Cochise County Insects: Mexican Robber Fly, Archilestris Magnificus


Archilestris magnificus, the Mexican Robber Fly, came winging down outside my southern Cochise County bedroom window at high noon today…or pretty close to noon, anyway. I didn’t check the exact time.

Frankly, I’d never seen anything like it. This was one big, ugly bug, two inches or more in length with a burly black chest, long orange tail, short but sharp proboscis, and what looked like a ton of attitude. Were I of the insect size and persuasion, this critter would scare the juices right out of me. There was absolutely nothing meek and mild about this guy. Or gal, but when it comes to giant monster flies, who’s worrying about gender?

A bit of Internet research turned up a few interesting facts about the beast:

1. It’s much more common in Mexico, having been spotted in only a few areas in the United States, all in Arizona. For that matter, nearly all USA sightings have been right here in Cochise County: In Douglas, forty miles to the southeast of our place, which lies one mile north of the Mexican border. In Benson, roughly an hour’s drive to the north. And now here, a bit southeast of Palominas.

2. These robber flies, as a group (not just Archilestris magnificus) really are tough cookies, feeding on other insects which they catch either in flight or by ambush. You think a vampire is scary when he says, “I will suck your blood!”? Try being an insect grabbed by this monster, which sucks every drop of moisture out of your body faster than the meanest spider can do the same. The people who go around naming insects realize this, too. They must, often referring to robber flies as assassin flies.

3. They really do look kind of cool, like a helicopter designed by Stephen King.

Mexican Robber Fly, Archilestris magnificus , sighted in southern Cochise County, Arizona on September 10, 2015.

Mexican Robber Fly, Archilestris magnificus , sighted in southern Cochise County, Arizona on September 10, 2015.

The Mexican Robber Fly sighting was miraculously fortunate, its fly-in coinciding with the one moment I was standing at the window today. But wait…it seems like it coincided with something else…what could–oh yeah! Today is my wife’s 64th birthday. Let’s see, one redheaded woman in the front of the house, one orange tailed assassin fly out back of the house…nah. There couldn’t be any connection between the two.

Could there?