Head Hunting Flies


Fly Decapitating an Ant
Image: Brown & Colleagues*

In the tropics, competition among insects for food can be intense. Brown & Colleagues* report in Biodiversity Journal some interesting interactions between flies in the Genus, Dohrniphora and ants in the Genus Odontomachus. The flies seek injured ants. A fly that goes too close to a healthy ant can be caputured and eaten by the ant. The flies explore carefully to determine if an ant is suitably incapacitated before the final approach. Flies were observed to probe the heads of the ants multiple times, apparently feeding on the contents. After probing for 8 minutes or longer and by pulling on the head, the head detached from the ant and was carried away by the fly. The head of an ant would contain enough nutrients for a single fly larva to develop. However, the flies consumed the head and did not have mature eggs. It is suspected that the flies may feed on the ant heads to gather nutrients required for egg laying. The paper has some very interesting photos and videos.

*Brian V. Brown, Giar-Ann Kung, and Wendy Porras. 2015. A new type of ant-decapitation in the Phoridae. Biodivers Data J. 2015; (3): e4299.
doi:  10.3897/BDJ.3.e4299

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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One Response to Head Hunting Flies

  1. Jordan says:

    Great information. It’s amazing studying the behavior of insects like this – how they adapted to behave this way is interesting to try and figure out.

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