|Male Scathophaga stercoraria (L.), the Common Yellow Dung-fly.|
The Scathophagidae is a small family of Muscoidea which are often known as "Dung-flies" although this name is not appropriate except for a few species of the genus Scathophaga which do indeed pass their larval stages in animal dung. The name probably derives from the "Common Yellow Dung-fly", S. stercoraria, which is one of the most abundant and ubiquitous flies in many parts of the northern hemisphere. Scathophagidae are medium-sized or quite small flies with a body length of 3.0 to 12.0 mm. The body is slender,especially in males, usually with an elongate cylindrical abdomen.Many Scatophaga appear more robust, however, due to a dense pubescence .Colour of body from yellow to black; some species are glossy, but never with a metallic gloss. The eyes are wide-set on the frons in male. The bristles on the head and thorax are well developed.
The larval-biology of this family is actually quite diverse including plant feeders (leaf miners, stem-borers or feeding in seed capsules), aquatic predators and predators on other insect larvae in wet situations - such as piles of rotting vegetable matter, seaweed or dung. The adults are predators on other small insects, and while they are commonly seen on flowers, they are hunting prey there, rather than acting as pollinators. They are, in fact, one of the better predators of blow-flies, and are thus beneficial agents of biological control.
Worldwide, there are about 500 described species in 66 genera. The great majority are found in the Palearctic and Nearctic regions and the family is almost confined to the northern hemisphere with only 5 species so far known from the southern hemisphere (and two of those are common northern species of Scathophaga which have probably been imported with livestock into South Africa and Brazil). The most diverse fauna is found in the Russian Far East and many new species have been described from this area over the last couple of decades. Because of the northerly distribution of many species, even within the Holarctic, Vockeroth (1987) has described this as the most northerly-distributed of all fly families. He reports that, of the 150 species recorded from Canada, 25 are confined to the arctic tundra.
54 species are currently recorded from the British Isles and nearly all of these have a Holarctic distribution.
- K.B. Gorodkov Family Scatophagidae (Cordyluridae, Scatomyzidae, Scopeumatidae) in Bei-Bienko, G. Ya, 1988 Keys to the insects of the European Part of the USSR Volume 5 (Diptera) Part 2 English edition.
- Hackman, W., 1956. The Scatophagidae (Dipt.) of Eastern Fennoscandia. Societas Fauna Flora Fennica, Fauna Fennica 2: 1-67, Fig. 1-165, Helsinki.
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- Vockeroth, V.R. (1987). "Scathophagidae". Agriculture Canada Monographs 28: 1085–1097.