Red Footed Cannibalfly in Insect Collection

Stinger Identification
Location: Piedmont, SC
September 4, 2011 2:29 pm
Hello Bugman!
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

Red Footed Cannibalfly

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 again.

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.

3 thoughts on “Red Footed Cannibalfly in Insect Collection”

  1. I agree Bugman, my insect collection is out in my front yard, nestled in host and nectar plants, water sources, old wood, bare spots of sand, and mucky mud. Right were it should be!

  2. I found one Red footed Cannibalfly and thought it was a queen bee. I had found it floating in the spring of my camp at Lithia springs in Florida. I thought I’d saved it’s life after I put it on a flower to sun-dry


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