Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory




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Family CHIRONOMIDAE Newman, 1834

Compiler and date details

2012 - Updated Judith King & Christine Lambkin, Queensland Museum

March 2007 - ABRS, updated with data provided by P.S. Cranston

1999 - E.-M. Bugledich, P.S. Cranston & J. Martin, CSIRO Entomology, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia


The Chironomidae are a speciose family with over 5000 described species worldwide. The vernacular name for the family of `non-biting midges' derives from the weak development of the adult mandibles, in contrast to the sister group, the biting midges (Ceratopogonidae) in which the female mouthparts are often designed for taking a blood meal. For certain larvae, the name of `bloodworms' derives from the presence of the red blood pigment haemoglobin— but not all chironomid larvae are red.

Adult Chironomidae are most distinctive when the males form aerial swarms close to the natal site. In the male, the plumose antenna with elongate apical flagellomere is characteristic, and in both sexes the single branch of the wing vein M is diagnostic. Although adult chironomids are short-lived, their abundance in mass swarms close to eutrophic water bodies may cause nuisance, even inhalant allergies.

Chironomid larvae are apneustic, with one exception, the amphipneustic genus Archaeochlus whose larvae develop in pools on isolated granite outcrops in Western Australia and a few central Australian sites. The prolegs are nearly always present, and paired, on the prothorax and final abdominal segment. The head capsule is always prognathous (directed forwards) thus differentiating from Thaumaleidae. For 95% of aquatic species, separation from the Ceratopogonidae, can be made on the prolegs, which are paired and separate. A few Orthocladiinae confuse the situation, and it may be necessary to examine the pharyngeal apparatus which is strong, with divergent arms in ceratopogonid larvae, but weak in Chironomidae.

The ecology of the Chironomidae is very diverse and can scarcely be summarised except for the species-poor subfamilies. Thus larval Aphroteniinae are restricted to sandy substrates with overlying fine organic material. The Podonominae tend to cool stenothermy, are usually lotic, and are often limited to winter periods. The Tanypodinae are predominantly predators in late instars, though often feeding on diatoms, etc., in early instars. The Telmatogetoninae are exclusively marine and inter-tidal, as are a few Chironominae. The Chironominae are all aquatic as immatures, and have an extraordinary range of biologies, though there is a preponderance of eurythermic taxa compared to the other subfamilies. The Orthocladiinae tend more to cool stenothermy, but are very diverse and include riparian, terrestrial and phytotelm species.

Larval chironomid species track ecological conditions closely, and their distributions have long been used to assess water quality. This topic is well reviewed by Johnson (1995), in a volume that provides substantial reference to Australian studies of the ecology and systematics of the family (Cranston 1995). More general information on the family, its systematics, ecology and impacts upon humans are covered in Armitage et al. (1994). Cranton & Dimitriadis (2004) reported on larval chrionomids from the lakes of the Atherton Tableland and gave keys to subfamilies and genera.

The following genera have been recorded from Australia without inclusion of any named species (Cranston & Martin 1989; Cranston 1996).

s.f. Tanypodinae:
Tanypus Meigen, 1803.
Nilotanypus Kieffer, 1923
Monopelopia Fittkau, 1962
Telmatopelopia Fittkau, 1962

s.f. Orthocladiinae:
Bryophaenocladius Thienemann, 1934
Nanocladius Kieffer, 1913
Parakiefferiella Thienemann, 1936
Rheocricotopus Thienemann & Harnisch, 1932
Synorthocladius Thienemann, 1935

s.f. Chironominae
Gillotia Kieffer, 1921
Lauterborniella Thienemann & Bause, 1913
Nilothauma Kieffer, 1921
Paralauterborniella Lenz, 1941
Paratendipes Kieffer, 1911
Robackia Sæther, 1977
Stempellinella Brundin, 1947
Stenochironomus (Petalopholeus) Borkent, 1984

Database Notes

Publication date of , 21 June 1999.
Copy of Platypus file for Chironomidae emailed to CSIRO Entomology, 28 June 1999.

Updated 2012. King & Lambkin, QM.
Since 2007, another five species of Chironomidae have been described from Australia by teams including Cranston, Saether, and Ferrington.


General References

Armitage, P., Cranston, P.S. & Pinder, L.C.V. 1994. Chironomidae: Biology and Ecology of Non-biting Midges. London, Glasgow, New York, Tokyo : Chapman & Hall xii 572 pp.

Brundin, L. 1966. Transantarctic relationships and their significance, as evidenced by chironomid midges, with a monograph of the subfamilies Podonominae and Aphroteniinae and the austral Heptagyiae. Kongliga Svenska Vetenskaps-Academiens Nya Handlingar, Stockholm 4 11(1): 1-416

Bugledich, E.-M.A., Cranston, P.S. & Martin, J. 1999. Diptera: Nematocera: Chironomidae. pp. 112-158 in Wells, A. & Houston, W.W.K. (eds). Zoological Catalogue of Australia. Vol. 30.1. Melbourne : CSIRO Publishing, Australia xiii 627 pp.

Cranston, P.S. 1995. Chironomids — from Genes to Ecosystems. Melbourne : CSIRO iii 482 pp.

Cranston, P.S. 1996. Identification Guide to the Chironomidae of New South Wales. AWT Identification Guide Number 1. West Ryde, NSW : Australian Water Technologies Pty Ltd.

Cranston, P.S. 2009. A new genus of trans-Tasman midge: Anzacladius gen. n. (Diptera: Chironomidae: Orthocladiinae). Australian Journal of Entomology 48: 130-139

Cranston, P.S., Edward, D.H.D. & Cook, L.G. 2002. New status, distribution records and phylogeny for Australian mandibulate Chironomidae (Diptera). Australian Journal of Entomology 41: 357-366

Cranston, P.S. & Dimitriadis, S. 2004. The Chironomidae (Diptera) larvae of Atherton Tableland Lakes, north Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 49(2): 70-94

Cranston, P.S. & Saether, O.A. 2010. Australasian Stictocladius Edwards (Diptera: Chironomidae) diagnosed and described. Australian Journal of Entomology 49(2): 126-144

Ferrington Jr, L.C. & Saether, O.A. 2006. Rhagosmittia and Trondia, two new genera of Orthocladiinae from Oceania and Australia (Diptera: Chironomidae). Aquatic Insects 28(4): 243-250

Ferrington Jr, L.C. & Saether, O.A. 2011. A revision of the genera Pseudosmittia Edwards, 1932, Allocladius Kieffer, 1913, and Hydrosmittia gen. n. (Diptera: Chironomidae, Orthocladiinae). Zootaxa 2849: 1-314 [Date published April 2011]

Hashimoto, H. 1973. Marine chironomids from Australia, with description of a new species of the genus Clunio (Diptera: Chironomidae). Bulletin of the Faculty of Education, Shizuoka University (Natural Sciences) 24: 1-17

Hergstrom, I. 1974. The taxonomy and general biology of some Southern Australian Chironomidae (Diptera: Nematocera). Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Adelaide, Australia.

Johnson, R. 1995. The indicator concept in freshwater biomonitoring. pp. 11-27 in Cranston, P.S. (ed.). Chironomids — from Genes to Ecosystems. Melbourne : CSIRO iii 482 pp.

Roback, S.S. 1982. The immature stages of some Australian Tanypodinae (Diptera), with some notes on the adults. Journal of the Australian Entomological Society 21: 147-160


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)
26-Apr-2012 26-Apr-2012 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)