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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Family: Acroceridae (small-headed flies)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Eumetabola > Holometabola > Panorpida > Antliophora > Diptera (flies) > Brachycera > Muscomorpha > Nemestrinoidea

Unidentified species feeding on nectar of Scabiosa africana (Dipsacaceae) flowers on Table Mountain.

Acrocerid flies can be easily distinguished from other flies by the small head attached low on the large, domed thorax, giving the insect a humpbacked appearance. 

Larvae are internal parasites of spiders. Eggs are laid away from the spiders. The hatched larva searches for a host spider and burrows into it. It passes through three instars and then leaves the host to pupate. Adults of some species feed on nectar (see photo above).


  • Barraclough, D.A. 1984. Review of some Afrotropical Acroceridae, with descriptions of eight new species from South Africa (Diptera: Brachycera). Journal of the Entomological Society of Southern Africa 47: 45-66.

  • Barraclough, D.A. & Londt, J.G.H. 1985. Order Diptera. In: Scholtz, C.H. & Holm, E. 1985. Insects of Southern Africa. Butterworths, Durban.

  • Schlinger, E.I. 1960. A review of the South African Acroceridae (Diptera). Annals of the Natal Museum 14: 459-504.

Text by Hamish G. Robertson