Tachinid Fly – Archytas sp.

Tachinid Fly – Archytas sp.
Oder Diptera / Family Tachinidae

Live adult flies photographed at Winfield, Illinois. Size: 13mm.

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Tachinidae is a large and diverse family of flies (Diptera) consisting of about 10,000 described species worldwide and about 1400 described species in America north of Mexico. All tachinids are internal parasitoids of other arthropods during their larval stage. Hosts are primarily immatures of moths, sawflies and beetles, and adults of beetles and bugs.

This tachinid fly is one of my favorites. It's a huge, hairy fly with a blue metallic abdomen. I frequently encounter it nectaring on flowers and mucking about amongst the vegetation, never on offal or other nasty things like many of the more disgusting fly varieties. I would not allow just any fly to walk my skin with impunity; Archytas is just, well, special. (My affection is probably misplaced, and this bugger is just as filthy and revolting as all the others, but what can I say?  One has to find something pleasant to think about.)

Live adult flies photographed in the wild at Winfield IL USA. Various times late June – October.
Special thanks to Dr. James E. O'Hara, Ph.D. North American Dipterist Society for identifying these specimens.

Family Tachinidae

Few tachinids are known to be host-specific, although some species of the genus Phasiinae are limited to a few Hemiptera hosts. Many tachinids will attack insect hosts in 2 or more different orders. Many tachinids parasitize major agricultural pests of food or timber crops, and have potential for use as biological control agents, but most attempts at using them in such wise have been dismal failures.

Among the methods tachinids use to infect their subjects are the oviparous species that place large, macrotype eggs directly on the body of the host, the micro-oviparous, which place tiny, microtype eggs on foliage or other foodstuffs being consumed by the host, or the larviparous, which retain their eggs until maturity; these eggs hatch immediately upon being laid on or near the target. Some female tachinidae that attack bugs or beetles have piercing ovipositors much like wasps in the Hymenoptera family Ichneumonidae.

Adult flies can be found almost anywhere. I usually see them feeding at flowers or amongst low vegetation.

Tachinid fly flying
Taking off, Archytas folds its proboscis under its head

Archytas of Tarentum (c. 428-350 B.C.) – Greek statesman, military commander, leading Pythagorean mathematician and philosopher; often called the father of mathematical mechanics. His theories on the exact sciences were based on two principles: that there is no absolute difference between the organic and the inorganic world; and that the law of causality cannot interpret phenomena.

In mathematics, Archytas was the first to distinguish between arithmetic and geometric progressions; he also found a solution to the problem of doubling the cube. He is believed to be the inventor of the screw and the pulley, and is considered a forefather of mechanical flight. Aristotle wrote a treatise on his works, and there is a crater on Earth's moon named after him.

Flies of North America – Order Diptera. Flies are prevalent in virtually all habitats, with over 16,000 species in North America. Flies can be distinguished from all other insects in that they only have one pair of normal wings. Most flies have compound eyes and mouthparts adapted for piercing, lapping or sucking fluids.
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