Types of Flies

Flies, insects in the order Diptera, from your basic house fly to mosquitoes and gnats, are defined by having two wings.

With over one hundred and fifty thousand Diptera species, divided into over one hundred families, a proper categorization of different types of flies would necessarily be an encyclopedic endeavor.

A less systemic approach to Diptera often begins by thinking about them in terms of their relationship to humans.

Many people, for example, want to know about poisonous flies. In fact, there are no poisonous flies in the sense that these insect produce and inject venom as do some spiders.

It's more accurate to think of flies as disease spreading pests that pick up bacteria and viruses from many different sources, and then spread those bacteria and viruses during the course of their every day existence. Mosquito transmission of West Nile virus for example, presents an ongoing challenge to public health officials.

Other flies such as horse flies, deer flies and snipe flies are rightly labeled as biting pests.

Notwithstanding the pest label, many fly families can be considered as beneficial insects that pollinate plants and prey on insect pests.

The video shows a tachinid fly, a wasp mimic.

picture of a pair of Bombylius bee flies, perhaps Bombylius major

Speaking of mimics, they abound in the world of flies. The fuzzy bodies of bee flies (family Bombyliidae), for example, explains their nickname. Like bees, many Bombyliidae are natural pollinators that nectar on flowers.

However, unlike bees and wasps, Bombyliidae are not stinging or biting insects.

With approximately eight hundred North American species, Bombyliidae represent a fairly robust family that divides into multiple subfamilies and genera.

The top picture shows a member of the Bombylius genus, perhaps Bombylius major, the greater bee fly. The fuzzy bee like body and sword-like proboscis represent the typical bee fly image.

picture of a bee fly in the thevenetimyia genus

The thin body of Thevenetimyia species distinguishes them from many of the round, buzzy, bee looking Bombyliidae species.

The approximately twenty different Thevenetimyia species can be found in many areas of western North America.

The picture shows a species enlarged by a factor of at least two, in order to highlight the body details. In person they appear as smallish flies.

picture of a bee fly in the paravilla genus

A few different bee fly genera have species with golden bodies.

The body color, along with the wing pattern provides clues to tentatively place the species in the third picture the Paravilla genus.

© 2005-2015 Patricia A. Michaels