Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps

Family BOMBYLIIDAE Latreille, 1802

Bee Flies

Compiler and date details

2001 - A. Wells, Australian Biological Resources Study, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia

Updated 2011-2012 - Karin Koch and Christine Lambkin, Queensland Museum

A. Wells - May 2018


The Bombyliidae are usually stoutly built flies, of small to large size, and with very characteristic venation. The stout, hairy body, long, thin proboscis, and flight habits of the subfamily Bombyliinae earned the whole group the common name 'bee flies'. Bee flies occur on all continents except Antarctica and in Australia are most commonly encountered in the drier regions. In Australia, bee flies have a wide morphological diversity; ranging from the genus Palirika Lambkin & Yeates covered with black body scales that reflect iridescent maroon, green, blue, or purple and striking black and hyaline wings spanning up to 65 mm to the tiny, delicate, humpbacked yellow and black species of Glabellula Bezzi with hyaline wings and a body length about 3.5 mm. Some such as Systropus flavoornatus Roberts are remarkable wasp mimics.

Most adults are strong fliers and are commonly seen hovering above blossom or patches of bare earth. Adults feed on nectar and pollen, and there is evidence of their importance as pollinators in Australia (Armstrong 1979; Heard et al. 1990). Many species have a landmark-based mating system (Dodson & Yeates 1990; Yeates & Dodson 1990; Lambkin et al. 2003) and thus can be collected congregating on hilltops. Many of the females gather sand-grains in a special chamber at the apex of the abdomen for use as a coating on the eggs (M├╝hlenberg 1970; Yeates 1994). Almost all known larval Bombyliidae are parasitoids on the immatures of other insects (see Yeates & Greathead 1997). However, the larvae of some of the bombyliid subfamilies Mythicomyiinae (Andersson 1974) and Heterotropinae (Yeates & Irwin 1992) are free-living. Little is known about the life histories of Australian species, but some are known to parasitise Hymenoptera and Lepidoptera, and several have been reared from Diptera (Asilidae, Therevidae and Mydidae) and Neuroptera. Ligyra satyrus (Fabricius) is a hyperparasitoid of tiphiid larvae (Yeates et al. 1999).

The Bombyliidae are one of the largest families of flies (Diptera), with over 5,000 species described worldwide (Evenhuis & Greathead 1999), and around 380 have been described from Australia, with many more species awaiting description. The phylogenetic research of Yeates (1994) resulted in a reclassification of the family which recognised a total of 15 subfamilies. The family was catalogued for the World by Evenhuis and Greathead (1999), however not including the Mythicomyiinae that Evenhuis considered to be of family status and catalogued separately (Evenhuis 2002).

Nine of the 15 recognised subfamilies (Yeates 1994) are found in Australia with most species belonging to the subfamilies Bombyliinae, Anthracinae and Lomatiinae. A key to the subfamilies is available (Lambkin et al. 2003). There have been a number of taxonomic and systematic revisions of Australian bombyliid genera and tribes over the past 20 years, increasing our knowledge of the fauna and their relationships.

In Australia in the almost 200 species of the Lomatiinae the occiput has a deep central cavity, the posterior eye-margins are indented, and Rs forks well before r-m (Yeates 1988, 1990a, b, 1991b, a). Most species belong to the genus Comptosia (Yeates 1991b). The Anthracinae resemble the Lomatiinae but have Rs forking close to r-m. Most species in Australia belong to the cosmopolitan Anthrax, Ligyra, Villa, and a number of endemic genera (Yeates & Lambkin 1998; Lambkin et al. 2003). The subfamily Bombyliinae in Australia includes Staurostichus, Sisyromyia, Meomyia and other genera that are mostly stout and hairy, with long, slender proboscis and 1-segmented palp; broad and oval abdomen, spinose tibiae, and vein M1 usually meets R5 before the wing margin (Evenhuis 1983; Bowden 1985).

References not included in General References:
Andersson, H. (1974). Studies on the myrmecophilous fly, Glabellula arctica (Zett.)(Diptera, Bombyliidae). Entomologica Scandinavica 5: 29-38.
Armstrong, J. (1979). Biotic pollination mechanisms in the Australian flora- a review. New Zealand Journal of Botany 17: 467-508.
Bowden, J. (1985). The tribal classification of the Bombyliinae with particular reference to the Bombyliini and Dischistini, and the description of a new genus from South America (Dipt., Bombyliidae). Entomologists Monthly Magazine 121: 99-107.
Dodson, G. & Yeates, D. (1990). The mating system of a bee fly (Diptera: Bombyliidae). II. Factors affecting male territorial and mating success. Journal of Insect Behavior 3: 619-636.
Evenhuis, N. L. (1983). Studies in Pacific Bombyliidae (Diptera). IX. Systematic remarks on Australian Bombyliinae with descriptions of new genera. International Journal of Entomology 25: 206-214.
Heard, T., Vithanage, V. & Chacko, E. (1990). Pollination biology of cashew in the Northern Territory of Australia. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research 41: 1101-1114.
M├╝hlenberg, M. (1970). Besonderheiten im Bau der Receptacula seminis von parasitischen Fliegen (Dipera, Bombyliidae). Zoologische Jahrbucher Abteilung Anatomie und Ontogenie der Tiere 87: 471-479.
Yeates, D. (1990a). Phylogenetic relationships of the Australian Lomatiinae (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Systematic Entomology 15: 491-509.
Yeates, D. & Dodson, G. (1990). The mating system of a bee fly (Diptera: Bombyliidae). I. Non-resource-based hilltop territoriality and a resource based alternative. Journal of Insect Behavior 3: 603-617.
Yeates, D. K. (1994). Cladistics and classification of the Bombyliidae (Diptera: Asiloidea). Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History 219: 1-191.
Yeates, D. K. & Greathead, D. (1997). The evolutionary pattern of host use in the Bombyliidae (Diptera): a diverse family of parasitoid flies. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 60: 149-185.
Yeates, D. K. & Irwin, M. E. (1992). Three new species of Heterotropus Loew (Diptera: Bombyliidae) from South Africa with descriptions of the immature stages and a discussion of the phylogenetic placement of the genus. American Museum Novitates 3036: 25.
Yeates, D. K., Logan, D. & Lambkin, C. L. (1999). Life history of Ligyra satyrus (F.) (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 38: 300-304.


General References

Evenhuis, N.L. 2002. Catalog of the Mythicomyiidae of the World (Insecta:Diptera). Hawaii : Bishop Museum Bulletins in Entomology Vol. 10 85 pp.

Evenhuis, N.L. & Greathead, D.J. 1999. World Catalog of Bee Flies (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Leiden, Netherlands : Backhuys xlviii+756 pp.

Lambkin, C.L., Yeates, D.K. & Greathead, D.J. 2003. An evolutionary radiation of beeflies in semi-arid Australia: systematics of the Exoprosopini (Diptera:Bombyliidae). Invertebrate Systematics 17: 735-891

Lambkin, C.L. & Bartlett, J.S 2011. Bush Blitz aids description of three new species and a new genus of Australian beeflies (Diptera, Bombyliidae, Exoprosopini). ZooKeys e-Infrastructures for data publishing in biodiversity science. Smith, V. & Penev, L. (Eds.) 150: 231-280

Yeates, D.K. 1988. Revision of the Australian genus Oncodosia Edwards (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Systematic Entomology 13: 503-520 [Date published 20 October]

Yeates, D.K. 1990. Revision of the bee fly genus Doddosia Edwards (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Journal of Natural History 24: 69-80 [Date published 22 February]

Yeates, D.K. 1991. Revision of the Australian bee fly genus Aleucosia Edwards (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Invertebrate Taxonomy 5: 133-209 [Date published 8 April]

Yeates, D.K. 1991. Revision of the Australian bee fly genus Comptosia (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Invertebrate Taxonomy 5: 1023-1178 [Date published 24 December]

Yeates, D.K. & Lambkin, C.L. 1998. Review of the tribe Anthracini (Diptera: Bombyliidae) in Australia: cryptic species diversity and the description of Thraxon, gen. nov. Invertebrate Taxonomy 12(6): 977-1078


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
01-Feb-2019 DIPTERA Linnaeus, 1758 19-Dec-2018 MODIFIED
27-Apr-2012 27-Apr-2012 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)