Hunting the Hunter (Part 2)

Hunting the Hunter (Part 1) was written about a year ago – you can read it here. That post was mostly about spider-hunting wasps of the family Pompilidae, and finished with the image below as a bit of a teaser to this second part.

spider fly

The image shows several fly larvae (the arrow-headed segmented hairy things) and lots of eggs (the black ovoid things). They are the eggs and larvae of flies from the family Acroceridae. Adult flies of this family may be known as ‘bladder flies’, ‘small-headed flies’, ‘hump-back flies’, or ‘spider flies’. The image below indicates how a couple of those common names may have come about.

bladder fly

Acrocerid flies are well known for having enlarged compound eyes that meet in the middle of their head, which probably provides an extended field of vision. The adults of some species have elongated proboscises, sometimes longer than their entire body. The individual pictured here is of the genus Ogcodes which has a very short proboscis.

The larval stages of acrocerid flies are endoparasitoids (i.e. internal parasites) of spiders. After a pair of acrocerid flies have mated, the female flies deposit tiny eggs en masse on dead twigs, grass stems, fences, wires, and other structures. The eggs are so small the egg mass looks like soot at first sight (as you can see in the image below). There may be as many as 5000 ‘microtype’ eggs in each egg mass – all of which may hatch into spider-seeking larvae.

Ogcodes eggs

First instar larvae (such as the ones in the image at the top of this post) are free-living planidia which actively seek out suitable spider hosts. The spines that you can see on the larvae must really help when climbing onto a hairy spider.

Once an acrocerid larva finds a spider, it burrows inside, attaches to the spider’s book lungs, and begins feeding on its body fluids. The larva moults three times, growing larger each time, feeding all the while. The final instar (growth stage) larva kills the spider just prior to emerging from it. The acrocerid larva consumes the entire contents of the spider’s body, leaving an empty exoskeleton. The larva then pupates, and an adult acrocerid fly eventually emerges from the pupa. The image below shows a male (left) and a female (right) of the genus Ogcodes.

Acroceridae

Many people think of flies as being either dirty (as in the case of house flies Musca domestica) or annoying (bush flies Musca vetustissima). There is much more to flies than that! There are about 7000 species of flies described in Australia so far, and there may be as many as 30,000 species here. If acrocerid flies are anything to go by, there must be lots of flies with amazing life cycles that we don’t know about yet!

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Flight of the Ants

This ‘one minute bugs’ post is a video about a nuptial flight of ants. Ants perform these ‘nuptial’ or ‘reproductive’ flights so that new colonies can be started. Winged males and females fly up into the air where they meet, mate, and then the females look for suitable nesting sites. The females then become queens of their new colony.

I filmed this material last week, and there have been other ant flights since then. There was even one today. But I reckon that’s got to be the last one for the season because tomorrow a severe cold front hits the area. Just in time, ants!

I hope you enjoy the video – as usual it’s short and sweet! Let me know what you think. Please hit the subscribe button in the widget if you would like to receive email alerts about new posts.

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Night of the Moths

Nerd alert! In my latest video I get rather excited about the arrival of the ‘rain moths’ (Trictena atripalpis). The first rains of autumn usually brings them out and this year it was spectacular!

These moths are quite harmless, but may vary in size from relatively modest to rather huge (depending on how much food they consumed while larvae). Just listen to the sound a large one makes as it crashes into my microphone!

I hope you enjoy the video – as usual it’s short and sweet! Let me know what you think.

If you want to learn more about these moths, you can read one of my earlier posts by clicking here.

Please hit the subscribe button in the widget if you would like to receive email alerts about new posts.

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“Garden Pests, Diseases & Good Bugs”
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