Apocephalus

the ant-decapitating flies


Introduction

The genus Apocephalus Coquillett is the largest group of ant-parasitizing flies in the family Phoridae. All species of Apocephalus, subgenus Apocephalus, are parasitoids of adult ants, and because many species develop in the ant’s head, they have acquired the common name ‘ant decapitating flies.’ Species of the other subgenus, Mesophora Borgmeier, are parasitoids of other hosts, such as bees, wasps, and cantharoid beetles (Brown, 1996).

Like most phorids, ant-decapitating flies are poorly known, probably because they are small, inconspicuous flies (1–4 mm in body length). Their activities, however, are believed to have profound effects on the ants that they parasitize, and behavioral ecologists have a growing interest in studying phorid flies for both basic ecological and evolutionary science (e.g., LeBrun, 2005; LeBrun and Feener, 2007; Morehead et al., 2001; Philpott et al., 2004; Wilkinson and Feener, 2007) and for their potential to control pest ants (e.g., Morrison, 2000, and many other papers).