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Blow flies of North America Keys to the subfamilies and genera of Calliphoridae, and to the species of the subfamilies Calliphorinae, Luciliinae and Chrysomyinae

Blow flies of North America Keys to the subfamilies and genera of Calliphoridae, and to the species of the subfamilies Calliphorinae, Luciliinae and Chrysomyinae

N. Jones1*

T. Whitworth2

S. A. Marshall1

1School of Environmental Sciences, University of Guelph, 50 Stone Rd. E., Guelph, Ontario, Canada, N1G 2W1. [email protected], [email protected]

2Department of Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6382. [email protected]

*Corresponding Author


The subfamilies, genera, and most frequently encountered species of North American Calliphoridae are reviewed, including a comprehensive pictorial key to the forensically important blow flies of North America. Distribution maps are provided for all species.

Lucilia sericata (Photo by S.A. Marshall)


Correct species identification of necrophagous insects is pivotal to their use as evidence in death investigations because many of their attributes are species-specific, including seasonality, distribution, habitat preference and rate of development of larvae in a corpse at particular temperatures. Furthermore, reliable identification of insect species facilitates access to relevant information stored in published literature and allows scientists to communicate and contextualize their findings effectively. Blow flies, because of their abundance, diversity and characteristic roles in the decomposition of carrion, have proven to be of particular importance in forensic entomology.

We here build upon and expand the photographic keys to the northeastern North American Calliphoridae by Marshall et al. (2011), providing keys to the 5 subfamilies and 17 genera of blow flies occurring in North America, and to 41 of the 93 species currently recorded from North America. The species keyed herein include all North American species of possible forensic importance. A map is provided for each of the keyed species. The remaining 51 Nearctic species are mostly parasites or parasitoids, and none are known to develop in carrion. The Nearctic species not included are the 28 species of bird parasites in the genus Protocalliphora Hough, the eight species of Melanodexia Williston, the five species of Angioneura Brauer & Bergenstamm, the four species of Opsodexia Townsend, and the six species of Pollenia Robineau-Desvoidy. Keys to species of Protocalliphora can be found in Sabrosky et al. (1989) and in Whitworth (2002, 2003, and 2006). Keys to Melanodexia are available in Hall (1948), but this infrequently encountered genus needs revision. Keys to the Melanomyinae including Angioneuria and Opsodexia are available in Downs (1986). A separate pictorial key to species of North American Pollenia is available in Jewiss-Gaines, et al. (2012) and the species are also keyed in Whitworth (2006).

Methods & Materials

Range maps were constructed using SimpleMappr (Shorthouse 2010) on the basis of specimen records in the University of Guelph Insect Collection database, the collection of Terry Whitworth, the BOLD SYSTEMS database, and the Canadian National Collection of Insects. Specimen photographs used in the key were taken using a Canon 35mm camera mounted on a Stackshot rail; multiple exposures were stacked into high depth of field images using HeliconFocus ( In some cases, images were cropped and edited for sharpness and contrast in Adobe Photoshop. Some genitalia photographs, as indicated, are from Tantawi & Whitworth (2014) and Tantawi et al. (2017). Photographs of living flies were taken by the third author. Terminology, unless otherwise specified, follows Rognes (1991) and Whitworth (2006).



Melanodexia (8 species; not treated)
Pollenia (6 species; not treated)

Angioneura (5 species; not treated)
Opsodexia (4 species; not treated)

Chloroprocta idioidea (Robineau-Desvoidy)
Chrysomya megacephala (Fabricius)
Chrysomya rufifacies (Macquart)
Cochliomyia aldrichi Del Ponte
Cochliomyia hominivorax (Coquerel)
Cochliomyia macellaria (Fabricius)
Compsomyiops callipes (Bigot)
Phormia regina (Meigen)
Protophormia atriceps (Zetterstedt)
Protophormia terraenovae (Robineau-Desvoidy)
Protocalliphora (28 species; not treated)
Trypocalliphora (1 species; not treated)

Bellardia bayeri (Jacentkovskỳ)
Bellardia vulgaris (Robineau-Desvoidy)
Calliphora alaskensis (Shannon)
Calliphora aldrichia (Shannon)
Calliphora coloradensis Hough
Calliphora genarum (Zetterstedt)
Calliphora grahami Aldrich
Calliphora latifrons Hough
Calliphora livida Hall
Calliphora loewi Enderlein
Calliphora montana (Shannon)
Calliphora stelviana (Brauer & Bergenstamm)
Calliphora terraenovae Macquart
Calliphora vicina Robineau-Desvoidy
Calliphora vomitoria (Linnaeus)
Cyanus elongata (Hough)
Cynomya cadaverina (Robineau-Desvoidy)
Cynomya mortuorum (Linnaeus)

Lucilia bufonivora Moniez
Lucilia cluvia (Walker)
Lucilia coeruleiviridis Macquart
Lucilia cuprina Wiedemann
Lucilia elongata Shannon
Lucilia eximia (Wiedemann)
Lucilia illustris (Meigen)
Lucilia magnicornis (Siebke)
Lucilia mexicana Macquart
Lucilia sericata (Meigen)
Lucilia silvarum (Meigen)
Lucilia thatuna Shannon


Species Keys


We thank Tarek Tantawi and Jim O’Hara for the loan of specimens from the Canadian National Collection of Insects, and we acknowledge the contribution of other past and present museum curators who allowed TW to visit their museums or sent him specimens (see Whitworth, 2006 for a full list). Finally, thanks to two organizations that helped fund this study, the North American Forensic Entomology Association and the American Board of Forensic Entomology.


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Jones, N., Whitworth, T., & Marshall, S.A. 2019. Blow flies of North America: Keys to the subfamilies and genera of Calliphoridae, and to the species of the subfamilies Calliphorinae, Luciliinae and Chrysomyinae. Canadian Journal of Arthropod Identification 39: 191 pp. doi:10.3752/cjai.2019.39