What Bug Is That? The guide to Australian insect families.

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A very species-rich family of small (0.5-5.0 mm long) flies with a characteristic humpback appearance. About 70 species have been described from Australia, but the family is extremely diverse here, and many hundreds of species await description. The Australian Phoridae have never been revised, and they are one of the largest orphaned groups in the Australian fauna. Over 2,500 species have been described worldwide. Their common name is 'scuttle flies'.

Adults are common and are often seen running with a quick, jerky motion upon foliage or litter, etc. Some have apterous or brachypterous females, which, in at least one species, are transported by the male during copulation. Two species with apterous females and one normal species live as inquilines in termite nests, while another is recorded from ants' nests. Larval habits vary greatly. Many larvae are scavengers in carrion and other feed on decomposing organic matter; Megaselia halterata is a pest of commercial mushrooms, while Megaselia scalaris has been reared from human myiases, various kinds of micro-carrion, onion bulbs, faeces, milk, boot polish and paint (Robinson 1971). Some species oviposit and develop satisfactorily in bacterial cultures on ordinary agar plates (E. Riek, unpublished) and can be pests in laboratory cultures. Others are probably endoparasites, while at least one species lives as an ectoparasite attached to the neck of ants of the genus Camponotus . More details of the varied life-histories of scuttle flies can be found in Disney (1994).

This family contains wingless species.


The thorax is humped, and the wings have very strong R veins crowded towards the anterior margin of the wing. The wings are folded flat over the abdomen at rest, and the legs, particularly the hind femora, are strongly developed.

  • Phorid (scuttle fly)

  • A Phoridae with ant

  • Phoridae flies on a wombat