flesh flies


Flies of the Diptera family Sarcophagidae (from the Greek sarco- = flesh, phage = eating; the same roots as the word "sarcophagus") are commonly known as flesh flies. Most flesh flies breed in carrion, dung, or decaying material, but a few species lay their eggs in the open wounds of mammals; hence their common name. Some flesh fly larvae are internal parasites of other insects. These larvae, commonly known as maggots, live for about 5-10 days, before descending into the soil and maturing into adulthood. At that stage, they live for 5-7 days.


Antennae 3-segmented, with an arista; vein Rs 2-branched, frontal suture present, calypters well developed. Medium-sized flies with black and gray longitudinal stripes on the thorax and checkering on the abdomen. Arista commonly plumose on basal half; bare in a few species. Four notopleural bristles (short, long, short, long, from front to rear). Hindmost posthumeral bristle located even with or toward midline from presutural bristle.

The family contains three subfamilies, the Miltogramminae, the Paramacronychiinae and the Sarcophaginae, containing between them 108 genera. Flesh-flies are quite closely related to the family Calliphoridae, which belongs to the same (large) infraorder, the Muscomorpha, and includes species such as the blow-fly that have similar habits to the flesh-flies.


Flesh-fly maggots occasionally eat other larvae although this is usually because the other larvae are smaller and get in the way. They also eat the larvae of grasshoppers and also eat beetles, snails, and caterpillars, especially the forest tent caterpillar. This habit can be useful for biological control. Flesh-flies and their larvae are also known to eat decaying vegetable matter and excrement and they may be found around compost piles and pit latrines.

Flesh-flies, being viviparous, frequently give birth to live young on corpses of human and other animals, at any stage of decomposition from newly dead through to bloated or decaying (though the latter is more common).

The life cycle of flesh-fly larvae has been well researched and is very predictable. Different species prefer bodies in different states of decomposition, and the specific preferences and predictable life cycle timings allows forensic entomologists to understand the progress of decomposition and enables the calculation of the time of death by back extrapolation. This is done by determining the oldest larva of each species present, measuring the ambient temperature and from these values, calculating the earliest possible date and time for deposition of larvae. This yields an approximate time and date of death (d.o.d.) This evidence can be used in forensic entomology investigations and may assist in identification of a corpse by matching the calculated time of death with reports of missing persons. Such evidence has also been used to help identify murderers.

Association with disease

Flesh-flies can carry leprosy bacilli and can transmit intestinal pseudomyiasis to people who eat the flesh-fly larvae. Flesh-flies can also cause myiasis in animals, mostly to sheep, and can give them blood poisoning, or asymptomatic leprosy infections.


Generally only males of this family can be identified, and then only by examination of dissected genitalia. The literature is incomplete or scattered for all regions. References include:

  • Rokuro Kano; Gordon Field; Satoshi Shinonaga Fauna Japonica: Sarcophagidae (Insecta: Diptera)Biogeographical Society of Japan; distributor: Tokyo Electrical Engineering College Press, 1967.In English.
  • Downes, W. L., Jr. Family Sarcophagidae in Stone, A. et al. A catalog of the Diptera of America north of Mexico United States Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C. 1965.
  • Lehrer, A.Z. . Sarcophaginae et Paramacronychiinae du Proche Orient(Insecta, Diptera, Sarcophagidae). Pensoft Series Faunistica 60, ISSN 1312-0174. ISBN 9546422819, Pensoft Publishers, Sofia-Moscow, 165x240, keys, species descriptions, b/w drawings and photos, references, index. In French.(2006).
  • Lehrer, A.Z., Sarcophaginae de l'Afrique (Insecta, Diptera, Sarcophagidae) In: Entomolgica, Bari, 37(2003):5-528 (in french)
  • Pape, T. The Sarcophagidae (Diptera) of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica, 19 . Hardback 203 pp., 2 col. plates, 424 figures, in English,1987. ISBN 90-04-08184-4
  • Pape, T. 1998. Sarcophagidae. - Pp. 649-678 in: Papp, L. & Darvas, B. (eds), Contributions to a manual of Palaearctic/European Diptera. Science Herald; Budapest.
  • Pape, T. 1996. Catalogue of the Sarcophagidae of the world (Insecta: Diptera).Memoirs of Entomology International 8: 1-558.
  • Rohdendorf, B. B. Family Sarcophagidae in Bei-Bienko, G. Ya. Keys to the Insects of the European part of the USSR Fauna SSR (NS) 12: xv, 1-496. [In Russian; English translation 1988, pp. 1021-1096; Washington, D.C.]
  • Rohdendorf, B. B., 1930-1975 Sarcophaginae,in Lindner, E. Fliegen die Palaearktischen Region. 11 64h, 1-232;1985, 64h. Sarcophaginae (Lieferung 330) 1-297;1993 64h. Sarcophaginae (Lieferung 331) 1-441 , 90 Abbildungen (figures).
  • Venturi, F., 1960. Sistematica e geonemia dei Sarcofagidi (escl. Sarcophaga s.l.) italiani (Diptera). Frustula Entomologica, 2 (7): 1-124.
  • Verves, Yu.G., 1986. Family Sarcophagidae. In: Soós Á. & Papp L. (eds.), Catalogue of Palaearctic Diptera, 12. Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest - Elsevier, Amsterdam: 58-193


  • Pape, T. 1996. Catalogue of the Sarcophagidae of the world (Insecta: Diptera). Memoirs of Entomology International 8: 1-558.
  • Lehrer, A.Z., 2000, Le système taxonomique des Sarcophaginae afrotropicales (Diptera, Sarcophagidae). Entomologica, Bari, 34:41-63.
  • Lehrer, A.Z., 2003, Sarcophaginae de l'Afrique (Insecta, Diptera, Sarcophagidae). Entomologica, Bari, 37:5-528.


See also

Species Lists

External links

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