San Joaquin Valley giant flower-loving fly photo by Greg Ballmer

FRESNO, Calif. May 11, 2018— The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today over the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s unlawful delay in deciding whether to extend Endangered Species Act protection to the San Joaquin Valley giant flower-loving fly.

The hummingbird-like fly has been extirpated from more than 99 percent of its former range, with only one remaining population about 15 miles east of Bakersfield, where it is under immediate threat of extinction from sand mining. There may be just a few hundred left.

“The San Joaquin Valley giant flower-loving fly is a unique animal. It deserves our help,” said Chris Nagano, a Center biologist. “This amazing creature will go extinct in the near future unless it receives the habitat protection and recovery efforts of the Endangered Species Act.”

The San Joaquin giant flower-loving fly acts like a stealth fighter jet. It can hover in mid-air and then instantly fly away at speeds difficult for the human eye to follow. Detailed studies of the high-speed, aerobatic flight and the structure of the eyes of a related fly led to advances in the U.S. Air Force’s missile-tracking systems.

Two California entomologists petitioned for emergency protection of the San Joaquin Valley giant flower-loving fly in June 2014. The Service determined in April 2015 that protection may be warranted, but it has failed to either propose or deny listing. The decision is now nearly three years overdue. The giant flower-loving fly was first identified as being in need of federal protection by the Service in 1991.

The huge insect is close in size to a small hummingbird, with a 1.5-inch body and long proboscis, or tongue. The species plays a critical role in its sand dune ecosystem, serving as food for birds and other predators and feeding on other invertebrates during its early stages. Surprisingly, the extremely active adults have never been observed feeding.

“The San Joaquin Valley giant flower-loving fly is one of a number of insects in the United States that are in imminent danger of extinction,” said Nagano. “Many of them play key roles in their ecosystems, such as pollination or food for other animals, and their loss may have far-reaching impacts on people.”