Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Rat-tailed Maggot

Some of us with a few cattle hanging around keep a garbage bin - or whatever -with a ready supply of liquid manure, if you're a gardener, that is!

Many years ago, I found strange things living in my 'private bin'! I took a specimen into what was then the Department of Agriculture who were unable to identify the creature. It was passed around and nobody knew what the heck it was.

Around July this year, I accidentally stumbled upon it whilst searching another Diptera species. This year, I elected to carefully monitor my liquid manure vats! Voila - we have a touchdown!

The Rat-tailed Maggot is the larva of the Drone fly which is an important pollinator. The adults are nectar feeders.

Drone flies are about the size of a honey bee. They are extremely hard to photograph as they are rapid fliers, changing direction quickly. They hover but then zap off at right angles.

Drone flies seek out highly nitrogenous waste to breed. That can range from septic tanks to liquid manure receptacles.

(Click images to enlarge)

On this photo in particular you can see the snorkel-like breathing tube attached to the end of the "rat-tail". These 2 shots were taken in liquid manure.

Larvae can be as long as 2cm, the tails up to 4cm. They feed on decaying organic material or rich nitrongenous waste.

Family: Syrphidae
Eristalis tenax


Gaye said...

hi Junior Lepid,

a few years ago when I was keeping tabs on tadpoles developing in a puddle in a grazing paddock adjoining my yard, I also found the rat-tailed maggots.

Fascinating what creatures turn up in the strangest of places.

Interesting post!


Gouldiae said...

G'day JL,
Absolutely fascinating. Well done on your persistence for discovering what the creature is. Thankfully we don't have 'smell-o-blog' though.

Junior Lepid said...

Thanks Gaye and Gouldiae.

I have been wanting to know what they were for a long time, but drew a couple of blanks with the Gov't Departments up here who probably should have known! :-)

I'm hoping for a photo of a Drone making a deposit in the liquid manure - but they hear me coming, I think.