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New Records of the Rarely Collected Ant-decapitating Fly Apocephalus tenuipes Borgmeier (Diptera: Phoridae)
JoVonn G. Hill and Brian V. Brown

Southeastern Naturalist, Volume 5, Number 2 (2006): 367–368

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2006 SOUTHEASTERN NATURALIST 5(2):367–368 New Records of the Rarely Collected Ant-decapitating Fly Apocephalus tenuipes Borgmeier (Diptera: Phoridae) JoVonn G. Hill1 ,* and Brian V. Brown2 Abstract - The ant-decapitating fly Apocephalus tenuipes (Diptera: Phoridae) was known previously only from two Florida specimens. Here we report two additional Florida records and a Mississippi record that represents a significant range extension. Field observations of A. tenuipes are presented as well. Species in the genus Apocephalus (Phoridae) are all parasitoids, the majority of which attack ants. Some develop in the heads of their hosts, and are commonly known as “ant-decapitating flies.” A female fly will hover over an anto of its preferred host species, dart down to pierce it with a swordlike ovipositor, and lay a single egg inside the ant’s body. After the egg hatches, the larva begins to feed on the muscles and tissues inside the head capsule, and sometimes cause the head of the ant to fall off before the rest of the body stops moving (Brown 1995, 2002; Pergande 1901). Apocephalus tenuipes Borgmeier (Fig. 1) was described from a single female specimen collected in Polk County, FL, on 11 September 1938 (Borgmeier 1963). This species is structurally interesting because the apical foretarsomere is elongate and narrowed, apparently serving a sensory function; similar narrowing is known in the apical tarsomeres of a number of other phorids, such as A. tenuitarsus Brown, Dacnophora spp., and Myrmosicarius spp., all of which are ant parasitoids. Burges (1979) provides the only behavioral and host information concerning A. tenuipes, and reported collecting a single female from a group of two or three flies that he observed 1Mississippi Entomological Museum, Box 9775, Mississippi State, MS, 39762. 2Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, 900 Exposition Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90007. *Corresponding author - Figure 1. Left lateral view of a female Apoc e p h a l u s t e n u i p e s . Scale line = 1 mm. 368 Southeastern Naturalist Vol. 5, No. 2 hovering above and landing on minor workers of the ant, Pheidole dentata Mayr, in Palm Beach County, FL, on 26 September 1978. Here we report three additional records of A. tenuipes, two from Florida and one from Mississippi, the latter record representing a significant range extension. Two of the records confirm the host record of P. dentata. Additional information on the behavior of A. tenuipes is given as well. Voucher specimens have been deposited in the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the Mississippi Entomological Museum. New Records Florida Highlands County. Lake Placid, Archbold Biological Station, 14–16 April 1989, B. Brown, D. Feener; attacking Pheidole dentata workers on tuna baits. (3 females). Putnam County. Hollister, 26 April 1985, E.G. Milstrey; emerged from puparium in gopher tortoise burrow (1 female). Mississippi Oktibbeha County. Osborn, 33°30'21"N 88°44'09"W, 24 July 2003, J.G. Hill; attacking Pheidole dentata majors in Black Belt Prairie (2 females). At approximately 9:00 a.m. on 24 July 2003 a Pheidole dentata colony in a Black Belt prairie remnant in Mississippi was excavated in order to collect major workers. As the workers were being collected, several flies were noticed hovering approximately 4–6 cm above the mass of ants. The flies would dart down and quickly touch the heads of the Pheidole majors in an apparent attempt to oviposit. No attempts by the flies to oviposit on the Pheidole minors were observed. Two of the flies were collected with an aspirator as they hovered above the colony. Acknowledgments Thanks to Richard Brown, Terry Schiefer, and Clarence Collison for their comments on this manuscript, and to Joe MacGown for providing the illustration of A. tenuipes and comments on the manuscript. This research was supported by the USDAARS Area-Wide Management of Imported Fire Ant Project. Literature Cited Borgmeier, T. 1963. Revision of the North American phorid flies. Part 1. The Phorinae, Aenigmatiinae, and Metopininae, except Megaselia (Diptera, Phoridae). Studia Entomologica 6:1–256. Brown, B.V. 1995. Ant-decapitating flies: Nature’s executioners. Terra Magazine 32(1–2):4. Brown, B.V. 2002. Revision of the Apocephalus pergandei-group of ant-decapitating flies (Diptera: Phoridae). Contributions in Science No. 496. 58 pp. Burges, R.J. 1979. A rare fly and its parasitic behavior toward an ant (Diptera: Phoridae; Hymenoptera: Formicidae ). Florida Entomologist 62(4):413–414. Pergande, T. 1901. The ant-decapitating fly. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington 4:497–502.