British Insects: the Families of Diptera


L. Watson and M. J. Dallwitz


Midges, Biting Midges, Sand-flies.

Life style parasitic (the adults often blood-sucking), or non-parasitic; on when parasitic, wide ranging humans, mammals other than humans, Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, and Odonata (etc.).

Adult insects. Very small; not stilt-legged. Antennae 8–16 segmented; ‘simple’ (hairy, and plumed in males); not aristate. Ocelli absent. Eyes rounded, well separated. Mouthparts functional; short, adapted for piercing (the females being ‘biting midges’), or non-piercing (males). Mandibles present (in both males and females). Mandibles not in the form of long, slender, piercing stylets. The maxillary palps 3–5 segmented; drooping. Vibrissae absent. Thorax without a continuous dorsal suture (i.e., without a V-shaped suture). Wing veins reaching the margin 6–8 (with vein 4 forked). Wings without a discal cell; without a sub-apical cell; without a closed anal cell. The costa not extending around the entire wing. Sub-costa apparent; terminating blind (but long). The leading edge veins markedly stronger than the rest. Wing vein 4 forked distally. Wings with the lower calypter much reduced or absent. Commonly parasitic (some sucking mammalian blood, most taking juices from adult insects - butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, bugs, even mosqitoes - or their larvae), or neither parasitic nor predatory.

Larvae and pupae. The larvae aquatic, or terrestrial; phytophagous (e.g., aquatic forms feeding on algae, terrestrial forms on nectar and exudates from wounded trees), or saprophagous, or coprophagous (e.g., in farmyard puddles); eucephalic. The pupae without a puparium.

Comments. Minute flies, sometimes with broad wings. Wings folded one above the other, and held over the body, when at rest. Fore-legs not elongated, by contrast with Chironomidae. Clouds of Biting Midges of the genus Culicoides are notoriously irritating to humans, especially on evenings in sultry weather, and are capable of transmitting blood parasites.

Classification. Suborder Nematocera; Division Culicomorpha; Superfamily Chironomoidea.

British representation. 161 species in Britain. Genera 21; Allohelea, Alluaudomyia, Atrichopogon, Bezzia, Brachypogon, Ceratopogon, Clinohelea, Culicoides, Dasyhelea, Forcipomyia, Homobezzia, Kolenohelea, Mallochohelea, Neurohelea, Palpomyia, Phaenobezzia, Probezzia, Schizohelea, Serromyia, Sphaeromyas, Stilobezzia.

Illustrations. • Allohelea, Palpomyia, Serromyia, Sphaeromyias (from Walker). • Sphaeromias fasciatus (Original generic description. White-bordered Sphaeromias: B. Ent. 285). • Sphaeromias fasciatus (detail and dissections: B. Ent. 285). • Sphaeromias fasciatus (B. Ent. 285, legend+text). • Sphaeromias fasciatus (B. Ent. 285, text cont.). • Forcipomyia palustris (?):as Ceratopogon palustris, Stephens 1846.

To view the illustrations with detailed captions, go to the interactive key. This also offers full and partial descriptions, diagnostic descriptions, differences and similarities between taxa, lists of taxa exhibiting or lacking specified attributes, and distributions of character states within any set of taxa.

Cite this publication as: ‘Watson, L., and Dallwitz, M.J. 2003 onwards. British insects: the families of Diptera. Version: 1st January 2012.’.