Dr John Midgley, KwaZulu-Natal Museum

We know very little about most insects, probably because there are so many species out there. Scientists are still busy discovering new species of insect, and some estimate that over 90% of the animals on Earth are insects! Naturally, some of these species are very rare, so rare that we do not even expect to see them when we do fieldwork. While collecting insects in King Cetshwayo District Municipality last year, Dr John Midgley (KZN Museum) and Dr Terence Bellingan (Albany Museum) collected three strange-looking flies. After identifying them, it turned out to be the first time in 160 years that this species had been found in South Africa!

This species, Meromacroides meromacriformis, was first collected somewhere in KwaZulu-Natal between 1854 and 1858. Labels on old specimens often lack details that we include today, in this case just a collector’s name and “South Africa”. From the collector’s name, Dr Midgley was able to track the dates he was in South Africa and the areas he visited. The species has only been collected 27 times in total (including the three recent specimens), but ranges from KwaZulu-Natal in the south, through central Africa to Kenya in the North East and Benin in the North West. This suggests that it is widespread but in quite low densities, and probably only occurs in old forests where suitable trees occur for its larvae to develop.

Information on the species has recently been published in our museum journal, a collaboration between the KZN Museum, Albany Museum, AfricaMuseum and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture, and is available here: https://africaninvertebrates.pensoft.net/article/68360/

Bellingan TA, Midgley JM, Goergen G, Jordaens K (2021) Notes on the Afrotropical hover fly genus Meromacroides Curran (Syrphidae, Eristalinae). African Invertebrates 62: 383–397.