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Ants, scales, and phorid fly? - Apocephalus frameatus

Ants, scales, and phorid fly? - Apocephalus frameatus
Royal Palm Beach Pines Natural Area, Palm Beach County, Florida, USA
November 18, 2006
I came across these ants on a saw palmetto with what I believe to be scale insects. I don't know much about the relationship between the ants and the scales. I saw a very interesting documentary recently about the phorid flies that were introduced into Texas to fight against the fire ants. Now notice the small fly in the top right of the picture. This is one of the phorid flies which may be in the genus Apocephalus, which I read are the ones that are parasites of ants. This image was taken before the fly took flight. After I disturbed the ants by moving the palm frond, the fly seemed to take its cue.

Images of this individual: tag all
Ants, scales, and phorid fly? - Apocephalus frameatus Ants, scales, and phorid fly? - Apocephalus frameatus Ants, scales, and phorid fly? - Apocephalus frameatus

Moved from Scuttle Flies.


Moved from Scuttle Flies.

Florida Carpenter Ants (Camponotus floridanus)
While they were quietly harvesting honeydew from the palm scale insects, these three minor workers are now doomed to have their brain eaten by the phorid maggots. What a dreadful destiny indeed!
It would be interesting to know whether Apocalus phorid flies are host-specific or no, but I suspect this is not the case. If so, this woud be but another example of an introduced predator attacking native fauna as well as - or, worse, rather than - its supposed target, the fire ant.
I think at least this one picture, and another where the flying Phorid is clearly visible, should be kept in BG rather than frassed.

Apocalus phorid flies
Thanks for the information, Richard. I found the documentary on the phorid flies that were released in Texas very fascinating. I just can't get over how the fly injects the egg into the ant's body like a bullet. That ovipositor is used like a bang stick. In due time, the larva moves to the host's head, which eventually falls off. The adult fly eventually makes its way out of the head to start the cycle over. It seems very beneficial if those introduced flies target the fire ants. The entomologist had said that those flies were species-specific to the fire ant. I've read that there are over 100 species of these flies. Are none of these native to the U.S. and/or FL?

Now I'm really going crazy.
I'm starting to answer my own questions. After turning over a few stones, I found this page.
Pseudacteon tricuspis may be our culprit of the "host-specific" parasitic fly. Richard, it looks like you may be correct about this being another introduced species targeting native fauna.

Martin Hauser, a bugguide contributing editor, has helped in trying to ID this phorid fly. He requested and recieved information from his friend Brian Brown, who is an expert in parasitic phorids. He tells us that we do have native phorid flies here in FL. He says that this fly may be Apocephalus (a few different species), Diocophora, or Rhyncophoromyia. Without having the specimen or detailed images, he's unable to know which it is. Thanks to both of them for their much needed help.

Thanks for sharing this fascinating sequence. (I wish we had a few of those flies for our ants . . .)


I love these natural histories,
especially the high drama ones.

What a neat sequence.

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