Below this fly’s eye you’ll see a long, thin proboscis, pointing downward. Many flower-loving flies maneuver these tube-like probes to reach deep into desert wildflowers for nectar. Members of a group of large, silvery-gray flies found only in the southwestern U.S. and northern Mexico, they can fly quickly and hover over flowers, aerial abilities that also make them efficient pollinators.

Once thought to be extinct, this fly was rediscovered in 1997 in California’s San Joaquin Valley. But scientists estimate that the remaining population is made up of only 100 to 1,000 individuals in a given year. Many factors contributed to its near-extinction: ongoing sand mining threatens its larvae, which are predators of sand-living insects and worms. Centuries of agricultural development have thinned their favored plants. And in the American West, as elsewhere, climate change is intensifying drought and increasing heat waves, creating hazards for this fly—and many other organisms.

San Joaquin Valley flower-loving fly
Rhaphiomidas rochilus
1–1.4 inches (2.5–3.5 cm)
Critically imperiled (natureserve)
Ecological Role
Pollinator as adult; predator as larva
AMNH Specimen Number
AMNH_IZC 00329562
California, U.S.