Insects in the Diptera family Asilidae 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, butterflies and moths, various bees, dragon and damselflies, Ichneumon wasps, grasshoppers, 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.


  • Geller-Grimm F (2003): Photographic atlas and identification key to the robber flies of Germany (Diptera: Asilidae), CD-ROM, Amphx-Verlag Halle (Saale). ISBN 3-932795-18-0
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  • Wood GC (1981): Asilidae, In: McAlpine JF, Peterson BV, Shewell GE, Teskey HJ, Vockeroth JR, Wood DM,(Hrsg.): Manual of Nearctic Diptera. Volume 1., Research Branch, Agriculture Canada, Monographs 27: : 549-573; Ottawa.

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