The ‘empids’ form a large group of nearly 400 species consisting of the true Empididae (208 species), Hybotidae (180 species), Brachystomatidae (4 species) and Atelistidae (2 species). They have long been popular as a jumping-off group into the smaller and more tricky flies owing to the excellent monograph by J.E. Collin. Since this monumental work was published in 1961, about 40 more species have been found in Britain and the entire suite of species has been thoroughly revised by Milan Chvála in the Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica series. The last time this group was treated at a Dipterists Forum training course was 2006, so it is high time for a refresher.
Empids fall within the Asilomorpha which are nearly all predators as larvae and often as adults. With about 400 species, the range of form and size is vast, from chunky Empis tessellata seen on hogweed flowers to the pin-head-sized Chersodromia that zoom about like crazy dodgem cars. The groups includes many rapidly evolving groups that defy convenient bundling into easily managed genera, so that Empis, Rhamphomyia, Hilara and Platypalpus together contain two-thirds of the species. However, at least Empis and Rhamphomyia often have conspicuous hypopygia that make their identification straight-forward, leaving only Hilara as the perplexing genus in the true empids. Almost half of the hybotids comprise the vast genus Platypalpus but even this group can be identified quite reliably using contemporary keys. The genus to watch for species new to the British fauna is the attractively marked Tachydromia.
Empids occupy just about every habitat from fore dunes to mountain tops, with some very specialised niches in between, making them an exceptionally interesting group to focus on ecologically. Their behaviour is also rather more interesting than that of the average fly, notably the swarming and gift-giving of Hilara, and evolution of sexual selection in Empis and Rhamphomyia where females sometimes outshine males in their attire.
Handouts will include keys and a summary of ecology.
The course will be tutored by Stephen Hewitt and Nigel Jones. Stephen runs the national empid recording scheme, Nigel is County Diptera Recorder for Shropshire, and both and have long experience with the group.
Field Studies Council at Preston Montford, Shropshire, are taking bookings (see their website). Dipterist Forum members should take a look at the DF Members area of our website before using FSC’s online booking - https://www.dipterists.org.uk/for-members
The workshop starts on the evening of Friday 15 Feb (arrive in time for the evening meal at 6.30pm) and finishes at 4pm on Sunday 17 February.