foxy's picture


Observed: 7th December 2009 By: foxyfoxy’s reputation in Invertebratesfoxy’s reputation in Invertebratesfoxy’s reputation in Invertebratesfoxy’s reputation in Invertebrates

Large fly with very long antennae ,redish orange body about 25-30mm long including antennae.I disturbed several of these today from rough ground(heather rough grasses),this one came to yardlight and escaped from specimen jar in kitchen hence yellow wall background.

Species interactions

No interactions present.


Syrphus's picture

Neither of your suggested

Neither of your suggested species are likely to be correct. There are several very similar species of Ophion. Pimpla has quite different colouration.

Many threads have emphasised the near impossibility of identifying ichneumons to species from a picture, even if you are an expert on the group. The most recent is

It is also bad practice to call them 'flies'. They are parasitic Hymenoptera, so if you need to add anything to 'ichneumon', call it a wasp. The term 'fly' should be reserved for Diptera, except in established compounds like greenfly, dragonfly etc.



recording wildlife with The Recorder's Year on

charlieb's picture

Although as the term "fly"

Although as the term "fly" has no defined scientific meaning it is quite acceptable to use it in which ever sense you wish. Scientific names are the reserved names for groups of organisms - they is no need for two sets.

Syrphus's picture

It is not a hanging offence,

It is not a hanging offence, and I don't want to be too dogmatic, but what is acceptable in a primary school nature study class is not necessarily appropriate when we are in the middle of a discussion of the specific identity of an ichneumon.

Most naturalists working at this level would expect to use fly = Diptera, bug = Hemiptera, beetle = Coleoptera. To do otherwise creates confusion and adds no value to the educational role of this site.

Chambers' Dictionary defines insect as 'a word loosely used for a small invertebrate creature especially one with a body divided into sections'. That way madness lies, I am sure we will agree. ;-)



recording wildlife with The Recorder's Year on

charlieb's picture

Definitions of words do not

Definitions of words do not equate to scientific meaning - nor should they be made to; indeed in 50 years "fly" may well mean "a member of the Ichneumonidae" rather than "an insect with membranous wings".

I'm sure most naturalists working at this level would prefer to stick to scientific nomens to avoid confusion - that is the reason why there were created afterall.

dshubble's picture


I agree that it definitely isn't Pimpla for various reasons including overall colour; also that (apart from a very few distinctive species) there's no way of identifying them to species from a photo. However, this one can at least be taken one step further, to sub-family. Although the wings overlap, it can be seen that there is no 'areolet' (a small cell near the pterostigma - the brown blob on the edge of the wing). For large ichneumons like this one, this (lack of a) feature is diagnostic when combined with head shape and other cell shapes (separating it from e.g. Therion in the sub-family Anomaloninae), and puts the specimen within the sub-family Ophioninae. Beyond that, I don't think there's a clear way to tell - Ophion luteus, although appearing in many general insect guide books, is now known to be a complex of very closely related species and it is possible that the 'common' Yellow Ophion (O. luteus) is relatively uncommon. In Britain, genera within the Ophioninae are Ophion, Platophion, Eremotylus, Stauropoctonus & Enicospilus.

ChrisR's picture


Impossible really to say for sure what it it because it is a very difficult group with a lot of convergent morphology, adapting to a nocturnal way of life. They all usually have orange bodies that have strong lateral compression and similar wing venation, though the different genera can be keyed out fairly easily with the right key. They often come to light and are frequent visitors at moth traps - so common that there there is a key: "Parasitic wasps (Ichneumonoidea) in British light-traps" by Huddleston & Gauld in a journal called The Entomologist (vol.107(2), p134-154, 1988).

It's true that 'ichneumon fly' is just as valid as 'ichneumon wasp' but hymenopterists have been working hard to reduce confusion and educate the general public so 'ichneumon' or 'ichneumon wasp' are preferable :)

dshubble's picture

sub-family identification

Got there just before me! I forgot to mention the key though - very useful if you have access to inter-library loans.

ChrisR's picture

Ichenumons at light traps...

The key works pretty well though it works best if you have a microscope and are familiar with the names of the various 'bits' on an ichneumon. The Royal Entomological Society would certainly scan it on request if a library loan was too tricky :)

dshubble's picture

sources of keys

CEH may also send copies of papers if they are asked nicely, especially if they get reliable records in return :)

foxy's picture

Thanks for the help

Thanks for the help everybody,I should have used wasp instead of fly, hope to remember it next time.


P.s will try libary for The Entomologist


revjbj1's picture


This is my first comment at ispot, but thank you for fast response regarding odd insect noticed today in garden - rough ground, warm breeze, small natural pond nearby; my informant described it as "around 3" long, similar wingspan, fast and as moved like a dragon fly; abdomen with orange/black stripes, small (possibly) front stabilising wings, long proboscis, hanging legs, loud flapping/buzzing wing noise". The nearest I could get to was ichneumon, but given that there's been no exaggeration, I'm wondering about the size and colouring described. Any offers? Thanks - John, NE Wales.

Rev John

foxy's picture


Hi John, I am no expert and am not sure how you got to this observation, as what you describe sounds more like a humming bird hawkmoth to me, if you have not used ispot before just click on add an above and input your observation with or without a photo and other userers and experts will respond .You have done nothing wrong, its just that nobody but me will see your comments here as this post is old ,and after 30 days only the observer on chance browsers will see it.


gavb's picture

An interesting thread here!

An interesting thread here! I'd just like to make a couple of points.
First, I'm not too fussy about what these things are called. One of the RES handbooks (which I'm currently revising with Mike Fitton and Mark Shaw) is called 'pimpline ichneumon-flies' and 'ichneumon-flies' has gained some currency. I'm not sure yet whether we'll keep this name for the revised edition but clearly it is used by some of the experts on this group.
Second, although it has been emphasised that most ichneumonids cannot be identified from photos this is really a consequence of the lack of literature or reliably identified photos already in existence. With a lot of experience, many specimens can be identified to genus or species from photos, but generally only by the experienced! Don't rely on photos on websites (almost all 'Ophion luteus' on websites are misidentified, for example) and don't rely on photoguides such as Chinery, where most of the ichneumonids are misidentified and only a very few example pictures are given anyway. There are over 2000 species of Ichneumonidae in Britain but some of the most frequently observed are also fairly distinctive so there is hope...

Gavin Broad

dejayM's picture

far cry

Five potential IDs and a detailed Comment Trail all add to the interest I've discovered in iSpot.
Thanks for the informed debate, much of it posted in one very short day! A 'far cry' from today's proceedings!
Interesting how Rev John slid in under the radar!