Author Archive

Insect of the week – number 18

Friday, May 7th, 2010

Diptera: Psychodidae: Telmatoscopus Clogmia albipunctata (Williston, 1983)

Thursday morning I awoke with the plan to do a write up on green pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum, for the NC insect of the week. I had been waging a personal war against the aphids which had been attacking my garden peas, tomatoes and beans for weeks. However, as I slowly meandered sleepy-eyed into the kitchen desperate for coffee, I noticed a moth fly (Psychodidae) perched upon my kitchen counter. Dedicated to my coffee mission, I neglected to collect the beautiful hairy fly that sat so peacefully near the sink. When I arrived on campus, I thought I might have a look in the collection to see if I could pinpoint to which species, or at least genus, to which my hairy friend might belong.

Psychodids can be identified to genus based on characters such as the presence of an eye bridge, the shape of the flagellomeres and mouth parts, and wing venation. Of course, my 60 second eyeball examination of this fly and lack of entomological skills first thing in the morning was not going to give me enough clues to positively identify this fly to species. However, there was a series of specimens in the NCSU collection that were identified as Telmatoscopus albipunctatus. These flies bore striking resemblance to the fly I observed earlier that morning. Interestingly, almost of the collecting localities were in Raleigh or nearby counties from inside of houses. I very unscientifically decided that this was the fly I saw, and decided this was going to be the insect of the week.

Photo Credit: leandrocarvalhobr, from Flickr.

T. albipunctatus is a species in the subfamily Psychodinae, which are commonly referred to as sewer flies, drain flies, filter flies, bathroom flies, or moscas de baño. These flies are readily identified by their hairy bodies and hairy wings with a characteristic frond shape and long, primarily straight veins to the tip of the wings. Psychodinae includes 10 valid genera (according to ITIS). There is some confusion, at least on my part, over the valid genus and species name. There are many publications that list the bionominal as Clogmia albipunctata (Williston, 1893) (=Telmatoscopus). However, Telmatoscopus is listed as the current generic assignment in the ITIS database (I would be happy to hear comments from the dipterists). A junior synonym the original name given to this species by Williston in 1983, Psychoda albipunctata.

The larvae of this group of flies are aquatic to semi-aquatic, have sclerotized plates on the dorsal side of the body and a characteristic siphon (see photo below) for breathing in low oxygen environments, such as mud. Larvae are often found in decomposing vegetation and therefore are often associated with the sludge found in sink drains, where food particles have collected and decayed. Thus, the adults are found in bathrooms, showers, and kitchens. A quick search on the internet will reveal many people trying to destroy these adorable little flies, as they can become quite the household nuisance. Recently, T. albipunctatus was reported in the gastro-intestinal tract of a Taiwanese man, suggesting these flies might be more than a nuisance if accidently ingested. Although GBIF only lists this species from Japan, they are clearly in Raleigh and other Nearctic locations, and certainly have a much larger distribution.

Photo Credit and Copyright: Ashley Bradford.

In the NCSU Insect collection, the oldest specimen dates back to August 2, 1926, and was collected here in Raleigh, NC (see below). I believe the collector’s name was J.W. Dexmark, but the handwritten name is difficult to make out. There is a large series of specimens collected by C.S. Brimley, who worked for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Several labels actually have Z.P. Metcalf’s typed name on the label as the collector, with the initials of Brimley (CSB) handwritten overtop. The most recent specimen was collected in 1974 on July 1st by H. Blackmore in Dunn, NC. The habitat information reads “inside house”.

Oldest specimen in the NCSU Insect Collection.

Find out more

Telmatoscopus albipunctatus (Williston, 1983) records in GBIF. Only 10 specimens, all from Japan.

Clogmia albipunctata (Williston, 1983) on BugGuide.