World of Flesh Flies
Biology of the Miltogramminae

This page will be continuously elaborated in the future, but as a start we are citing (with only slight modifications) relevant parts from the chapter on biology in the world catalogue of Pape (1996).

Biology of Miltogramminae.
Taxigramma elegantula The large majority of Miltogramminae are kleptoparasites of solitary bees and wasps (e.g., Spofford et al. 1989) - possibly a groundplan feature of the clade. It should be noted, however, that the breeding biology of some of the genera here considered close to the basal splits of the subfamily still is partly [Eumacronychia, Euphyto] or completely [Chivamyia, Chorezmomyia, Xiphidiella] unknown. Two species of Euphyto (E. nomiivora and E. pollinaris) are known to feed on the pollen balls of andrenine and halictine bees (Michener & Ordway 1963, Moradeshaghi & Bohart 1968). Two species of Eumacronychia (E. nigricornis and E. sternalis) are predators of lizard and turtle eggs respectively (Lopes 1982, Mullen et al. 1984, Trauth & Mullen 1990). Records exist on Eumacronychia spp. visiting vertebrate and invertebrate carrion (Reinhard 1965, Cornaby 1974), and at least one species may be bred on vertebrate liver (W.L. Downes, in litt.). Eumacronychia elita has been recorded as being kleptoparasitic in nests of Palmodes laeviventris supplied with mormon crickets (Anabrus simplex) (La Rivers 1944), and a single paratype of E. persolla was apparently taken "at burrow of Epibembix beutenmuller [sic]" (Reinhard 1965). Most specimens from the type series of Chorezmomyia geophila and several specimens of two (out of three) species of Chivamyia were taken in rodent burrows (Rohdendorf 1935) - a peculiar circumstance that still has to be explained. A single female from the type series of Chivamyia intermedium was taken on human feces ("auf Menschenkot") - strongly contrasting to the nectar feeding habit encountered in most other adult Miltogramminae. Adult kleptoparasitic miltogrammines have developed several stereotyped female strategies for giving the maggots access to the food provisioned for the wasp progeny (Endo 1980, Spofford & Kurczewski 1990). Female flies may trail sphecid wasps returning with paralyzed prey to their nest, either by following flying wasps or by directly riding the abdomen of a big prey being dragged over the ground. The trailing habit is especially developed in species of, e.g., Senotainia and Miltogramma, where females may trail potential hosts at a distance of 15-30 cm and often keeping the distance within a very narrow range as if tethered to the wasp, a habit for which they have received the name satellite flies. Trailing may take place even during nest construction and orientation flights (Spofford & Kurczewski 1990). Larviposition can take place directly on the prey before this is pulled into the burrow, the female fly may follow the provisioning wasp down the burrow, or she may patiently wait until the wasp returns, whereafter she quickly slips into the nest. Another strategy is to search directly for wasp nest entrances, flying low over the ground and larvipositing in flight directly into the entrance, the larva wriggling down in search for food. Or the female fly may land at the nest entrance, entering the burrow to deposit its progeny near or directly on the food provided for the wasp or bee offspring. At least one species of Phrosinella searches for temporarily closed nest entrances, digs a pit in the sand and deposits a number of larvae (Spofford et al. 1986). The female Oebalia minuta glues incubated eggs directly onto the host wasp for transportation into the nest (Day & Smith 1980). The sphecid hosts on their side have developed behavioural defence mechanisms against kleptoparasitic miltogrammines, including behaviours like freeze stops, face-offs, butting, stinging, and chasing as well as nest closure, cell cleaning and male and female nest guarding (Peckham 1977, McCorquodale 1986, Spofford & Kurczewski 1992). A few miltogrammines are associated with termites, either as internal parasites ('Chauliooestrus' leza, 'Senotainia' arabops) or as predators (Hoplacephala schistacea, possibly also Senotainia grisea) (Ferrar 1987, Pape 1991). A species of Macronychia has been bred from adult Tabanidae (Thompson 1978a,b) and Senotainia tricuspis is a well-known internal parasite of adult honey- and bumble bees (Boiko 1948, 1960; Santini 1995). Phylloteles hessei, Dolichotachina proxima and an unidentified species of Senotainia have been bred from locust egg pods (Zumpt 1962, Greathead 1963). Breeding of Miltogramminae from grasshoppers found dead have been interpreted as a possible case of true endoparasitism (Théodorides 1954, Holstein & Rudzinski 1994), but Spofford & Kurczewski (1992:1008) discuss prey abandonment as a counter-cleptoparasitic behaviour and note that "some abandoned prey which have been larviposited upon will produce miltogrammines". Yet Arnaud (1954) presented a case where live camel crickets were infested with Taxigramma hilarella.

Content by T. Pape on behalf of the editorial group.
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Last updated: 25 October 2009.
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