The family Syrphidae, commonly called hover flies or flower flies, include some 6,000 living species. As “one of the most abundant groups of flower visiting insects”, with adults of most species feeding almost exclusively on pollen and nectar or honeydew, these flies are among the most important pollinators, both for wild plants and numerous crops.
The multi-volume Diptères exotiques nouveaux ou peu connus (1838-) by Justin Macquart contains the first descriptions of numerous Diptera species, including many members of the Syrphidae. Systema Dipterorum, the biosystematic database of world Diptera, attributes 430 Syrphidae names to Macquart.
“Macquart wrote so many early Syrphidae genus and species descriptions that it’s almost impossible to write a syrphid taxonomic paper without referencing this title at some point,” explains Dr. Andrew D. Young.
Young is a University of California, Davis postdoc, working out of the California Department of Food and Agriculture Plant Pest Diagnostics Center, where he specializes in Diptera taxonomy and phylogenetics. Although he studies Tephritidae (fruit flies) in his current position, most of Young’s entomological training has been focused on Syrphidae. While Macquart’s monographic series is an essential resource for this group, it’s not easy to come by.
“Each volume is several hundred pages, and was published in the mid 1800s, so hardcopies are not particularly easy to get ahold of,” explains Young. “Most of the time when you do find a hardcopy, it’s one that’s been photocopied so many times it’s barely legible.”
Fortunately, Diptères exotiques nouveaux ou peu connus is freely available on the Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL).