Red Footed Cannibalfly: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

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
Size Large Varies
Hunting Extremely proficient Varies
Prey Wide variety Varies

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.

Physical Characteristics

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:

  • Meadows
  • Forests
  • Gardens

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:

Country Prevalence
United States High
Canada Moderate
Mexico Moderate

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:

Prey Size Technique
Bees Small Chase
Wasps Small Ambush
Grasshoppers Medium Ambush/Chase
Spiders Varies Ambush

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.

[](clickable guide)

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.

Male Female
Role in Reproduction Courting, mating Egg-laying
Mortality Rate Higher Lower

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

Robberfly Characteristics

  • 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
Enzymatic saliva Yes Yes
Proboscis Long, sturdy Varies
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:

Method Pros Cons
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.


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Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, 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


Ed. Note:
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
Dear Bugman,
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.

Red Footed Cannibalfly

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?

Giant Robber Fly in flight

Dear Ragdoll,
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.

Red Footed Cannibalfly

Dear Daniel,
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.

Dear Ragdoll,
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.

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