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Blow Fly Identification
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In North America, the identity of many blow fly species was in a state of confusion until the publication of Hall’s work, “The blowflies of North America” (1948) which provided comprehensive keys to many species. This work was problematic, the keys were difficult to use and it contained a variety of errors, but it was the best thing available in North America for almost 60 years. In 2006 I published “Keys to the genera and species of blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) of America north of Mexico” where I clarified the status and identity of species of North American blow flies. This paper has also been published in Spanish (downloadable from this site) and a revised and improved version of this paper was published as a chapter in the book “Forensic Entomology” (2010). This publication includes keys to all known North American genera and most species. I followed the work of Rognes (1991) which suggested numerous taxonomic changes that apply in North America. Hall’s work included keys to the Melanodexia which are problematic; I did not include keys to this genus in my work as this genus is in need of a complete revision. Species of Angioneura and Opsodexia are not keyed in this paper, keys for species in these genera can be found in Downes (1986). See my comments on Downes’ work in Whitworth (2006). Identification of species of the genus Protocalliphora and Trypocalliphora is addressed in the website birdblowfly.com and keys are provided in the publications of Sabrosky, et al. and Whitworth (2002, 2003a, 2003b, 2006).

More recently, I have published additional studies of the “Keys to the genera and species of blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) of the West Indies and description of a new species of Lucilia Robineau-Desvoidy” (2010) http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/list/2010/2663.html, “Identification of Neotropical blow flies of the genus Calliphora Robineau-Desvoidy (Diptera: Calliphoridae) with the description of a new species” (2012) http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2012/f/zt03209p027.pdf, Whitworth, T. L. (2014) A revision of the Neotropical species of Lucilia Robineau-Desvoidy (Diptera: Calliphoridae). Zootaxa, 3810, 1-76 http://www.mapress.com/zootaxa/2014/f/zt03810p076.pdf, and Tantawi, T. I. & Whitworth, T. L. (2014) First record of Lucilia bufonivora Moniez, 1876 (Diptera: Calliphoridae) from North America and key to North American species of the L. bufonivora species group. Zootaxa, 3881, 101-124 http://biotaxa.org/Zootaxa/article/view/zootaxa.3881.2.1

I also have recently coauthored two pictorial keys to blow flies which are available on line, “Blow flies (Diptera: Calliphoridae) of eastern Canada with a key to Calliphoridae subfamilies and genera of eastern North America, and a key to eastern Canadian species of Calliphorinae, Luciliinae, and Chrysomyinae” (Marshall, et al. 2011) www.biology.ualberta.ca/bsc/ejournal/mwr_11/mwr_11.html and “Cluster flies (Calliphoridae: Polleniinae: Pollenia) of North America” (Jewis-Gaines, et al. 2012) http://www.biology.ualberta.ca/bsc/ejournal/ejournal.html  

Currently I am studying species of Neotropical Lucilia and the Mesembrinella complex. I am interested in examining specimens of any Neotropical calliphorids and will assist anyone needing help identifying Nearctic or Neotropical blow flies. The best way to contact me is via e-mail at twhitworth@wsu.edu or wpctwbug@aol.com.

Barcoding and DNA analysis of Calliphoridae and Mesembrinellidae

I have submitted samples (hind legs) of many species of Calliphoridae and Mesembrinellidae to the Canadian Center for DNA Barcoding (CCDB) in Guelph, Ontario, Canada to perform DNA barcoding for the mitochondrial gene CO1. Much of my barcode data is available to researchers at the BOLD site at Boldsystems.org and in two publications, Whitworth 2014 and Tantawi, Whitworth and Sinclair 2017. I have also submitted much of my data to GenBank. In addition, I have identified numerous Nearctic calliphorid specimens in the University of Guelph Biodiversity BOLD collection, their barcodes are also available to researchers. All these suggested edits are incorporated into my recently updated key available to download here.

Barcoding and other forms of genetic analysis are useful tools to help clarify valid species and taxonomy of both calliphorids and mesembrinellids. It is costly and results of analysis can take months, so it is not a good way to perform routine identifications. It also is not always reliable, for example barcodes consistently fail to separate some species, specifically Lucilia coeruleiviridis and L. mexicana which are easily separated based on morphological characters (Whitworth 2014). It is useful as another tool to help morphological taxonomists determine valid species. It is especially helpful to identify poor quality specimens or stages of insects where accurate identification is critical such as larvae which can be difficult to separate morphologically. In recent years there has been a rift between morphological taxonomists and geneticists regarding the best way to accurately identify insects. In my opinion, a good taxonomist needs to have skills in both morphological taxonomy and genetics to produce the best quality taxonomic research.  

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Terry Whitworth, Ph.D.
Entomologist
2533 Inter Avenue
Puyallup, WA 98372
Phone 253-845-1818
email: twhitworth@blowflies.net

all content copyright © by Terry L Whitworth except as noted. site design by flashpoint design
Portions of images by Joseph Berger (blowfly in header), and Whitney Cranshaw (fly on wall), used by permission of www.insectimages.org.