AntWiki: The Ants --- Online

Myrmecophily has been known in the fly family Milichiidae for more than a hundred years. Most cases involve larvae that live in ant nests (Donisthorpe 1927; Sabrosky 1959; Moser & Neff 1971; Waller 1980), but a group of short-faced Milichia species exhibit myrmecophilous behaviour in the adult stage, mostly in connection with myrmicine ants in the genus Crematogaster. Milichia dectes Collin, 1922, M. proectes Collin, 1922, M. prosaetes Collin, 1922 and probably also M. farquharsoni Collin, 1922 solicit regurgitated food from Crematogaster workers (Farquharson 1919, 1922). In one case involving Milichia dectes, the ant was identified as Crematogaster buchneri. Two species have been observed licking the anal secretions of ants: Milichia myrmecophila de Meijere, 1909, those of Crematogaster difformis, and Milichia brevirostris (de Meijere, 1910), those of Dolichoderus thoracicus (as Dolichoderus bituberculatus).

Wild & Brake (2009) reported on Milichia patrizii Hennig, 1952, a species not previously known to be a myrmecophile, in South Africa. However, the holotype label states that the species is a commensal of Crematogaster, and an unidentified Crematogaster worker specimen (possibly Crematogaster schultzei) is mounted on the same pin as the fly. Milichia patrizii belongs to the myrmecophila species-group within the short-faced group of Milichia species (Brake 1999).

  • Milichia patrizii next to a Crematogaster tricolor trail on an Acacia branch; (2) A Milichia darts into the middle of the Crematogaster trail to pursue an individual ant. This attempt was unsuccessful, as the ant was able to move past the fly without stopping (Wild & Brake, 2009, Figs 1, 2).
  • Milichia patrizii pacifies an ant in a successful attack by grabbing the ant’s antennal club between the paired basoflagellomeres of its own antennae; (4) The same attack as pictured in Fig. 3. The ant crouches down while the fly initiates regurgitation process by extending its proboscis into the mouthparts of the ant (Wild & Brake, 2009, Figs 3, 4).
  • Food exchange between Milichia patrizii and Crematogaster tricolor: (5) General view; (6) An enlargement showing details of the food exchange interaction. The ant’s antenna is enfolded by the pilose clypeal membrane of the fly’s proboscis. The long hairs on the fly’s proboscis likely serve to capture liquids from the mouth of the ant (Wild & Brake, 2009, Figs 5, 6).
  • Food exchange ends when the fly retracts its mouthparts. The ant briefly sits motionless following the interaction; (8) Trophallaxis food-sharing behaviour between two Crematogaster tricolor nestmates (Wild & Brake, 2009, Figs 7, 8).

  • A crab spider (top left) has killed a bullet ant queen and at least 2 species of small flies (Milichiidae & Phoridae) have arrived to feed from the carcass and/or lay their eggs. Amazonian Peru. Photo by Alex Wild.

Known Ant Hosts

Ant Fly Species Locality Source Notes
Atta cephalotes Milichiella argenteocincta Argentina, Bahamas, Bolivia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominica, Guyana, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Alabama, Florida Brake, 2009; Milichiidae online
Atta cephalotes Pholeomyia comans Moser & Neff, 1971; Milichiidae online
Atta cephalotes Pholeomyia texensis Texas Waller, 1980; Milichiidae online
Atta texana Pholeomyia comans Moser & Neff, 1971; Muesebeck, 1980 associated with or potential host
Atta texana Pholeomyia texensis Texas Waller, 1980 associated with or potential host
Azteca constructor unknown species Costa Rica Swann, 2010; Milichiidae online
Azteca trigona unknown species Guyana Swann, 2010; Milichiidae online
Camponotus acvapimensis Milichia savannaticola Demming, 1981; Yusah & Fayle, 2014 details of interaction uncertain
Crematogaster buchneri Milichia dectes Wild & Brake, 2009
Crematogaster difformis Milichia myrmecophila Jacobson, 1910; de Meijere, 1910; Wild & Brake, 2009; Milichiidae online observed licking the anal secretions of ants
Crematogaster difformis Milichia savannaticola Deeming, 1981; Milichiidae online
Crematogaster stollii Microsimus luteus Aldrich, 1926; Milichiidae online
Dolichoderus thoracicus Milichia brevirostris de Meijere, 1910; Wild & Brake, 2009 observed licking the anal secretions of ants
Formica rufa Phyllomyza formicae Denmark, Switzerland, United Kingdom Donisthorpe, 1927; Hennig, 1937; Hennig, 1952; Milichiidae online
Formica rufa Phyllomyza securicornis United Kingdom Verrall, 1894; Hennig, 1937; Milichiidae online
Harpegnathos saltator species unknown India Peeters et al., 1994; Milichiidae online
Lasius fuliginosus Milichia ludens Germany, Norway, United Kingdom Raddatz, 1873; Okland, 1998; Donisthorpe, 1927; Webb & Ismay, 2003; Poulton, 1919; Milichiidae online
Lasius fuliginosus Phyllomyza donisthorpei Sweden, United Kingdom Donisthorpe, 1927; Andersson, 1971; Milichiidae online
Lasius fuliginosus Phyllomyza equitans Finland, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom Donisthorpe, 1927; Okland, 1998; Andersson, 1971; Tiensuu, 1946; Donisthorpe, 1927; Duda, 1935; Milichiidae online
Lasius fuliginosus Phyllomyza flavitarsis Germany Raddatz, 1873; Milichiidae online
Lasius fuliginosus Phyllomyza pallida Netherlands de Meijere, 1940; Milichiidae online
Mycetagroicus inflatus Pholeomyia sp. Brazil Wild & Brake, 2009; Jesovnik et al., 2013; Milichiidae online
Polyrhachis illaudata Milichia sp. Malaysia Yusah & Fayle, 2014; Milichiidae online