Identification resources

NEW: see the recording scheme identification guides, covering a range of soldierflies and snipeflies so far (more will be added when possible!)

Getting to the right family

Once you start to get familiar with the soldierfly group it is often possible to recognise the different families straight away, but if you need a family key there are two good options that cover all Diptera families:

  • Unwin, D.M. 1981. Key to the families of British Diptera. Field Studies Council. Identifies flies to family level. Free download.
  • Ball, S.G. 2017. Introduction to the families of British Diptera. A more recent key to families, containing more information than the above. If you are a member of Dipterists Forum you can download a copy. Membership of Dipterists Forum is strongly recommended!

The 'soldierfly bible'

For species-level identification, the essential guide to all the species covered by the recording scheme is:

Seven of the 11 UK families are also covered in this excellent field guide:

For more information on the above guide see this review from the Bulletin of the Dipterists Forum. The families that are not included are Asilidae (robberflies), Bombyliidae (bee-flies), Scenopinidae (window-flies) and Therevidae (stiletto-flies).

A older key to the whole of the soldierflies and allies by Harold Oldroyd was published by the Royal Entomological Society. This key needs to be used with caution, as it is rather out-of-date and contains some errors, but it is a useful extra resource:

Below are identification resources for each family within the recording scheme. See also a good collection of images for the group on Malcolm Storey's BioImages website.

Soldierflies (family Stratiomyidae)

Horseflies (family Tabanidae)

Robberflies (family Asilidae)

Snipeflies (family Rhagionidae)

Stiletto-flies (family Therevidae)

Proceed with caution when using these resources! Therevids often require microscopic examination and sometimes dissection for accurate identification.

* : the Norwegian and Finnish documents are in English and include keys to all the the UK species (plus a few non-UK ones), but note that what we call Thereva bipunctata is called Thereva unica in both papers; and beware that some of the identification features, especially some of the information about colours of body parts and hairs, may not always work for British specimens. The Falck paper from 2011 incorporates much of the key and illustrations from the Haarto and Winqvist one from 2006.

Bee-flies (family Bombyliidae)

Hunchback-flies (family Acroceridae)

Water-snipeflies (family Athericidae)

Awl-flies (family Xylophagidae)

Windowflies (family Scenopinidae)

Wood-soldierflies (family Xylomyidae)

Checklist of species

Download the Soldierflies and Allies Checklist (Excel spreadsheet, version 3-1, 42kb). It includes a list of all species covered by the recording scheme, giving a brief summary of distribution and habitats.


Help with terms and morphology (body parts, wing venation etc.):

  • Giancarlo Dessì's website provides a detailed accont of Diptera morphology with clearly labelled diagrams
  • The excellent anatomical atlas for flies (when you open the atlas it shows an image for "Lower Diptera" - click on the "Lower Brachycera" tab underneath the image to get the terms most relevant to soldierflies and allies).
  • Some useful diagrams about parts of legs! (antero-ventral, postero-dorsal etc.)