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

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A compact family, previously treated as a subfamily of Calliphoridae. There are some 70-80 described species in Australia (and many undescribed), about 20% them shared with neighbouring countries. About 80% fall in the 17 rather uniform genera of subfamily Sarophaginae (flesh flies), with some 23 species  in the dominant genus, Sarcorohdendorfia . The Miltogrammatinae include eight genera, most with only 1-5 species (a few undescribed); but the dominant Protomiltogramma has about 40 species, almost all of them undescribed - a not unusual condition in Australian Diptera.

Flesh flies (Sarcophaginae) are so called from their habit of laying living larvae, or eggs that hatch immediately, on fresh meat, fish, etc. In open air markets in many tropical countries, such commodities are commonly infested (albeit microscopically!) by the time of purchase. In general larvae live in practically any kind of decomposing organic matter, but especially carrion. Arthropods and shellfish may be attacked while still moribund - a possible forerunner to the habit of actually parasitising grasshoppers, as found in the genus Blaesoxipha . Also, larvae of three species of Baronovisca prey on spider eggs. A few myiasis-causing species are of medical importance in other countries; but such cases are rare in Australia. By contrast, larvae of Miltogrammatinae seem to be all food-parasites in the nests of solitary wasps and bees, especially of fossorial species. Adults seem to possess some remarkable ability to avoid capture by the hosts.


Most adult Sarcophaginae are readily recognised by the bold, black longitudinal stripes on the scutum and the changing, tesselated black and grey pattern of the abdomen, plus the plumose antennal arista and the (usually) three katepisternal bristles, set in a more or less straight line.
The Miltogrammatinae are less distinctive, with the above body pattern weak or absent; the arista, too, is not plumose. However, they share with the other subfamily the characteristic short stub-vein, or at least a faint fold of the membrane, at the angle of vein M; the presence of strong bristles on the meron; and the lack of a subscutellum. Almost all larvae are immediately recognisable by the posterior spiracles, which are concealed in a deep pit.


The Australian fauna includes many immigrants, including notable cosmopolitan species such as Jantia crassipalpis (Macq.) and the aberrant species Tricharaea brevicornis (Wied.), which seems to be a recent immigrant from South America. Within Australia, the Sarcophaginae tend to be distributed more in the tropical and semitropical areas; apparently only one has been recorded from Tasmania. The Miltogrammatinae are widely distributed, but, like their hosts, are most common in the drier inland districts.

  • Sarcophagid (flesh fly)

  • Sarcophagidae

  • Sarcophagidae