Man, oh man, Machimus maneei

Machimus maneei occurs in sandy pinewoods throughout the eastern U.S. and Canada though populations appear to be spotty. Either that, or this species is overlooked. It has been recorded north to Ontario, west to Michigan and Illinois, and south to Arkansas, Louisiana, and Florida. There is a single Florida record from Gainesville (north Florida) at the FSCA collection. It was first collected by A.H. Manee in Southern Pines, North Carolina on May 15, 1908 and described by Hine (1909).

Compared to other Machimus, this species is relatively easy to identify because it’s the only eastern Machimus with entirely black legs. The tips of the tibias can sometimes have a small amount of red on them, but that’s just par for the course with Machimus identification. It’s tricky. Leg color is a useful trait for Machimus identification.

Bromley (1950) states that Machimus maneei is a spring and early summer species found in the “widespread and characteristic environment of the Florida sandhills known as ‘turkey oak’ – open scrubby oak forest composed chiefly of Quercus laevis, xeric and often fire-swept, with a ground cover of wire grasses, oak shoots, gopher apple, and many species of herbs, and with many exposed patches of sandy soil.” I assume that other Eastern U.S. records also are in sandy pinewoods, though Quercus laevis is restricted to the southeastern U.S., so M. maneei must have a larger niche.

Whereas there are eastern U.S. records as early as April, records have shown that Bromley was mistaken about it being restricted to spring and early summer. McAtee and Banks (1920) shows records from Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia in late September, and Dirk Stephenson has found a population in southeastern Georgia where this species is downright common in October and November.

On October 19, 2022, I joined Dirk Stephenson and Giff Beaton to check Moody Forest WMA in Appling County, Georgia. The previous night’s low temperature was 40°F, so I was a little nervous about our prospects. The high was 62°F, and my fears were unfounded, because Machimus maneei was plentiful. We likely found a minimum of 30 individuals throughout the day. As is often the case with robber flies, we found more females than males. We also found Laphria affinis, Megaphorus laphroides, and Efferia aestuans.

It may have been because of the cool temperatures, but nearly all of the M. maneei we found were perched vertically on fire-charred (blackened) pine trunks. Later in the afternoon, we found a few perched on logs. They are very small, only 10-12 mm, and are relatively dark, so they can be overlooked or dismissed as something other than a robber fly. The banded appearance of the abdomen – pale gray coloration on the apical end of each segment – is more clearly-defined and pronounced than on most other Machimus.

I was very glad to meet Dirk, who has a dogged perseverance when it comes to finding robber flies. He has documented over 50 species from the nearby Fort Stewart, Georgia alone! He has made some exciting discoveries, and I’m eagerly awaiting more from him. I look forward to next time!

Steve Collins, Giff Beaton, and Dirk Stephenson after a successful day. You can see the sandhill habitat of Machimus maneei behind us.

References

Bromley, S. W. (1950). Records and descriptions of Asilidae in the collection of the University of Michigan Museum of Zoology (Diptera).

Hine, J. S. (1909). Robberflies of the genus Asilus. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 2(2), 136-170.

McAtee, W. L., & Banks, N. (1920). District of Columbia Diptera: Asilidae. Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 22(1), 21-33.

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