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Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Red-footed Cannibalfly



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Its feet aren't all that red, but then the large, loud, and fast Red-footed Cannibalfly doesn't need bright colors to attract attention.



Updated: 07/09/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
A type of Robberfly, the Red-footed Cannibalfly is an aerial predator. It beats its long wings so quickly that an audible buzz is often the precursor to seeing it whiz by in a blur. This terrifying speed allows it to snatch other flying insects right out of the sky. Tremendous size and leg strength coupled with a chemical-laced bite, allow it to easily subdue prey that may be larger than itself. The Red-footed Cannibalfliy can catch grasshoppers and other big insects, but it is more often seen with bees, wasps, and other flies in its possession. The bite injects quick-acting enzymes that help liquefy internal parts, making them easier to ingest. This carnivorous fly may be seen clinging to window screens, tree bark, or fences while it takes its meal. Between catches, the Red-footed Cannibalfly rests on a twig, branch, or other perch that allows it to visually scan the air for passersby. Once spotted, it zooms to its next meal.

This species has a yellow abdomen with black dots that mimic tiger stripes along the dorsal (top) side. Long, brown, transparent wings are almost the length of the abdomen. The brown thorax forms a humpback. Feet are black and spiky, but the legs are yellow. The 'thighs' are black. When perched on a narrow branch, all six legs may be tucked under itself. It spread its legs outward when resting or feeding. Large black eyes are surrounded by yellow hairs. Males have a black rounded tip at the end of the abdomen while females have a black, pointed ovipositor that may be mistaken for a stinger. Like all flies, the Red-footed Cannibalfly lacks a stinger and cannot sting, but it can bite in defense or if handled roughly.

Listen and watch for Red-footed Cannibalflies from the middle to the end of the summer when food options are plentiful. Areas like meadows, gardens, and woodlands, which act as homes to a variety of insects, are great places to find this type of Robberfly.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers
Fast insect icon
Flying insect icon




Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Diptera
        Family: Asilidae
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          Genus: Promachus
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            Species: rufipes
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Promachus rufipes
Other Name(s): Bee Panther
Category: Fly or Mosquito
Size (Adult; Length): 28mm to 35mm (1.10" to 1.37")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: yellow, black, red
Descriptors: buzzing, loud, fast, huge, large, flying, mid-air
Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 28mm (1.1in) and 35mm (1.4in)
Lo: 28mm
Md: 31.5mm
Hi: 35mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
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* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Red-footed Cannibalfly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Red-footed Cannibalfly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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