This is a list of my favourite tachinid keys and papers – my suggestions for ’recommended reading’. A full (world) bibliography can be read on the Tachinid Times web site.
|Book / Paper||Comments|
|Andersen, S. 1996. The Siphonini (Diptera: Tachinidae) of Europe. Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica 33, 148 pp.||This book is expensive but essential for studying this very tricky tribe. This information superceeds the section in Belshaw (1993).|
|Belshaw, R. 1993. Tachinid flies. Diptera: Tachinidae. Handbooks for the identification of British Insects. Royal Entomological Society of London 10, Part 4a(i). 170 pp.||This is the standard work on British Tachinidae though a little out of date now and in need of updating. The keys are, in the main, easy to use and will give good identifications – but you must be aware of the areas where new species need inserting in the key or where Andersen’s Siphoninirevision takes precedence. I am planning an update sheet for this listing the new species and the places in Belshaw’s keys that need changing.|
|Tschorsnig, H.P. and B. Herting. 1994. Die Raupenfliegen (Diptera: Tachinidae) Mitteleuropas: Bestimmungstabellen und Angaben zur Verbreitung und Ökologie der einzelnen Arten. Stutt. Beitr. Naturk. (A) 506, 170 pp.||This is the standard work in Europe and covers all species from Central to Northern Europe – plus a few from Eastern & Southern areas too. It is a very large key and it includes a large number of non-British species so it is probably best used as an aid for difficult specimens or to confirm IDs that have been first run through Belshaw. An English translation is available on my Downloads page.|
|van Emden, F.I. 1954. Handbooks for the identification of British Insects. Diptera Cyclorrhapha Calyptrata (i) section (a) Tachinidae and Calliphoridae. Royal Entomological Society of London. 10: Part 4a. 133 pp.||This book is long out of print and was superceeded by Belshaw, 1993. Although many names have since changed, the subfamily/tribe keys are very difficult to use and it is missing the ’new’ species it is still worth getting for its excellent figures and its keys to some of the difficult species. It helps to have a companion to Belshaw if you are keying something in a tricky genus.|
|Ford, T.H. and M.R. Shaw. 1991. Host records of some West Palearctic Tachinidae (Diptera). Entomol. Rec. J. Var. 103: 23-38.||This article provided much of the source information that Belshaw based his host data on.|
|Ford, T.H., Shaw M.R. & Robertson, D.M. 2000. Further host records of some West Palearctic Tachinidae (Diptera). Entomol. Rec. J. Var. 112: 25-36.||The update for Ford & Shaw (1991) containing more hosts data gathered since 1991.|
The main problems with van Emden’s keys were that he tried to impose a classic, ’natural’ methodology – where the keys progress from sub-family to tribe then genus and finally species. This is very difficult to achieve because the taxonomy of the Tachinidae is very confused and many higher groups (subfamily and tribe) are keyed on features that are very difficult to see. The classic ’nasty’ feature is the hairyness of the prosternum, a tiny area of chitin under the thorax just in front of the base of the front pair of legs. van Emden made this the first feature in the first couplet of the first key – not a good start!
Robert Belshaw improved the situation by creating an ’unnatural’ key – one where specimens are keyed straight to species (or sometimes genus), skipping the higher groupings. He also used the easiest features to find so prosternum isn’t mentioned at all (it is only a subfamily keying feature anyway) and he relies primarily on wing venation, bristles, arista and eye hairs. This form of key is quicker and easier to use but doesn’t tell you very much about how one tribe or genus relates to another.
As a guide, I would always start with Belshaw (amended with margin notes to say where new species come in) then if there was any doubt I would bring in the other works like Andersen, Tschorsnig or van Emden.