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New records and an annotated checklist of the thick-headed flies from Algeria (Conopidae, Brachycera, Diptera)

Abstract

Background

The Conopidae are an interesting family of small- to large-sized endoparasitic flies, commonly known as thick-headed flies. These flies have been proposed as potential biological control agents of invasive social wasps (subfamilies: Polistinae and Vespinae, family: Vespidae).

Results

All known Algerian thick-headed flies (family Conopidae) are listed in the present study. Four subfamilies, nine genera and 23 species were treated. Three of these species are recorded herein from Algeria for the first time, namely Myopa pellucida (Robineau-Desvoidy), M. picta Panzer and Thecophora fulvipes (Robineau-Desvoidy). As far as they are known, Algerian localities and collection dates are provided, which comprise some new locality records. The data for this study were compiled from both available literature and material collected from some Algerian localities.

Conclusion

The family Conopidae (thick-headed flies) is hitherto represented in Algeria by four subfamilies, nine genera and 23 species. Three of these species are recorded herein for the first time.

Background

The Conopidae are an interesting family of small- to large-sized endoparasitic flies, commonly known as thick-headed flies. Adult females often aggressively attack adult aculeate Hymenoptera and deposit their eggs within them, where the larvae hatch and feed on hemolymph and host tissues. These flies have been proposed as potential biological control agents of invasive social wasps (subfamilies: Polistinae and Vespinae, family: Vespidae) (Darrouzet et al. 2015), although the practicality of this usage is still controversial and needs more investigations (Villemant et al. 2015). Adults are variable in shape but are often wasp-like in appearance; they can be recognized by their unique wing venation and elongate slender mouthparts. They usually frequent flowers to feed on nectar using their long proboscis and are considered to be important pollinators (El-Hawagry et al. 2021).

The family occurs in all regions of the world, except the Pacific islands and Antarctica, with more than 800 valid species and 57 genera worldwide (Stuke 2017). Conventionally, the family Conopidae is divided into five extant subfamilies (Conopinae, Dalmanniinae, Myopinae, Stylogastrinae and Zodioninae) and one fossil subfamily (Palaeomyopinae) (Stuke 2017). All these subfamilies, except Stylogastrinae, are represented in Algeria, with nine genera and 23 species (Table 1).

Table 1 Conopid taxa recorded from Algeria

There are no previous systematic or faunistic studies on the Conopidae of Algeria, but all the species previously described or recorded from Algeria were treated within more comprehensive studies on the Diptera of Algeria or of wider geographic regions, including Becker (1907), Meigen (1824), Wiedemann (1830), Séguy (1938) and Macquart (1849), or on the Conopidae of the Palaearctic Region or Africa, including Kröber (1914, 1915a, b, c, d, e, f, g, 1916a, b, c). There are also some miscellaneous studies that are cited throughout the text.

Methods

The present study was based mainly on material collected by the second author from various Algerian localities using a sweep net, with the addition of two specimens representing two different species preserved in the Community College museum in Al-Baha University, KSA. We also considered data obtained from all the previous studies on Algerian flies in order to present a comprehensive list of the species currently known from Algeria.

The collected specimens were identified using relevant keys, such as Stuke (2006), Stuke and Clements (2008), Khaghaninia and Kazerani (2014a), Khaghaninia and Kazerani (2014b) and Azmy et al. (2016). Photographs of some species were checked by Dr. J-H Stuke (personal communication). The classification and nomenclature followed that used by Stuke (2017), with the addition of the tribal arrangement suggested by Gibson and Skevington (2013). A comprehensive set of synonyms of species and genera are not given, but we list only synonyms of species described or mentioned in previous literature as recorded from Algeria. Exhaustive listing of synonyms and global distribution of species were given in Stuke (2017).

Administrative divisions (provinces) in the present study were used (Table 2) as Algeria is not divided into specific ecological zones by ecologists. Localities within each Algerian province are alphabetically arranged and written after a colon following each province, followed by the collection dates in parentheses, if known. Sources for the Algerian localities and dates of collection for species are given in square brackets. Colored photographs were taken using a Nikon D3400 camera with Tamron SP 90 mm F/2.8 Di Macro lens by second author. Coordinates of Algerian conopid localities are listed in Table 2. A local distribution map of newly recorded species is given, using SimpleMappr (Shorthouse 2010).

Table 2 A gazetteer of Algerian localities of the family Conopidae

Results

List of Algerian Conopidae

Subfamily CONOPINAE

Tribe CONOPINI

Genus CONOPS Linnaeus, 1758

Conops (Asiconops) elegans Meigen, 1804

Conops elegans Meigen, 1804: 275. Type locality: France (Marseille).

Conops elegans var. fuscipennis Macquart, 1849: 472. Type locality: Algeria (environs du Cercle de Lacalle, marais d'Ain-Drean et du lac Tonga).

Conops algira Macquart, 1849: 473. Type locality: Algeria (environs du Cercle de Lacalle).

Conops fuscanipennis Bigot, 1887: 32. Type locality: Italy (Sicily).

Conops ruficornis Becker, 1913: 89–90. Type locality: Morocco (Tanger).

Conops elegans var. minutus Kröber, 1915e: 48. Type locality: Algeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo (Katona), Tunisia, Egypt (Cairo), Ethiopia [“Abyssinien”].

Conops elegans var. djanetianus Séguy, 1938: 42. Type locality: Algeria (Djanet).

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (date not given) [Kröber (1915d) as minutus and algira]; Djanet Province: Djanet (date not given) [Séguy (1928, 1938) as djanetianus]; El Taref Province: El Kala, Aïn-Dréan, Lac Tonga [as “environs du Cercle de Lacalle, marais d'Ain-Drean et du lac Tonga”] (July) [Macquart (1849) as fuscipennis], El Kala “as Lacalle” (June) [Macquart (1849) as algira]; Oran Province: Oran (date not given) [Kröber (1924)].

Conops (Conops) rufiventris Macquart, 1849 (Fig. 1)

Fig. 1
figure 1

Conops rufiventris Macquart on Centaurea sp. © Amar Saci

Conops rufiventris Macquart, 1849: 474. Type locality: Algeria (Constantine) [as “dans les jardins de Salah’- Bey, aux environs de Constantine”].

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Biskra Province: Biskra (date not given) [Kröber (1915e)]; Bordj Bou Arréridj Province: University of Mohamed El Bachir El Ibrahimi, El Anasser (May) [collected material]; Constantine Province: Constantine [as “dans les jardins de Salah’- Bey, aux environs de Constantine”] (May) [Macquart (1849)]; Oran Province: Oran (date not given) [Kröber (1915e)]; Sidi Bel Abbès Province: Sidi Bel Abbès (date not given) [Stuke and Kehlmaier (2008)]; Skikda Province: Skikda (April) [observed material].

Material examined. ALGERIA • 1 male; University of Mohamed El Bachir El Ibrahimi, El Anasser; 36.047172°N, 4.803086°E; 3.V.2021; Boulaouad leg.; sweeping net on Scabiosa atropurpurea ssp. maritima; PCB • 1 female; same data; 5.V.2021.

Note. Two specimens of this species were collected from University of Mohamed El Bachir El Ibrahimi, El Anasser on Scabiosa atropurpurea ssp. maritima. Another specimen (sex unknown) was observed on Centaurea sp. in Skikda (36.856750°N, 6.911245°E) on 28 April 2020. It was observed and photographed by Mr. Amar Saci (Fig. 1).

Genus LEOPOLDIUS Rondani, 1843

Leopoldius coronatus (Rondani, 1857)

Brachiglossum coronatum Rondani, 1857: 143. Type locality: Austria (Windobona).

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (August) [Kröber (1914, 1930) and Séguy (1928)].

Tribe PHYSOCEPHALINI

Genus PHYSOCEPHALA Schiner, 1861

Physocephala antiqua (Wiedemann, 1830)

Conops antiqua Wiedemann, 1830: 239. Type locality: Egypt.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Tiaret Province: Mt. Ben Omar (date not given) [Kröber (1939)].

Physocephala chrysorrhoea (Meigen, 1824) (Fig. 2)

Fig. 2
figure 2

Physocephala chrysorrhoea (Meigen) male, lateral

Conops chrysorrhoea Meigen, 1824: 128. Type locality: Austria.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Biskra Province: Biskra (date not given) [Kröber (1939) and Séguy (1930)]; Bordj Bou Arréridj Province: Forest of Bordj Zemoura (May) [collected material].

Material examined. ALGERIA • 1 male; Forest of Bordj Zemoura; 36.2671°N, 4.8457°E; 24.V.2021; Boulaouad leg.; sweeping net on Scabiosa atropurpurea ssp. Maritima; PCB.

Physocephala nigra (De Geer, 1776)

Conops nigra De Geer, 1776: 265. Type locality: not given [presumably Sweden].

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Unknown [Séguy (1930)].

Physocephala vittata (Fabricius, 1794)

Conops vittata Fabricius, 1794: 392. Type locality: Germany (Kiel).

Physocephala truncata var. maculigera Kröber, 1915a: 71; type locality: Egypt, Tunisia, Syria and Algeria (Constantine, Biskra).

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (date not given) [Kröber (1915a, 1924) as vittata]; Biskra Province: Biskra (date not given) [Kröber (1915a, 1939) as maculigera]; Constantine Province: Constantine (date not given) [Kröber (1915a) as maculigera]; Oran Province: Oran (date not given) [Kröber (1927) as vittata].

Subfamily DALMANNIINAE

Genus DALMANNIA Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830

Dalmannia aculeata (Linnaeus, 1761)

Conops aculeata Linnaeus, 1761: 468. Type locality: Sweden.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Biskra Province: Biskra (date not given) [Kröber (1924) and Séguy (1930)].

Dalmannia dorsalis (Fabricius, 1794)

Stomoxys dorsalis Fabricius, 1794: 396. Type locality: France.

Myopa flavescens Meigen, 1804: 289. Type locality: not given.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (March) [Macquart (1849) as flavescens].

SUBFAMILY MYOPINAE

Tribe MYOPINI

Genus MELANOSOMA Robineau-Desvoidy, 1853

Melanosoma bicolor (Meigen, 1824)

Myopa bicolor Meigen, 1824: 147. Type locality: Austria [“Oesterreich”].

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Not given [Kröber (1915b, 1924)].

Melanosoma mundum Czerny & Strobl, 1909

Melanosoma mundum Czerny & Strobl, 1909: 260. Type locality: Spain [“Banõs”].

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Biskra Province: Biskra (date not given) [Kröber (1915b, 1924)].

Genus MYOPA Fabricius, 1775

Myopa buccata (Linnaeus, 1758)

Conops buccata Linnaeus, 1758: 605. Type locality: Europe.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (date not given) [Kröber (1924)]; El Taref Province: El Kala (March) [Macquart (1849)]; other sources with localities and dates not given: Becker (1907), Kröber (1916a, b) and Séguy (1928).

Myopa dorsalis Fabricius, 1794

Myopa dorsalis Fabricius, 1794: 397. Type locality: Germania.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Unknown [Séguy (1928)].

Myopa occulta Wiedemann in Meigen, 1824

Myopa occulta Wiedemann in Meigen, 1824: 145. Type locality: Germany.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Not given [Becker (1907)].

Myopa palliceps (Bigot, 1887)

Glossigona palliceps Bigot, 1887: 205–206. Type locality: Algeria.

Myopa dorsalis var. minor Strobl, 1899: 148. Type locality: Spain (Madrid).

Myopa vaulogeri Séguy, 1930: 136. Type locality: Algeria (Algiers, Chellala), Morocco (Casablanca), Spain (Barcelona).

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (date not given) [Kröber (1924) as minor and palliceps, and Séguy (1930) as vaulogeri]; Biskra Province: Biskra (March) [Stuke and Kehlmaier (2008), Kröber (1916a, b) as minor]; El-Bayadh Province: Chellala [Séguy (1930) as vaulogeri] (date not given); other sources with localities and dates not given: Bigot (1887).

Myopa pellucida (Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830) (Fig. 3)

Fig. 3
figure 3

Myopa pellucida (Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830) male, lateral

Myopa pellucida Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830: 244. Type locality: France (Paris).

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection (Fig. 8). Bordj Bou Arréridj Province: Ain Tagrout and Bordj Ghédir, Ez Zamala (April) [collected material].

Material examined. ALGERIA • 1 male; Ain Taghrout, Bordj Bou Arréridj; 36.130881°N, 5.079106°E; 9.IV.2021; Boulaouad leg.; sweeping net on Lepidium drapa; PCB • 1 female; Bordj Ghédir, Ez Zamala; 35.889060°N, 4.925543°E; 22.IV.2021; Boulaouad leg.; sweeping net on Asphodelus ramosus; PCB.

Note. This species is recorded herein for the first time from Algeria. It was collected on Lepidium drapa and Asphodelus ramosus.

Myopa picta Panzer, 1798 (Fig. 4)

Fig. 4
figure 4

Myopa picta Panzer on Salvia rosmarinus

Myopa picta Panzer, 1798: 22. Type locality: Austria.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection (Fig. 8). Bordj Bou Arréridj Province: University of Mohamed El Bachir El Ibrahimi, El Anasser (May) [collected material].

Material examined. ALGERIA • 1 male; University of Mohamed El Bachir El Ibrahimi, El Anasser; 36.013571°N, 4.801824°E; 30.III.2021; Boulaouad leg.; sweeping net on Salvia rosmarinus; PCB.

Note. This species is recorded herein for the first time from Algeria. It was firstly observed and photographed feeding on Salvia rosmarinus (=Rosmarinus officinalis) in University of Mohamed El Bachir El Ibrahimi, El Anasser in March 2021 (Fig. 4), just then another specimen was collected by second author.

Myopa stigma Meigen, 1824

Myopa stigma Meigen, 1824: 148. Type locality: Austria.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (date not given) [Becker (1907)].

Tribe SICINI

Genus SICUS Scopoli, 1763

Sicus ferrugineus (Linnaeus, 1761)

Conops ferrugineus Linnaeus, 1761: 468. Type locality: Sweden.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (date not given) [Kröber (1924)]; Constantine Province: Constantine (date not given) [Kröber (1927)].

Tribe THECOPHORINI

Genus THECOPHORA Rondani, 1845

Thecophora atra (Fabricius, 1775) (Fig. 5)

Fig. 5
figure 5

Thecophora atra (Fabricius) male, lateral

Myopa atra Fabricius, 1775: 799. Type locality: Denmark.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (date not given) [Becker (1907) and Kröber (1916c, 1924)]; Annaba Province: Annaba (May 2011) (Collected material); Bordj Bou Arréridj Province: Forest of Bordj Zemoura (May) [collected material].

Material examined. ALGERIA • 1 female; Annaba; 36.918058°N 7.75486°E; 3.V.2011; Ahmed leg.; PCB • 1 male; 2 females; Forest of Bordj Zemoura; 36.2671°N, 4.8457°E; 9.V.2021; Boulaouad leg.; sweeping net; PCB.

Thecophora fulvipes (Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830)

Myopa fulvipes Robineau-Desvoidy, 1830: 246. Type locality: France (Paris).

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection (Fig. 8). Annaba Province: Annaba (May 2011) (Collected material).

Material examined. ALGERIA • 1 male; Annaba; 36.918058°N 7.75486°E; 3.V.2011; Ahmed leg.; MCCB.

Note: This species is recorded herein for the first time from Algeria.

Subfamily ZODIONINAE

Genus ZODION Latreille, 1797

Zodion cinereum (Fabricius, 1794) (Fig. 6)

Fig. 6
figure 6

Zodion cinereum (Fabricius) male, lateral

Myopa cinerea Fabricius, 1794: 399. Type locality: Italy.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (date not given) [Kröber (1915g, 1924)]; Biskra Province: Biskra (date not given) [Kröber (1915g, 1924)]; Bordj Bou Arréridj Province: Forest of Bordj Zemoura (May) [collected material]; Oran Province: Oran (date not given) [Kröber (1927)].

Material examined. ALGERIA • 1 male; Forest of Bordj Zemoura; 36.2671°N, 4.8457°E; 24.V.2021; Boulaouad leg.; sweeping net; sweeping net on Scabiosa atropurpurea ssp. Maritima; PCB.

Zodion erythrurum Rondani, 1865 (Fig. 7)

Fig. 7
figure 7

Zodion erythrurum Rondani 1865 male

Zodion erythrurum Rondani, 1865: 146. Type locality: Italy.

Zodion vittipes Strobl, 1906: 331–332. Type locality: Spain.

Known Algerian localities and dates of collection. Algiers Province: Algiers (date not given) [Kröber (1915g) as erythrurum and vittipes, and Kröber (1924) as vittipes]; Biskra Province: Biskra (March) [Kröber (1915g) as erythrurum and Stuke and Kehlmaier (2008) as erythrurum]; M'Sila Province: Sidi Hadjeres (May) [collected material] (Fig. 8).

Fig. 8
figure 8

A distribution map of newly recorded conopid species from Algeria

Material examined. ALGERIA • 1 male; Sidi Hadjeres; 35.650035°N, 4.128622°E; May.2022; Boulaouad leg.; sweeping net; sweeping net; PCB.

Discussion

We think that the number of taxa listed here is too low and does not represent the real conopid fauna of a large country such as Algeria, located at the junction of two major and faunistically rich biogeographic regions, the Afrotropical and Palaearctic. Nevertheless, in the present study, three species are recorded for the first time from Algeria, namely Myopa pellucida (Robineau-Desvoidy), M. picta Panzer and Thecophora fulvipes (Robineau-Desvoidy), in addition to some new locality records of some other species previously recorded elsewhere in Algeria. The low diversity may be the result of a lack of sampling effort in the country. The majority of the records came from the Northern provinces, most likely because most collections were predominantly focused in these provinces. Extensive systematic and faunistic studies covering the whole country are required, and more collecting effort would be highly desired in the future.

Some researchers have proposed the usage of conopid flies as natural enemies in the biological control of invasive social wasps (subfamilies Polistinae and Vespinae, family Vespidae) (Darrouzet et al. 2015). However, this usage is still controversial and needs more investigations as many of these proposals still are not proved as successful due to impracticality, high-risk association or several other factors supposed by some researchers (Villemant et al. 2015). Janssens (1955) observed that some conopids parasitize some important hymenopteran pollinator or predator, e.g., vespids, bees and sphecids, i.e., they may be considered as pests. For example, Severin (1937) observed that Zodion fulvifrons is a parasitoid of worker honeybees in South Dakota and could cause heavy damage to colonies (Khaghaninia and Kazerani 2014a). The conopids can be cautiously used as biocontrol agents of some harmful wasps, and more studies are needed to investigate this potential usage and its practicality.

Conclusions

The family Conopidae (thick-headed flies) is hitherto represented in Algeria by four subfamilies, nine genera and 23 species. Three of these species are recorded herein for the first time, namely Myopa pellucida (Robineau-Desvoidy), M. picta Panzer and Thecophora fulvipes (Robineau-Desvoidy).

Availability of data and materials

Data supporting the conclusions of this article are presented in the main manuscript.

Abbreviations

MCCB:

Community College Museum, University of Al-Baha, Saudi Arabia

PCB:

Personal collection of A. Boulaouad, Department of Agronomy, Université Mohamed El Bachir El Ibrahimi de Bordj Bou Arréridj, Algeria

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Acknowledgements

We are grateful to Dr. Francis Gilbert, School of Life Sciences, University of Nottingham, UK, for critically reading the manuscript. We are also grateful to Dr. Jens-Hermann Stuke, Roter Weg 22, D-26789 Leer, Germany, Mr. Amar Saci, general directorate of forestry, Skikda, Algeria and Mr. Bachir Harzallah, naturalist and wildlife photographer, Algeria, for providing critical assistance throughout this study.

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ME identified the flies, conceptualized the study and drafted the manuscript. BB collected, mounted and photographed the flies. AS participated in identifying the flies and drafting the manuscript. AE participated in identifying the flies. HD participated in conceptualizing the study. All authors have participated in the study design and coordination and interpreted the data. All authors have read and approved the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Magdi S. A. El-Hawagry.

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El-Hawagry, M.S.A., Boulaouad, B.A., Soliman, A.M. et al. New records and an annotated checklist of the thick-headed flies from Algeria (Conopidae, Brachycera, Diptera). Egypt J Biol Pest Control 32, 100 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s41938-022-00597-5

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Keywords

  • Thick-headed flies
  • Algerian localities
  • Dates of collection
  • Fauna
  • North Africa
  • Palearctic Region