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Family Conopidae - Thick-headed Flies

Thick-headed fly? - Physocephala tibialis Thick-headed Fly - Physoconops obscuripennis Myopa? - Myopa Fly - Physocephala tibialis Conopid being attacked by an ant - Physocephala Physoconops fronto Physoconops - female Curated Physoconops gracilis 1 (from the Essig Museum, U.C. Berkeley) - Physoconops gracilis - male
Classification
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Diptera (Flies)
No Taxon ("Acalyptratae")
Superfamily Sciomyzoidea
Family Conopidae (Thick-headed Flies)
Pronunciation
kuh-nop'-uh-dee
Explanation of Names
Greek conops (κωνωψ) 'gnat'(1)(2), from conos (κωνος) 'cone' + ops (ωψ) 'eye, face'(2)
Numbers
67 spp. in 9 genera in our area(3), over 800 spp. worldwide(4)(5)
Size
4-18 mm(3)
Identification
Medium-sized, blackish or brownish flies, many of which mimic thread-waisted wasps (Sphecidae)(6)(7):
in some genera the abdomen long, with a slender, wasp-like pedicel; in others abdomen more uniform in width
head slightly broader than thorax; head often with prominent grooves on front
antennae usually long, about the same length as head or longer; projecting forward, 3-segmented, third segment bearing either a dorsal arista or a terminal style
ocelli present or absent
proboscis long and slender, elbowed and projecting upward in some species
wing venation similar to that in the Syrphidae, but no spurious vein
Conopids may be distinguished from syrphids that lack a spurious vein by their long, slender proboscis(6).
Examples of wing venation:

key to CA spp. in(8)
Range
worldwide and throughout NA
Habitat
adults usually found on flowers
Food
Adults take nectar. Larvae are endoparasites of wasps, bees, ants, crickets, cockroaches, and some Diptera (mostly calyptrate); host group varies by subfamily(5)
Life Cycle
At least in some groups, females oviposit on hosts in flight and have complex structures to lay eggs prying open the host exoskeleton (below left). In Stylogaster (below right), the ovipositor is long and robust, the eggs having a barbed tip for penetration and attachment of the host in the manner of a harpoon.
See Also
Print References
Parsons C.T. (1948) A classification of North American Conopidae. Ann. Ent. Soc. Am. 41: 223-246 (Full text)
Van Duzee M.C. (1927) A contribution to our knowledge of the North America Conopidae (Diptera). Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 17(18): 573-604 (Full text)
Skevington J.H., Thompson F.C., Gibson J.F. (2012) Sid Camras and his conopid legacy. Fly Times 49: 39-65 (Full text)