Joe Botting's picture

Psychodidae: a challenge for the adventurous

Hi all,

I've long been curious about the Psyhcodidae (owl midges, moth flies, drain flies...), but have always struggled getting any sort of ID for them. The key is difficult, to say the least - you need to chemically treat specimens and slide-mount them for high-magnification work. However, they have such attractive and complex markings that I've always wondered whether, in this age of digital photography, it is theoretically possible to ID them without all the kerfuffle.

There are 9 pages of Psychodidae on iSpot, including a diverse range of species (apparently). Very few are identified to species level, though, even tentatively. There is a gallery at (http://www.diptera, with photos mostly largely by dissected specimens. There are others scattered around the web as well, including some that look potentially useful.

I don't know how far we'll be able to get with this, and I'm sure we'd have to have IDs labelled as tentative, at least to start with, but is anyone willing to give it a go? There is so little information available for these, despite the attractive appearance, that they seem an obvious candidate for a little iSpot project. If nothing else, we can start to show whether the patterns form a continuum, or fall into discrete groupings. We can cross-link observations and discussions here, and hopefully build up a database of good images. Let the fun begin...




Joe Botting's picture


Here's the observation that started this off:
As yet, I've not found a clear match in photographs online...

Joe Botting's picture

Good start...

It looks to me that there are at least two species (or perhaps three, if the last two photos are a different one)...

The ones with the broad dark and light bands look like they should be a Pericoma species, based on the general pattern and wing shape.

The middle one with the less furry wings looks a bit like Clogmia albipunctata in the dark spots, but the wings aren't pointed enough. could be a Pneumia species, perhaps? There seem to be quite a few of them.

Joe Botting's picture

Listing of iSpot observations

Wildlife Ranger's picture

More About the Psychodidae !!!

Nice work Jo

A few points perhaps you could add ?

Are they Dimorphic as a species

Do any of the groups predominate a particular habitat ?

What is the key features or anatomy that should be focused on ?

What is their life cycle - ?

What is the seasonal spectrum ?

waht do they eat ?

i'll add to this as all is revealed :-)

Joe Botting's picture

the awkard questions...

I knew someone would ask the awkward questions... after all, remember I'm not an expert on these at all. They're important points, though, so I'll have a go...

Are they Dimorphic as a species?
Not that I know of - at least, you'd need a microscope to tell.

Do any of the groups predominate a particular habitat ?
They're all associated with damp places, but yes, some genera seem to prefer woodlands, some stagnant pools, and others are associated particularly with drains, showers and toilets. Not sure quite which is which yet.

What is the key features or anatomy that should be focused on ?
For macrophoto purposes, the wing venation and outline, and (I'm hoping) markings. For the keys, it's a question mainly of the genitalia and antennal features, combined with the venation.

What is their life cycle - ?
Larvae are aquatic, often in rather nasty water. Adults flutter around in the same area for a few days (I believe they're very short-lived).

What is the seasonal spectrum ?
May to October seems to be the focus, but I'm sure I've seem them in winter as well.

waht do they eat ?
Gunge. Organic gunge. They're lovely things, really. The adults are mostly non-feeding, apart from a few that suck blood. Not human blood in this country, though.

If anyone can add to this, please do.

Wildlife Ranger's picture


Thanks Jo - The fun begins - Anyone fancy uploading a Larval stage ?? LOL !!! but hey like Hovers and Ladybirds where much under documented till lately

A few points Key Links


They appear to active at night nocturnal

Number of British species: 95

British representation. 95 species in Britain. Genera 20; Brunettia, Bazarella, Boreoclytocerus, Feuerborniella, Mormia, Panimerus, Paramormia, Pericoma, Peripsychoda, Philosepedon, Psychoda, Sycorax, Szaboiella, Telmatoscopus, Threticus, Tonnoiriella, Trichomyia, Trichopsychoda, Tinearia, Vaillantia.

General Size: Wingspan 2 to 4mm with leaf shaped wings with parrallel wing veins no cross veins

Differential Characterisation

Small to medium sized (2-6 mm), often stout, usually densely pubescent

Nematocera non-piercing except for the subfamilies Sycoracinae and Phlebotominae. Ocelli absent; in the Psychodinae, the largest and most common subfamily, the eyes are reniform and with an eye bridge, eyes circular in the other subfamilies antenna usually with 12 to 16 segments, the flagellomeres bottle- or barrel-shaped. Wing hairy, with 9- longitudinal veins and the R-fork and M-fork always present, though they may be incomplete basally; crossveins situated near the wing base or (partly) absent; wing usually acute, in Trichomyiinae, Sycoracinae and some Psychodinae wing rounded. While resting or walking the wings are hold above the abdomen like a roof, or besides the abdomen in a broad V-shape. Legs ranging from short to elongate.

Joe Botting's picture

All good

Thanks for that - it's all good useful stuff. I've just been keying out a couple and observing the eye bridge, etc. - have added the new ones (a Psychoda sp. and Pneumia trivialis) as observations, but for some reason I can't edit the list at the moment - hopefully just a glitch...

EDIT: it turns out one can now only edit posts if no-one has yet replied to them... I'll repost the list so that it can be kept updated...

Joe Botting's picture

List of iSpot psychodid observations

*Please don't reply to this post, or I won't be able to edit and update it.*

Here be a summary of where we're getting to - for regular updating.


Clytocerus splendidus?

Clytocerus ocellaris?


Pneumia trivialis

Pneumia nubila/trivialis?



Psychoda alternata?


Clogmia albipunctata

Unidentified genus
(the above three may be the same, and possible a Pericoma sp.; in fact, it looks rather like images of Pericoma fuliginosa...) (not Psychoda) (like Psychoda but with spots) (striped thorax?) (brown with pale spots)

Martin Harvey's picture


Thanks for all the helpful info. I've always been put off psychodids by the difficulty of using the keys, and the fact that I don't really have a powerful enough miscroscope, but it would be great if macro-photography can help us find out more about these species.

Entomologist and biological recorder

Joe Botting's picture

Not as bad as their reputation...

Thanks Martin. Apparently you only really need a 40x microscope, and I'm finding you also don't need to slide-mount (although some characters are certainly tricky...). I'm optimisitic that one can get further than you might imagine... if you've got any pictures, please do join in. ;o)