Anthrax albofasciatus

Geographic Range

Anthrax albofasciatus, a species of bee fly, can be found from Ontario in the Nearctic region south through Brazil in the Neotropical region. (Kits, et al., 2008)


Anthrax albofasciatus occurs in open, dry, and sandy habitats and openings in forests. These habitats allow for the greatest abundance and diversity of aculeate Hymenoptera, the species most often parasitized by larvae of Anthrax albofasciatus. (Kits, et al., 2008; Kits, et al., 2008; Marston, 1963; Marston, 1964)

Physical Description

The body of Anthrax albofasciatus is dark in color, with some lighter colored hairs or scales on the sides and end of the abdomen. It is 3.5 to 8.1 mm in length, with a wingspan of 8 to 18 mm. The wings are mostly clear but have spots in three main groups at the base and a distinct spot at the base of cell r4. This species is most similar to Anthrax picea and Anthrax pauper, but the former has a distinct spot at the base of m1 in addition to the one at r4, and the latter lacks both of these spots). The gonocoxites of the male can also be used for identification. In this species the distal lobes of the gonocoxites are 1 to 1 1/2 times longer than wide, and straight or slightly curved on the inner margins. (Kits, et al., 2008; Marston, 1963; Marston, 1964)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range length
    3.5 to 8.1 mm
    0.14 to 0.32 in
  • Average length
    5.6 mm
    0.22 in
  • Range wingspan
    8 to 18 mm
    0.31 to 0.71 in


Anthrax albofasciatus, along with many other bee flies are parasitoids in development and mature as free-living adults. Adults will often oviposit near their host or directly in the nests of their host. The development of a related species, Anthrax fur, has been well documented by Marston (1964). Eggs emerged over an extended period of time. The first instar larva is very active and crawls around until it finally attaches to the thorax of the host, starting to feed. The larva may move on the host while it continues to feed. The parasitoid larva doesn't molt to the second instar until its host spins its cocoon inside the nest. At that point the larva changes form as a part of the usual hypermetamorphosis of this family, and becomes more immobile, after which it feeds continuously through the 2nd and 3rd instars by puncturing the exoskeleton and feeding on internal fluids, gradually consuming the host. The larva usually overwinters as a full grown larva, pupating the next spring inside the host nest, then emerging as an adult. Anthrax albofasciatus has been documented parasitizing the nests of aculeate Hymenoptera, particularly Sphecidae. Development occurs over the period of one year, with adults emerging during the late spring and early summer. (Marston, 1964; Yeates and Greathead, 1997)


Although no detailed study of the mating system of this species has been conducted, it is known that mating takes place in the spring and summer. Both the males and females likely mate multiple times with many different mates throughout their lives. (Gerling and Hermann, 1976)

Anthrax albofasciatus mates and lays eggs during the spring and summer. Mating behavior in this species has not been studied in detail, but Marston has examined the behavior of Anthrax limatulus, and found that females deposit numerous eggs (up to 2000) and utilize many different wasp nests, where the wasps serve as host to the larvae. Anthrax limatulus generally uses wasp nests placed on vertical surfaces, but A. albofasciatus (and other species in its species group) generally use wasp nests dug in horizontal surfaces, usually in sandy areas. Marston (1964) noted that Kurczewski had observed females ovipositing on the depressed areas of temporary nest closures of Tachysphex terminatus (Sphecidae), and he obtained pupae from these nests. In other related species, the female has a "perivaginal pouch" that is used as a "soil chamber". She rubs this against the ground to collect soil so that eggs can pass through before being deposited. (Gerling and Hermann, 1976; Marston, 1964)

  • Breeding interval
    Once they emerge, adult Anthrax albofasciatus breed continuously throught the summer.
  • Breeding season
    The breeding season is throughout the warm months of the spring and summer.
  • Range eggs per season
    800 to 3000

Female Anthrax albofasciatus will mate then lay eggs near the nest of the host larvae (usually holometabolous insects such as Hymenoptera). This provides a food source for the larvae after hatching, as the larvae feeds on the host as an external parasitoid eventually killing its host. She also likely provides provisioning in her eggs. After the eggs are laid, there is no more parental care. (Gerling and Hermann, 1976; Marston, 1964)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female


Nothing is known about adult longevity. Presumably, adults live for several weeks during the summer, with adult emergence spread over the summer as is seen in Anthrax limatulus. (Marston, 1964)


Anthrax albofasciatus is an independent living bee fly that meets others only to mate and reproduce. Adults are diurnal. Larvae are parasites of wasps. Females are known to choose wasp nests in horizontal surfaces, generally in sand, as oviposition sites. (Marston, 1964; Marston, 1970)

Communication and Perception

Nothing is known about how this species communicates, locates potential mates, or finds oviposition sites. Most other diurnal flies will use a combination of tactile, visual and chemical cues, and it is likely Anthrax albofasciatus does also. (Marston, 1964)

Food Habits

Anthrax albofasciatus is known to choose sand-nesting Hymenoptera as hosts for larvae. They are documented using Tachysphex terminatus, but probably use many other species.

Adults may feed at flowers, but most Anthrax are infrequent flower visitors and adult food sources are not well documented. (Marston, 1963; Marston, 1964; Marston, 1970)

  • Animal Foods
  • body fluids
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • nectar


Nothing is known about potential predators or parasitoids of Anthrax albofasciatus.

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • cryptic

Ecosystem Roles

The main impact of this and related species is as a parasitoid of aculeate Hymenoptera, such as Tachysphex terminatus. At large population sizes Anthrax albofasciatus could control populations of these wasps. They probably have little role as pollinators as adults, because they are not known to visit flowers regularly. (Gerling and Hermann, 1976; Marston, 1963; Marston, 1964; Marston, 1970)

Species Used as Host

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

There are no known positive effects of Anthrax albofasciatus on humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Anthrax albofasciatus on humans.

Conservation Status

Anthrax albofasciatus as no special conservation status.

Other Comments

Opportunities for future study of this species include examining nesting preferences, mating behavior, and sensory perception.


Liane Racelis (author), University of Michigan Biological Station, Brian Scholtens (editor), University of Michigan Biological Station, Angela Miner (editor), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map


living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


an animal that mainly eats meat


Found in coastal areas between 30 and 40 degrees latitude, in areas with a Mediterranean climate. Vegetation is dominated by stands of dense, spiny shrubs with tough (hard or waxy) evergreen leaves. May be maintained by periodic fire. In South America it includes the scrub ecotone between forest and paramo.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


having markings, coloration, shapes, or other features that cause an animal to be camouflaged in its natural environment; being difficult to see or otherwise detect.

desert or dunes

in deserts low (less than 30 cm per year) and unpredictable rainfall results in landscapes dominated by plants and animals adapted to aridity. Vegetation is typically sparse, though spectacular blooms may occur following rain. Deserts can be cold or warm and daily temperates typically fluctuate. In dune areas vegetation is also sparse and conditions are dry. This is because sand does not hold water well so little is available to plants. In dunes near seas and oceans this is compounded by the influence of salt in the air and soil. Salt limits the ability of plants to take up water through their roots.


a period of time when growth or development is suspended in insects and other invertebrates, it can usually only be ended the appropriate environmental stimulus.

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.

animals which must use heat acquired from the environment and behavioral adaptations to regulate body temperature


union of egg and spermatozoan


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.


the state that some animals enter during winter in which normal physiological processes are significantly reduced, thus lowering the animal's energy requirements. The act or condition of passing winter in a torpid or resting state, typically involving the abandonment of homoiothermy in mammals.


An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


A large change in the shape or structure of an animal that happens as the animal grows. In insects, "incomplete metamorphosis" is when young animals are similar to adults and change gradually into the adult form, and "complete metamorphosis" is when there is a profound change between larval and adult forms. Butterflies have complete metamorphosis, grasshoppers have incomplete metamorphosis.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


an animal that mainly eats nectar from flowers


reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.


an organism that obtains nutrients from other organisms in a harmful way that doesn't cause immediate death


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


lives alone


uses touch to communicate


that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.


A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.


uses sight to communicate


Cunha, A., C. Lamas. 2004. Description of five Anthrax Scopoli puparia (Diptera, Bombyliidae, Anthracinae, Anthracini). Zootaxa, 741: 1-14. Accessed June 28, 2013 at

Evenhuis, N. 1999. World catalog of bee flies. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publishers.

Gerling, D., H. Hermann. 1976. The oviposition and life cycle of Anthrax tigrinus [Dipt.: Bombyliidae] a parasite of carpenter bees [Hym.: Xylocopidae]. Entomophaga, 21: 227-233. Accessed June 28, 2013 at

Hull, F. 1973. Bee flies of the world. City of Washington: Smithsonian Institute Press.

Kits, J., S. Marshall, N. Evenhuis. 2008. The bee flies (Diptera: Bombyliidae) of Ontario, with a key to the species of eastern Canada. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification, 6: 1-52. Accessed June 28, 2013 at

Lamas, C., M. Couri. 1999. Description of the pupae of Anthrax oedipus oedipus Fabricius and Anthrax oedipus aquilus Marston (Diptera, Bombyliidae, Anthracinae). Revista Brasileira de Zoologia, 16: 977-980. Accessed June 28, 2013 at

Marston, N. 1963. A revision of the Nearctic species of the albofasciatus group of the genus Anthrax Scopoli (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Kansas Agric. Exp. Sta. Tech. Bull., 127: 1-79.

Marston, N. 1964. The biology of Anthrax limatulus fur (Osten Sacken), with a key to and descriptions of pupae of some species in the Anthrax albofasciatus and trimaculatus groups (Diptera: Bombyliidae). J. Kans. Entomol. Soc., 37: 89-105.

Marston, N. 1970. Revision of New World species of Anthrax (Diptera: Bombyliidae), other than the Anthrax albofasciatus group. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, 43: 1-148. Accessed June 29, 2013 at

Minckley, R. 1989. Host records and biological notes for two Anthrax species in Arizona (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 62: 274-278. Accessed June 29, 2013 at

Scott, V., K. Strickler. 1992. New host records for two species of Anthrax (Diptera: Bombyliidae). Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society, 65: 393-402. Accessed August 03, 2013 at

Yeates, D., D. Greathead. 1997. The evolutionary pattern of host use in the Bombyliidae (Diptera): a diverse family of parasitoid flies. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 60: 149-185. Accessed June 29, 2013 at