Flying assassin discovered dissolving victims in sleepy Northern Cape

07 December 2016 - 12:23 By TMG Digital

A fearsome new mass killer has been discovered in the Northern Cape.

The new species of assassin fly ambushes its prey in mid-air‚ stabs it and injects venom that dissolves the unfortunate beetle‚ moth‚ butterfly or wasp. Then it sucks out their insides.

Female assassin fly of the species Trichoura tankwa perched on a low‚ dry branch. Picture: Torsten Dikow

The species‚ dubbed Trichoura pardeos‚ lives in the Tierberg Nature Reserve‚ a small conservation area on the north banks of the Gariep River‚ 4km outside Keimoes.

Torsten Dikow

The rocky hill habitat at Tierberg Nature Reserve‚ Keimoes‚ Northern Cape‚ with Aloe dichotoma. Picture: Torsten Dikow

Assassin flies have been found only in South Africa and the new discovery — by Jason Londt‚ of the KwaZulu-Natal Museum in Pietermaritzburg‚ and Torsten Dikow‚ of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History‚ in the US — brings the number of species in the genus to seven.

The insects‚ also called robber flies‚ are named for their extremely predatory behaviour.

The habitat of the new species is a large rocky hill where the sparse vegetation is dominated by drought-resistant plants‚ such as aloes.

The fly is predominantly red-brown‚ with silvery‚ white and yellowish markings.

– TMG Digital/The Times