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Anthrax albofasciatus

What do they look like?

The body of Anthrax albofasciatus is dark in color, with some lighter colored hairs or scales on the sides and end of the body. It is 3.5 to 8.1 mm in length, with a wingspan of 8 to 18 mm. The wings are mostly clear but have spots in three main groups at the base. Their wings make a flat triangle shape when they are sitting. (Kits, et al., 2008; Marston, 1963; Marston, 1964)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    3.5 to 8.1 mm
    0.14 to 0.32 in
  • Average length
    5.6 mm
    0.22 in
  • Range wingspan
    8 to 18 mm
    0.31 to 0.71 in

Where do they live?

Anthrax albofasciatus, a species of bee fly, can be found from Ontario in the Nearctic region south through Brazil in the Neotropical region. (Kits, et al., 2008)

What kind of habitat do they need?

Anthrax albofasciatus lives in open, dry, and sandy habitats and openings in forests. These habitats also have many different wasps species as well. Larvae of these bee flies are parasites on the wasps, and need the wasps to continue their life cycle. (Kits, et al., 2008; Marston, 1963; Marston, 1964)

How do they grow?

Anthrax albofasciatus undergoes complete metamorphosis, meaning that it has the life stages of egg, larva, pupa, and adult. Bee fly larvae are parasites, and survive by feeding on wasps. Adults will lay their eggs on or near a wasp nest. The eggs hatch, and the first stage (called an instar) larvae crawl around until they find a nearby wasp. They attach to the body of the wasp and start feeding. When the wasps they are feeding on spin cocoons inside their nests, the larvae molt to the second and then third instar stage, where they become less active. They also puncture the outside of the wasp to feed on the fluids inside the body and eventually eat the whole wasp. When the larvae has reach its last larval stage, it goes into hibernation for the winter. The next spring, it becomes a pupae, and then emerges as an adult in the late spring and early summer. (Marston, 1964; Yeates and Greathead, 1997)

How do they reproduce?

Anthrax albofasciatus mates in the spring and summer. Both the males and females likely mate many times with many different mates throughout their lives. Not much else is known about their mating habits. (Gerling and Hermann, 1976)

Anthrax albofasciatus mates and lays eggs during the spring and summer. A single female can lay up to 2000 eggs, and they lay the eggs in many different wasp nests. Once they hatch, the larvae are parasites on the wasps. (Gerling and Hermann, 1976; Marston, 1964)

  • How often does reproduction occur?
    Once they emerge, adult Anthrax albofasciatus breed continuously throught the summer.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season is throughout the warm months of the spring and summer.
  • Range eggs per season
    800 to 3000

Females of Anthrax albofasciatus will mate then lay eggs near or in the nest of a wasp. This provides food for the larvae when they hatch, since they eat the wasps. Females also put nutrients in the eggs that the larvae will use to grow before they hatch. After the eggs are laid, the females do not return to give any parental care. (Gerling and Hermann, 1976; Marston, 1964)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female

How long do they live?

Adults likely live for a few weeks during the summer after emerging from pupation. (Marston, 1964)

How do they behave?

Adults of Anthrax albofasciatus are bee flies that spend their time alone, meeting with others only to mate. They are active during the day. Larvae are parasites of wasps. (Marston, 1964; Marston, 1970)

How do they communicate with each other?

There is little information about this, but it is likely that these bee flies use sight, touch, and detect chemicals to communicate with other bee flies, as well as gather information about the environment around them.

What do they eat?

Larvae are parasites that feed on the bodies of wasps. These wasps are typically species that nest in the sand, such as Tachysphex terminatus. Adults likely feed on nectar from flowers, but this is not known for sure. (Marston, 1963; Marston, 1964; Marston, 1970)

  • Animal Foods
  • body fluids
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • nectar

What eats them and how do they avoid being eaten?

It is not known what other animals prey on Anthrax albofasciatus.

  • These animal colors help protect them
  • cryptic

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

The main effect of this bee fly species on the ecosystem is that the larvae are parasites of wasp species. The bee flies kill the wasps, and in large numbers, the bee flies could significantly shrink the wasp population. The adults may pollinate flowers, since it is thought they drink the nectar, but researchers are not sure. (Gerling and Hermann, 1976; Marston, 1963; Marston, 1964; Marston, 1970)

Species (or larger taxonomic groups) used as hosts by this species

Do they cause problems?

Anthrax albofasciatus does not cause any problems for humans.

How do they interact with us?

Anthrax albofasciatus does not have any positive effects on humans.

Are they endangered?

Anthrax albofasciatus is not an endangered species.

Some more information...

Contributors

Liane Racelis (author), University of Michigan Biological Station, Brian Scholtens (editor), University of Michigan Biological Station, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.

References

Cunha, A., C. Lamas. 2004. Description of five Anthrax Scopoli puparia (Diptera, Bombyliidae, Anthracinae, Anthracini). Zootaxa, 741: 1-14. Accessed June 28, 2013 at http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2004f/z00741f.pdf.

Evenhuis, N. 1999. World catalog of bee flies. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers.

Gerling, D., H. Hermann. 1976. The oviposition and life cycle of Anthrax tigrinus [Dipt.: Bombyliidae] a parasite of carpenter bees [Hym.: Xylocopidae]. Entomophaga, 21: 227-233. Accessed June 28, 2013 at http://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF02371755.pdf.

Hull, F. 1973. Bee flies of the world. City of Washington: Smithsonian Institute Press.

Kits, J., S. Marshall, N. Evenhuis. 2008. The bee flies (Diptera: Bombyliidae) of Ontario, with a key to the species of eastern Canada. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, 6: 1-52. Accessed June 28, 2013 at http://www.biology.ualberta.ca/bsc/ejournal/kme_06/kme_06.pdf.

Lamas, C., M. Couri. 1999. Description of the pupae of Anthrax oedipus oedipus Fabricius and Anthrax oedipus aquilus Marston (Diptera, Bombyliidae, Anthracinae). Revista Brasileira de Zoologia, 16: 977-980. Accessed June 28, 2013 at http://www.scielo.br/pdf/rbzool/v16n4/v16n4a05.pdf.

Marston, N. 1963. A revision of the Nearctic species of the albofasciatus group of the genus Anthrax Scopoli (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Kansas Agric. Exp. Sta. Tech. Bull., 127: 1-79.

Marston, N. 1964. The biology of Anthrax limatulus fur (Osten Sacken), with a key to and descriptions of pupae of some species in the Anthrax albofasciatus and trimaculatus groups (Diptera: Bombyliidae). J. Kans. Entomol. Soc., 37: 89-105.

Marston, N. 1970. Revision of New World species of Anthrax (Diptera: Bombyliidae), other than the Anthrax albofasciatus group. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, 43: 1-148. Accessed June 29, 2013 at http://www.sil.si.edu/smithsoniancontributions/zoology/pdf_hi/SCTZ-0043.pdf.

Minckley, R. 1989. Host records and biological notes for two Anthrax species in Arizona (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 62: 274-278. Accessed June 29, 2013 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/25085083.pdf?acceptTC=true.

Scott, V., K. Strickler. 1992. New host records for two species of Anthrax (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 65: 393-402. Accessed August 03, 2013 at http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdfplus/25085388.pdf.

Yeates, D., D. Greathead. 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. Accessed June 29, 2013 at http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1095-8312.1997.tb01490.x/pdf.

 
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Racelis, L. 2014. "Anthrax albofasciatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed December 17, 2017 at http://www.biokids.umich.edu/accounts/Anthrax_albofasciatus/

BioKIDS is sponsored in part by the Interagency Education Research Initiative. It is a partnership of the University of Michigan School of Education, University of Michigan Museum of Zoology, and the Detroit Public Schools. This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant DRL-0628151.
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