Yappo's picture

Large red and black flying insect in Italy

While on holiday in Northern Italy, I saw a few of these insects while on ferries on Lake Como, and I've had no luck trying to identify them (which surprises me as they're so distinctive) and was wondering if people here could help. I don't have any photos, I did take one but can't find it anywhere, so I'm going to have to try my best to describe it from memory...

It was very big, 2.5/3 inches or so. Just one pair of wings if I recall correctly, red and black coloured, with a very distinctive large black detached blob-like tail which hung below it when it flew. It reminded me of a much larger version of those funny little black things we get in the UK around the start of summer that have the same blobby dangly tail (unfortunately I don't know the name of those either). That's all I really remember, but I hope someone might know what I'm talking about.



Sarah West's picture

The UK species you mention is

The UK species you mention is a St Marks Fly I think, Bibio marci, there are other Bibio species in Italy, some of which are black and red.

Sarah West
OPAL Community Scientist
Yorkshire and Humber

Yappo's picture

Thanks for your reply - Yes,

Thanks for your reply - Yes, the UK species I'm thinking of is the St Marks fly, but I've done a bit more research and haven't come across any Bibio species that are much bigger than those, and this thing was huge, as I said, 2/3 inches. What made it remind me of the St Marks flies was the way its legs dangled beneath it when it flew (something I forgot to mention), but this thing also had a different tail - if I remember rightly it had a strange detatched bulbous section on the end of the tail, very unusual and distinctive. I'm guessing it's some kind of lake dwelling insect because I only saw it while on boats on the lake, never on the land or even on the shore.

Hmm, this site seems quite UK specific, maybe I might have more luck asking somewhere more Europe/specifically Italy based...

altus silva's picture

Well, I am North-Italy based...

...and yet I can't figure out anything matching with your description, especially the size. If you had overestimated it, then they could have been some large Hymenoptera Sphecidae, like a Sceliphron or Isodontia or Sphex.

Yappo's picture

Ah thankyou! You're

Ah thankyou! You're definitely onto something there, the "bulbous tail" I described is just like the stingers on those. But I'm sure I didn't overestimate the size, it was definitely at least 2 inches. But it could certainly have been a very large one of those. Thanks very much!

altus silva's picture

A Scolia, maybe?

It is the only "wasp" that can get to that size here. There are several species, plenty of images on the Internet. But they are black and yellow, mostly.

Yappo's picture

I don't think so, those are

I don't think so, those are very obviously wasp-like, I think I would've recognised it as a wasp straight away. You were closer with the Sphecidae, The feature I most distinctly remember is the way what I presume was the stinger was kind of detached from the body on a thin strand. Also it didn't buzz, I would've thought all wasps buzzed?