Sunday, December 7, 2014

Long-horned General

The long-horned general is a European species of soldier fly. Soldier flies make up a large family of about 1,500 species. About 140 of these are found in Europe and about four in the Maltese islands.

In Maltese the long-horned general is called dubbiena moqrana although this name is probably not a folk name but was coined by entomologists when it the species was included in a book about Maltese nature. Folk names are usually given to large or conspicuous species or those species with which humans interact usually because they are either very common or because they are pests and the long-horned general does not fall into any of these categories.

Soldier flies are usually found in a variety of habitats including wetlands, damp places in soil and decaying organic matter. The long-horned general is found in Europe, western Asia, and North Africa
It lives close to fresh water and can be seen resting on rocks and vegetation at the water’s edge. The picture accompanying this article was taken at the Simar Nature Reserve where one finds an ideal habitat for this and many other species of interesting insects.

Like many other species of soldier fly, the long-horned general is rather inactive and the specimen I photographed allowed me to take several close-up pictures before flying away.
Soldier flies vary in size, shape and colour. Many have metallic colours especially green. Some mimic bees or wasps and often have black and yellow blotches.

Soldier flies are an important link in the cycle of life. As adults they feed on pollen or do not feed at all but their larvae feed on organic material and thus help its decomposition and the recycling of organic material.

The black soldier fly, an American species but which is nowadays found throughout the world, is being used to produce alternative energy. Its larvae are fed biomass. When they reach a certain size they are crushed and a lipid is extracted from their bodies which is added to biodiesel. The same species is used to treat organic waste including the sewage from livestock farms, waste from the food industry, household garbage and compost farms.

This article was published in The Times of Malta on 17 July 2014. 

No comments:

Post a Comment