Insects in the Diptera
are commonly called robber flies
. The family Asilidae contains about 7,100 described species worldwide. All robber flies have stout, spiny legs, a dense moustache of bristles on the face (mystax), and 3 simple eyes (ocelli
) in a characteristic depression between their two large compound eyes
. The mystax helps protect the head and face when the fly encounters prey
bent on defense. The antennae
are short, 3-segmented, sometimes with a bristle-like structure called an arista. The short, strong proboscis
is used to stab and inject victims with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which paralyze and digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied meal through the proboscis. Many species have long, tapering abdomens
, sometimes with a sword-like ovipositor
. Others are fat-bodied bumblebee
mimics. Adult robber flies attack other flies, beetles
, various bees
, Ichneumon wasps
, and some spiders
The larvae are often found in decaying organic matter, such as dung heaps and rotting logs. Other species live in the soil. In most species the larvae are omnivorous.
Robber Flies in Popular Culture and Literacy
In the book, The Dreamwalker's Child, by Steve Voake Robber Flies are portrayed as nasty, evil, and vicious creatures. They are controlled by the evil Emporor, Odoursin.
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