Tmemophlebia coquilletti

Geographic Range

Tmemophlebia coquilletti is a species of bee fly that is widespread across the Nearctic and Neotropical regions, from southern Canada to Brazil. (Kits, et al., 2008; McLeod, 2012)


The genus Tmemophlebia can be found on or near sand dunes or other sandy, arid, regions. (McLeod, 2012)

Physical Description

Tmemophlebia coquilletti is a grey species with whitish pollinosity (powdery appearance.) It has a long proboscis in relation to the size of the body. Antenna are above the proboscis in close proximity, jutting out between the compound eyes perpendicularly. Its wings are slightly milky with pale veins. Males have a yellow to brown femora basally. The females have an upper “H” pattern on the legs. The posterior portion of the head is short and wide. This species is usually smaller, ranging between 1.5 to 3.5 mm. The males have a subglobular epandrium (sex organ) with sclerotized villi on the dorsal surface. (Kits, et al., 2008)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes colored or patterned differently
  • Range length
    1.5 to 3.5 mm
    0.06 to 0.14 in


Bombyliidae are holometabolous and develop through hypermetamorphosis in which the first instar planidium differ morphologically from the other larval instars. This larval stage is active and adapted for dispersal. The planidium is elongate, has two long setae and fleshy pseudopods at the apex of the abdomen and a pair of long setae on each thoracic segment for movement. It penetrates the host's nest, then turns into a sedentary parasitoid within the host. The common hosts of Tmemophlebia coquilletti are moths of the families Gelechiidae and Tortricidae. Endoparasitic Bombyliidae like T. coquilletti consume the body of the host after it has pupated. The pupa is equipped with spines and hairs on the head, thorax and abdomen, used to drill out of the dorsal side of the host, where it leaves a relatively wide integument hole. The pupae emerges from the nest, and then emerges from pupation as a flying adult equipped with sex organs. (Bartlett, 2013; Kits, et al., 2008; Yeates and Greathead, 1997)


Female Bombyliidae fly to elevated landmarks solely for the purpose of mating with males that have aggregated there. This phenomena is known as hilltopping. No interactive courtship behavior was detectable prior to midair coupling to engage in mating. Females are free to choose mates but males have been observed intercepting a female as she flies over him. It is not known whether females can prevent matings after being grabbed. Copulations throughout the Bombyliidae family can last over 100 minutes on average.

Territorial fights between males before choosing a mate involve aerial collisions during which modified spines on the wing margins produce scars on the bodies of opponents. Territory owners and mating males are not different in size or age from the remainder of the male population. (Yeates and Dodson, 1990)

An organ on the end of the female abdomen of almost all bee flies is modified to include a pouch immediately posterior to the genital chamber. The sand chamber pouch is surrounded by elongate setae and enlarged spines. The sand chamber and its associated parts function to gather and hold small particles of substrate which become glued to the eggs. Egg deposition is almost always conducted while hovering. Eggs are laid in a host nest. The number of eggs produced by bee flies is wide ranging, and unknown for this species. Other bee fly species produce anywhere from 100 to 3000 eggs. (Yeates and Greathead, 1997)

There seems to be no known parental investment by male bee flies but there may be a possibility for the storage of nutrient rich ejaculate into the female during copulation. Copulation for Bombyliidae lasts 2 to 15 minutes, providing the potential for transfer of large quantities of sperm or other components into the female for use to develop the eggs. Female investment lies in the energy and resources it invests towards the formation of the zygote and the collecting and gluing of small particles of substrate to eggs before flicking them off her body. (Yeates and Greathead, 1997)

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning


Tmemophlebia coquilletti adults likely live for about a month. (Kits, et al., 2008)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    1 months


Bee flies are very mobile, hovering or skillfully flying in their adult life. Bee flies are solitary as adults except for the hours when they mate or when males partake in territorial fights. The egg and larva stay in groups on or in the host insect before emerging. Bombyliidae are diurnal and most active in the presence of sunlight. (Yeates and Dodson, 1990)

Communication and Perception

Since the eggs of bee flies are laid in the nest and not on the host, the newly hatched offspring are responsible for finding hosts, which requires an actively searching larvae. Such planidiform larvae have evolved independently in families such as Bombyliidae which allows larvae to find hosts inaccessible to adult bee flies. Little is known about the type of perception used for larvae to do so. Adult Diptera often use visual, chemical, and acoustic social communication but more research into the social behaviors of Bombyliidae needs to be done. (Feener and Brown, 1997)

  • Other Communication Modes
  • mimicry

Food Habits

Bee flies are nectar and pollen feeders as adults. Tmemophlebia coquilletti has been observed feeding on Pitcher's Thistle (Cirsium pitcheri) which is a threatened species of the Asteraceae family that grows on the coastal sand dunes of the Great Lakes. Others in the Phthiriinae subfamily are presumed to feed on Asteraceae throughout the Americas as well. Larva and pupa parasitize and feed on an insect host. (Kits, et al., 2008; Whelan and Bowles, 1994)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • nectar
  • pollen


Bombyliidae demonstrate Batesian mimicry. The coloration, body patterns, and shape of Tmemophlebia coquilletti are similar to certain Hymenoptera, which discourages predators from preying on it. One known predator is insectivorous birds. (Bartlett, 2013; McLeod, 2012)

  • Anti-predator Adaptations
  • mimic
  • Known Predators

Ecosystem Roles

Tmemophlebia is known to parasitize Gelechiidae larvae, which commonly feed on the Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga) and other coniferous fir trees. The Douglas fir is capable of being a pioneer species, affecting the distribution and richness of other surrounding trees and vegetation. This dominant conifer represents a habitat for for birds, bats, and other organisms that eat the Gelechiidae. Tmemophlebia coquilletti can have a negative affect on the population of the Gelechiidae moth which could in turn affect the feeding habits of bats and insectivorous birds in surrounding habitats, but also limit damage to Douglas fir trees.

Tmemophlebia is also known to parasitize Tortricidae moth larvae. This moth family has more than 500 species that feed on fruits, with a large impact on apples. Increased populations of T. coquilletti could have a negative impact on the populations of Tortricidae and therefore would limit the destruction of fruit plants and crops.

Tmemophlebia could also have a positive impact on the Pitcher's Thistle plant (Cirsium pitcheri), which is currently endemic to small areas of the Great Lakes coastal dunes. Pollination, specifically by T. coquilletti is of great importance to carry on a stable abundance of the Pitcher's Thistle. The presence and fitness of Tmemophlebia coquilleti has a large impact on many trophic levels in its ecosystem. (Chapman, 1973; Whelan and Bowles, 1994)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • pollinates
Species Used as Host
  • moth, Gelechiidae
  • moth, Tortricidae

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Tmemophlebia coquilletti is a known parasitoid of Tortricidae larvae, which are pests on fruit. Tortricidae have a preference towards apples and represent a threat to the production on apple orchards. Increasing reproduction rates and harnessing the pollination abilities as well as its role as a parasitoid may increase fruit yields. (Chapman, 1973; Whelan and Bowles, 1994)

  • Positive Impacts
  • controls pest population

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known adverse effects of Tmemophlebia coquilletti on humans.

Conservation Status

There is an urgent need to document and protect biodiversity in an era when habitats are increasingly threatened. This applies to Tmemophlebia coquilletti and bee flies in general, of which little is known and even fewer efforts are being initiated to conserve and protect species. The extremely small size, elusive flying capabilities and relatively small habitat of Tmemophlebia coquilletti may have been factors to why little is known about this group. This species did not have any special conservation status.

Other Comments

More research needs to be done on reproductive season and more surveying of species distribution within the region and specifically on dune habitats is warranted. The sensitivity of dune habitats to abiotic factors and climate change as well as the ecological importance of T. coquilleti in pollinating endemic plant species suggests a need for focused research.


Jayna Sames (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


uses sound to communicate

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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

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.

  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


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.

internal fertilization

fertilization takes place within the female's body


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.


imitates a communication signal or appearance of another kind of organism


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


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

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


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


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


Bartlett, T. 2013. "Family Bombyliidae - Bee Flies" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed August 08, 2013 at

Chapman, P. 1973. Bionomics of the apple-feeding Tortricidae. Annual Review of Entomology, 18: 73-96.

Feener, D., B. Brown. 1997. Diptera as Parasitoids. Annual Review of Entomology, 2: 73-97.

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.

McLeod, R. 2012. "Genus Tmemophlebia" (On-line). Bug Guide. Accessed August 08, 2013 at

Whelan, C., M. Bowles. 1994. Restoration of Endangered Species: Conceptual Issues, Planning and Implementation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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 Societ, 60: 149-185.

Yeates, D., G. Dodson. 1990. The Mating System of a Bee Fly (Diptera: Bombyliidae). I. Non-Resource-Based Hilltop Territoriality and a Resource-Based Alternative.. Journal of Insect Behavior, 3: 1-15.