62. Brachystomatidae – incertae sedis

Here’s some wisdom from the world of flies – you are richer than you may realise! I have many unfinished projects, stuffed drawers waiting to be sorted, piles of boxes in the attic to be looked at another day. I should attend to them, if only to get them off my conscience, but there are always more interesting, tempting and lazier things to do instead, and so my material and physical burden increases year by year. The trick of course, if I only tried it, is to pick things off bit by bit – ten minutes of organising and chucking out buys you several hours of conscience-free time at the microscope.

And so it is with flies. I have flies in boxes that have been unidentified for more than forty years – I will get around to them eventually, if only to surprise some of the recording scheme organisers. More immediately on my conscience is the box of flies I collected during my week of fly ecstasy in Stirling and environs with the Gods of Diptera. There is a deadline of spring next year to get all the records in, and though I don’t expect to rival the experts in terms of notable finds, I want to make my own small contribution to the deluge of records that will be the result of that frenzied week.

My Stirling box is looking much emptier now that I have picked out the flies that are easiest to identify, but that means that the hundred or so left are tricky in one way or another. With some families I just write out the locality and date label and put the fly aside to deal with much, much later. This is the treatment for midges of all sorts, the equally tiny agromyzids and larger but inscrutable mosquitoes – will I ever get around to them? Some like chloropids, tiny shiny flies with triangles on their foreheads, I haven’t yet found a suitable key for and so they remain anonymous. And there are some families that I am frankly scared of – Phoridae, Drosophilidae and Mycetophilidae, for which I haven’t either a recent or a complete key. Then there are the 653 species of the miniscule gall midges Cecidomyiidae – those await a better microscope.

For some reason I had also been ignoring the Empididae, thinking they would be too hard. But when I sat down to tackle three caught in the woods at Loch Lomond, two were readily identified as common species. The third, a smaller, darker fly, had enormously extended antennae and also came out of the key with hardly a struggle as Trichopeza longicornis. I was just checking against some pictures online before happily filing it away with the rest of its family when I noticed a comment that the family for this genus was in fact Brachystomatidae, having been moved out of the Empdidae in 2006. The checklist confirmed this and noted that the taxonomy of Trichopeza was “incertae sedis“, meaning of uncertain placement, uncertainty which I am happy to embrace for the sake of my year’s tally. What else might be in that box?

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