 15 minutes, it crawled right out of the pile of salt and staggered away!
Thanks for featuring it on your highly informative site, otherwise I would have never known it was savable.
Letter 8 – Female Red Footed Cannibalfly: Drowned in Pool
Huge Wasp found in my pool
My niece found this huge wasp in our pool today and we are curious about what it is and if we should be worried. I have never noticed one around the house before, but then again I let the bees and wasp do there business so I never pay that much attention (I leave them alone, they leave me alone). He was dead by time we found him so after taking our pictures we dropped him onto a spider web and came inside to see if we could identify it on your site, no luck. I cannot get anymore pictures or info because within a few minutes the spider had taken him into his lair 🙂
We believe this is a female Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes, one of the Giant Robber Flies. If handled, they are capable of biting, but they are much more interested in capturing other winged prey. They are also known as Bee Panthers.
Letter 9 – Fourth Red Footed Cannibalfly in a Week: Feeding on a Bee
Location: mount washington, ky
August 2, 2010 12:50 pm
this is a picture of some sort of fly, i think, that was seen feeding on a bee. what is this?
Greetings from Mt. Washington, Los Angeles, California,
This is the fourth image of a Red Footed Cannibalfly we posted in the last week.
Letter 10 – What Killed the Red Footed Cannibalfly???
Subject: Pidgeon Horntail?
Location: Stone Mountain, GA
September 23, 2013 6:38 pm
Found this on the driveway. All of the pics that I have seen of this look similar but this is more cone shaped and the legs look furrier?
This is a large, predatory Robber Fly, most likely a Red Footed Cannibalfly. We can’t help but wonder why there is a severed leg in the upper left corner of the photo, so we are wondering What Killed the Red Footed Cannibalfly??? The Red Footed Cannibalfly is our featured Bug of the Month for September 2013.
September 27, 2013 3:09 pm
I am not sure what happened to the poor bug.. We found it on the driveway in that condition. Thanks for letting me know what it was, I didn’t think it was a pigeon horn tail….thanks again.
Letter 11 – Mating Red Footed Cannibalflies
Red-footed canibalfly(?) and bug love
Location: Kirksville, MOAugust 18, 2011 6:50 pmI’ve been seeing a large number of these robber flies around the area for the past month or so, now. Their size is very impressive. I had been wondering what kind they were, exactly, so I was very happy to see so many photos of the red-footed cannibalfly on your site. That’s what it appears to be, at least! Some of them buzzed so close that I feared they were horse flies (which have also been very thick, lately). I felt a little silly (and relieved!)when I realized that the giant insect that had landed on my shirt while I was hiking was just a robber fly. I spotted a number of them along the trail that were mating, as well and I had to snap a few photos because robber flies are some of my favorites – their little muttonchops are just so charming!
We love your stunning photographs of Red Footed Cannibalflies eating and mating. We hope you don’t mind that we cropped and rotated them to fit our format.
Letter 12 – Mating Red Footed Cannibalflies
Subject: Big identity please
Location: Eastern US in Columbia md
August 9, 2014 11:15 am
Hello. Live in Columbia MD. Saw these two on my wood deck. When I took their picture they buzzed off. It’s summer here.
Signature: Thank you, Lisa
This is peak season for large Robber Flies like these mating Red Footed Cannibalflies. This is the fifth posting today to our site of Robber Flies and the third for this particular species, the Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes.
Letter 13 – Mating Red Footed Cannibalflies
Subject: What is this thing?
Location: Durham, North Carolina
September 16, 2014 7:09 pm
I came out of the store this afternoon and noticed these 2 creatures perched on my car. At first they were lined up, but then one turned around so their tails were touching. I’ve never seen anything quite like them! They appear to be a cross between a bee and a dragonfly? I’m quite curious to find out!
Signature: Thank You, Sarah Miles
We are amused that you encountered a mating pair of Red Footed Cannibalflies, yet you composed your images to show only half of the pair.
Letter 14 – Mating Red Footed Cannibalflies
Subject: What is this?
November 30, 2014 6:36 pm
I took this photo a few years ago and came across it again today. I can’t figure out what these bugs are. Can you help?
We love your image of mating Red Footed Cannibalflies.
Letter 15 – Mating Red Footed Cannibalflies
Subject: insects mating
Location: knoxville tn
September 3, 2015 4:26 pm
Just wondering if you have any idea of what these bugs are that appear to be mating in my back yard?
Signature: a meredith
Dear a meredith,
Thanks to the window glass, you were able to provide us with a thrilling ventral view of a pair of mating Red Footed Cannibalflies.
Letter 16 – Mating Red Footed Cannibalflies
Subject: What is this creature?
Location: Huntsville Alabama, outskirts of city
July 24, 2016 5:46 pm
I live in Huntsville Alabama and saw these insects on the railing of my deck. Never seen this creature before. Any id assistance would be appreciated! It’s been close to 100 degrees here, has now cooled off for the evening to about 80-85.
Signature: Carolyn Sanders
We have a few images in our archive of mating Red Footed Cannibalflies, Promachus rufipes, a large impressive species of predatory Robber Flies, but nothing comes close to your amazing images. It looks like you were several inches away. Though they are not aggressive toward humans, Red Footed Cannibalflies look quite frightening, so we applaud your courage in securing these awesome images. We are also quite impressed the amorous pair did not fly away when you got close. Though not aggressive toward humans, Red Footed Cannibalflies are able to take down very large prey, including stinging wasps and bees, on the wing, and we have read on Hilton Pond Center that a large Robber Fly can even prey upon a hummingbird. We would also caution against trying to handle a living Red Footed Cannibalfly with bare hands as that would most likely result in a painful bite.
Letter 17 – Probably Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: To Squish or Not To Squish, that is the question.
Geographic location of the bug: Florida, USA
Time: 10:54 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I have had 3 near run in’s with these seemingly aggressive bugs. I’ve lived in Florida my whole life, and have never seen them before. I am not sure if they bite. They sure seem like they want to though. I can’t walk on my back patio without being dive-bombed. I looked and looked but haven’t fount any clues online. I posted on my neighborhood Facebook page and no one has a clue. Any idea?
How you want your letter signed: Kimberly
This is a Giant Robber Fly in the genus Promachus, most likely a Red Footed Cannibalfly, and we vote “Not to Squish” because in our mind, Robber Flies are beneficial predators that are not known to attack and bite humans. Red Footed Cannibalflies capture their prey on the wing, and they often prey upon wasps and other stinging insects.
Letter 18 – Red Footed Cannibal Fly
red footed cannibalfly
Location: southwest ohio
August 12, 2010 10:58 pm
i saw this last year and thanks to your website, and having it the bug of the month, i know what it is now! this was taken last week of august 2009.
Hi again BIBEF,
We are happy to hear you were able to identify your Red Footed Cannibal Fly thanks to our Bug of the Month posting. It appears to be eating a Bumble Bee.
Letter 19 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Maybe a Golden Back Snipe Fly?
This thing was big! I’ve seen a couple of these buzzing around a flowering shrub this summer. This one had gotten trapped in our screened back porch. It buzzed around like mad, then settled down so I photographed it at length. Then it dropped down dead. Must have been the 108 degree temperature. It’s been mighty hot here in the Ozarks the past week or so. And bone dry. I cropped and compressed this photo so it wouldn’t be huge. I have numerous HQ photos of this insect if you want. I’m sure it’s a "fly" of some sort, just unsure as to what. Thanks!
Mnt. Home, AR
This is one of the Giant Robber Flies, the Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes. It is also known as a Bee Panther. BugGuide has some great photos.
Letter 20 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Location: Greeneville, TN
September 18, 2010 12:41 pm
I encountered these in northeast TN (Greeneville) in the middle and end of August. The closest thing I can find to this bug online is a stiletto fly or a golden-haired robber fly. While visiting an area of predominantly farmland and woods, I found these everywhere. They were attracted to my bike as I rode through rural areas. The locals I stayed with didn’t recognize them either, so I’m not sure if they appear regularly or not. Thank you for your help!
Signature: Jennifer Grant
You are correct about this being a Robber Fly, but you have the wrong species. We received so many identification requests for the Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes, in late July that we made it our Bug of the Month for August. We continued to get identification requests in August, so we suspect that the species was especially common this year. Insects often go through cycles when their numbers diminish and then surge.
Letter 21 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
What is it, Bugman?
Location: Midlands of South Carolina
August 8, 2011 12:21 pm
I found this bug in my studio window. Unfortunately it was already dead, but no bug carnage was incurred by me. I had caught one of these that was buzzing around the studio a few days before and released it outside. A few weeks ago, I saw a bug that looked similar to this take down a dragonfly in mid-flight. I’m guessing it may be a robber fly? Thanks to your website I am learning to identify a few bugs. I saw a wheelbug in my garden this morning.
Signature: Laura in Irmo, SC
This Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes, is indeed a Robber Fly. See BugGuide for additional information. These large Robber Flies might be the most adept hunting insects that take prey on the wing. It is not unusual for them to take on large adversaries like Dragonflies. We are pleased to hear that you are learning to appreciate the insects around you as opposed to just killing anything that appears scary.
Letter 22 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Robber Fly or something else?
Location: Adamstown, Maryland
August 28, 2011 8:57 pm
This 1 1/2” long hobo hitched a ride on my wife from the C&O Canal (Potomac River, near Point of Rocks, MD) to our house this morning. We’ve never seen anything like it, and would like to know what it is. Thanks in advance!
Signature: B. Saunders – curious photographer
Letter 23 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Dragonfly relative / nymph?
Location: Austin, Texas
June 19, 2014 2:21 pm
I spotted this flying insect on a purple coneflower near an area with man-made ponds and lots of dragonflies, turtles and fish. When the insect flew away, there was a buzzing sound.
Our automated Response: Thank you for submitting your identification request.
Please understand that we have a very small staff that does this as a labor of love. We cannot answer all submissions (not by a long shot). But we’ll do the best we can!
Hi. I actually figured out (after much research) that the photo I submitted was of a robber fly (aka assassin fly), Asilidae…and further narrowed it down to a variety of Diogmites. I can’t seem to take it any further, as I haven’t seen any of these with abdomens as long as the one in my photo.
We were away from the office when you wrote, and we are trying to catch up on old mail, posting some of the more interesting images we received in our absence, including yours. Your identification is only partially correct. While this is a Robber Fly in the family Asilidae, it is not a Hanging Thief in the genus Diogmites. It is a Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes, and you can compare your excellent image to the images posted to BugGuide.
Letter 24 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Strange, perhaps injured, bug
Location: White Marsh, MD
August 8, 2014 7:21 pm
This insect has been hanging around our patio — first seen sitting on a concrete block under a set of wooden steps that lead down to our patio, then the next morning, on the patio itself, about 2 feel from first location — and it has me stymied. About 2 1/2 long, large black eyes, yellow and black stripes. Doesn’t move when approached, or react to loud noises. What the heck is this?
Signature: Thanks, Joan G
This predatory Robber Fly looks like a Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes, and we believe it is probably perfectly fine and behaving like the stealth predator that it is. Like many predators, Red Footed Cannibalflies are territorial, and when the hunting is good, they will remain in the area. Large Robber Flies are among the few predators that will attempt to prey upon stinging wasps, and perhaps there is a nearby nest of hornets or paper wasps that is supplying this individual with a ready source of food. Robber Flies take prey on the wing, and when a likely source of food flies by, we predict this individual will take off and snatch an unsuspecting wasp or other insect out of the air. Robber Flies are not aggressive toward humans, but we would caution you to refrain from trying to catch one with your hands as that might result in a bite, though we have never received a report of a person being bitten by a Robber Fly.
Thank you so much! My granddaughter will be thrilled to learn this, and I am relieved to know about it’s peaceful character. Yes, there are wasps about – I’m happy to have him here!
Serenity, courage, wisdom.
Letter 25 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Dragonfly but not?
August 8, 2014 4:56 pm
I saw this strange bug in the backyard. It has a body shape like a dragon fly, but there only seem to be two small wings and the eyes and mouthparts don’t look typical for a Dragonfly. What would you say it is?
We have been deluged with Robber Fly requests this morning, and your individual is a Red Footed Cannibalfly.
Letter 26 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: hairy Cicada?
Location: Leesburg, VA
August 30, 2014 12:26 pm
Thought this might be a cicada, but I’ve never seen such a hairy one before or with such huge eyes.
This magnificent, predatory Robber Fly is commonly called a Red Footed Cannibalfly, and this summer we have received more than the typical number of identification requests of Red Footed Cannibalflies from our readership.
Letter 27 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Robber Fly
Location: Greenbrier Tennessee
September 8, 2014 6:36 pm
Took this today at work with my Samsung phone in Greenbrier Tn 37073
Signature: Jason Littlejohn
Letter 28 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Curious what this is…
Location: Kansas City, MO
August 14, 2015 2:34 pm
Was working on a log pole bed with my son in our driveway when I spotted this land on our railing. Any idea what this is? I appreciate your help because I can’t even begin to conceive of a description for the Internet that would yield the answer .
Signature: Thanks, William
Several predatory Robber Flies have marvelous and descriptive common names and your individual has one of the best. It is a Red Footed Cannibalfly and your images beautifully document the red feet.
Thank you Daniel. Apparently it was “two for one day” that day, because later the same day my wife and I also had our first encounter in the garage with an insect that scared the hell out of us. So I was able to look that one up, and at first I thought it was a Gasteruption Jaculator, but when I read the range for that animal is Europe only, I kept looking and found the Giant Ichneumon on your site. So after learning she’s harmless to humans, I went back in the garage and got her on my hand, and took her out to an old dead stump on our front drive that I’m saving for some woodwork. She probably found plenty of food in there for her young!
When the Red Footed Cannibalfly happen along, I went right back to your website, but I had to ask because I didn’t even know how to begin describing that one in writing.
Letter 29 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Robber fly?
Location: Harpers Ferry, WV
August 28, 2015 6:54 am
Came across this beauty while on my morning walk. I think it’s some sort of robber fly? He/she was quite large (the reason it caught my eye) and not interested in moving even when I brushed it with a blade of grass. It was early morning so maybe still sleepy? Anyway, I’d love to know what to call it the next time I see one.
Thanks so much!
Your Robber Fly looks like a Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes, to us. We generally get several identification requests for this magnificent predator each summer.
Letter 30 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: What’s This Bug?
Location: Central Alabama
September 12, 2015 3:43 pm
I’m in central Alabama and saw this amazing bug today and would love to know his name. I have photos to help with the I.D.
He was about 1 1/4 inch long. Two black compound eyes. Four brown and black hairy legs. A proboscis, and a stinger-like projectile from his rear end. A segmented thorax. He had a medium to light brown body.
Thanks in advance for your help.
Signature: Barbara Bryan
We really love posting images of Red Footed Cannibalflies, a predatory Robber Fly found in the eastern U.S. that appears from mid to late summer.
Letter 31 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Robber Fly?
Location: Mechanicsburg, PA
August 21, 2016 7:40 pm
I had an interesting visitor in the drive through at McDonald’s today. A large flying insect flew in my car window. I have never seen anything quite like it, so I started taking pictures of it with my cell phone. It landed on my cell phone case and stayed there, so I popped my cell phone out of the case and took several one-handed closeups. It seemed quite content to model for me and flew away when I was done.
Signature: Gary Manis
Your Robber Fly is commonly called a Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes.
Letter 32 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: What is this insect?
Location: Perry Hall, Maryland
August 22, 2016 2:43 pm
Please tell me what insect this is. I have never seen it before and I am curious to know. Thank you.
Signature: I don’t understand this question
This large Robber Fly is commonly called a Red Footed Cannibalfly or a Bee Panther since it frequently preys upon bees and wasps that it catches on the wing.
Letter 33 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Giant fly/bee thing?
September 10, 2016 5:28 am
Today on my bus route I had an unexpected passenger. I live in Maryland and we had a heat index of 108 at the time. He/she was a very loud flyer and looks like a cross between a bee and a fly and did not seem to want to go outside. Please help me identify him/her.
This predatory Robber Fly is commonly called a Red Footed Cannibalfly.
Letter 34 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Unusual flying insect
Location: NC USA
July 2, 2017 10:14 am
This insect photo was taken July 2 at 1pm in Cape Carteret NC. What is it?
We are relatively certain that your Robber Fly is a Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes, based on images posted to BugGuide. According to BugGuide: “Preys on large flying insects. Has been reported to attack Ruby-throated Hummingbirds”
Letter 35 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Strange bug on my deck!
Location: Lakesite TN
August 6, 2017 2:34 pm
Hi! We love just North of Chattanooga, TN and saw this but on our deck this morning. I posted the picture on Facebook but no one seems to know what it is, let alone ever seen one before! Just curious as to what it might be! Big black eyes, hair, pointed nose and two toes on each leg! Help!!
Signature: Kathy C.
We love posting images of Red Footed Cannibalflies each summer. These are large, impressive predators that take down large prey, including stinging insects, while flying.
Thank you so very much Daniel! I appreciate you responding! Have a wonderful evening!
Letter 36 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Is this a bee killer
Geographic location of the bug: Hanover, Pennsylvania
Time: 04:17 PM EDT
Is this a bee killer? If so should I be concerned?
How you want your letter signed: Thanks you
We believe your Robber Fly is a Red Footed Cannibalfly, Promachus rufipes. Robber Flies in the genus Promachus are commonly called Giant Robber Flies or Bee Killers, according to BugGuide, so you are correct. You should not be concerned.
Letter 37 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Type of Fly?
Geographic location of the bug: Charlotte NC
Time: 08:20 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: This guy was on our bedroom window when I opened the curtain this morning. I’ve tried all the bug guides but don’t see anything similar to even start looking. Is it some kind of fly?
How you want your letter signed: Thank you!
This predatory Robber Fly is one of the Giant Robber Flies in the genus Promachus, probably a Red Footed Cannibalfly.
Letter 38 – Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Some kind of fly?
Geographic location of the bug: Huntsville, Alabama
Time: 04:58 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: We found this bug on our windshield this afternoon. It took quite a ride with us. It did recover and fly away. We’r thought it looked kind of like a big horse fly, about the diameter of a 50 cent coin in length, except for the stripes and pointy abdomen. Thank you for letting us know what it is!
How you want your letter signed: Rex and Elizabeth
Dear Rex and Elizabeth,
This large, predatory Robber Fly is commonly called a Red Footed Cannibalfly, and your request is the first submission we have received this year. We typically post at least five images of Red Footed Cannibalflies each summer.
Letter 39 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Honey Bee
Subject: What is this eating another bug?
Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, usa
August 5, 2016 5:44 pm
Looked like a fat bodie dragonfly but with spiky legs. About two inches long. Eating what looked like a bee. Little furry.
We are pretty certain your predator is a Robber Fly known as a Red Footed Cannibalfly, and the prey appears to be a Honey Bee. The tip of the abdomen indicates this individual is a male.
Letter 40 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Prey
Subject: Bug Identification
Geographic location of the bug: East Berlin PA
Time: 04:29 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Can you help identify the bug in the attached picture? It looked like it was eating the other bug, and its long body reminded me of a dragonfly. I really have no idea what it is. Your help is very much appreciated.
How you want your letter signed: Cindy Treger
The predator in your image is a Giant Robber Fly in the genus Promachus, and we believe it is a Red Footed Cannibalfly.
Letter 41 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Yellow Jacket
Subject: Please identify the big bug in picture
Location: north Georgia mountains
August 26, 2016 6:03 am
Good morning. A friend took the attached photo earlier this week. and has given his explicit permission for me to do with it what I want, including sharing it/using it. Our community is in the North Georgia mountains, and my friend’s home is located in the lower elevations of the neighborhood, adjacent to the golf course.
There have been a lot of yellow-jackets in the area this year, so we’re happy that something might be attacking them. But, what in the heck is that big something?
Thanks in advance for any assistance you are able to provide.
The predator in the image is a Red Footed Cannibalfly, a large species of Robber Fly. While Robber Flies might bite a person who carelessly tried to handle one, they are not aggressive towards humans. The unnatural position of the wings of the Red Footed Cannibalfly in your image is somewhat disturbing, leading us to speculate that it is no longer alive and possibly the victim of Unnecessary Carnage.
Letter 42 – Red Footed Cannibalfly eats Yellowjacket
Subject: What in the world is this?!
Location: Southern WV
August 7, 2017 12:32 pm
I have lived in Southern West Virginia my entire life and I have never came across a bug like this before! It almost looked like a long, huge Yellow Jacket with a thick coat of fur at the top, but the face of it looked odd. I couldn’t tell if it had a stinger or not, but the closer I got
to it, I noticed it had a yellow jacket held in its arms.
Signature: Megan Daniels
This is one of eastern North America’s most impressive, large, predatory Robber Flies, Promachus rufipes. It is commonly called a Red Footed Cannibalfly, and as your image documents, they are fond of feeding on large stinging insects that they catch on the wing.
Letter 43 – Red Footed Cannibalfly rescued from drowning!!!
Subject: Robber Fly?
Location: Linden, Virginia
September 21, 2013 8:37 pm
Could you please identify the fly in the attached photographs? I think it may be some type of robber fly. I saved this one from my dogs’ wading pool and later saw a similar fly eating a stink bug. It is well worth having these flies around if they prey on stink bugs! Thanks for looking!
Your family identification of this Robber Fly is correct. More specifically it is a Red Footed Cannibalfly or Bee Panther, Promachus rufipes, and as you are aware, it is an impressive insect. We are happy to hear they are preying upon the Stink Bugs in your vicinity, which we suspect are most likely the invasive Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs. Because of your kindness in rescuing this Red Footed Cannibalfly, we are tagging this posting with the Bug Humanitarian Award. See BugGuide for additional information on the Red Footed Cannibalfly.
Thank you so much for identifying my fly. He was very cool! 🙂
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Bug of the Month September 2022: Red Footed Cannibalfly
Subject: Bug identification
Geographic location of the bug: Eastern North Carolina
Time: 02:13 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Hi, would like to know what this bug is.
How you want your letter signed: Mr. T
Dear Mr. T,
The dog days of summer are upon us and it is the perfect time to observe large predatory Robber Flies like your Red Footed Cannibalfly, which we are declaring the Bug of the Month for September 2022. The Red Footed Cannibalfly has been Bug of the Month twice before, in August 2010 and September 2013. Large Robber Flies are aerial predators that take prey on the wing, and they frequently prey upon large wasps and dragonflies.