Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps

Family EMPIDIDAE Latreille, 1804

Dance Flies

Compiler and date details

February 2012 - Scott Ginn, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia

  • Empides Latreille, 1809.
    Type genus:
     Empis Linnaeus, 1758.



Superfamily Empidoidea is one of the largest groups of Diptera with at least 11,400 species described worldwide. Sinclair and Cumming (2006) published a revised classification of the Empidoidea, which proposed the division of the family Empididae into several new groups, such as the families Hybotidae and Brachystomatidae. Chvála (1983) had earlier proposed a division of the Empidoidea, but this appears to have been not widely accepted. In Australia, There are currently 65 described Australian species in 17 genera in the Empididae.

Members of this family display a wide range of life habits. The subfamily Empidinae comprises two tribes, the Empidini and Hilarini (see Bickel 1996), and their swarming habits are the source of the common name “dance flies,” applied to all Empididae. Some species of Empidini have an elongate proboscis, and many form male aerial mating swarms. In the tribe Hilarini (especially Hilara and Hilarempis), males have the leg I basitarsus enlarged to house silk glands (Young & Merritt 2003). Males typically capture small insect prey which are wrapped in silk to present as a protein-rich nuptial gifts to females. In some species the male wraps plant debris in silk, or even secretes an empty silken balloon to present as a fraudulent gift, which nevertheless induce a mating response in females. Coupling takes place in horizontal swarms, with males skimming back and forth above the surface of streams and pools. The genus Thinempis (Hilarini) is found in marine littoral habitats in both Australian and New Zealand. Members of the subfamily Clinocerinae (Asymphyloptera and Clinocera) are characteristically found along creeks and resting on wet rock surfaces. The Hemerodromiinae have distinctive raptorial forelegs used for capturing prey in a mantid-like manner.


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 11-Jan-2019 MODIFIED
29-Feb-2012 07-Dec-2016 MODIFIED
08-Feb-2012 MODIFIED