|Entomologist Kevin Moulton, PhD
University of Tennessee
with Specimen of New Fly Species
Unwelcome guests at picnics, painstakingly screened out of our homes, even the subject of vicious children’s poems, flies get no respect. Some of these winged creatures we see, many others we don’t. But scientists appreciate the beauty of Diptera’s place in the intricate web of life. You may have heard about the scientists who recently named one species of Diptera for pop star Beyonce.
Long before this, Doctor Kevin Moulton named a species of fly he discovered for the love of his life, his beautiful wife, Susan, who has sometimes worked alongside him as a research assistant. They found the species later to be described as Simulium meyerae in the Rio Grande on the first of many bug collecting road trip “dates.” Moulton commented, “There are some very beautiful flies out there that rival even the nicest of butterflies.”
|Dr. Kevin Moulton, PhD in North Georgia
Photo Courtesy Susan Moulton
Moulton now leads a research team of PhD candidates based at the University of Tennessee who scour the Southeast for the very creatures most people try to avoid. He’s known as a specialist in studying Diptera, with dozens of published research works and a knack for identifying the tiniest creatures that no one has ever cataloged. Most recently, the team discovered another new species of order Diptera and family Blephariceridae, a specific type of net-winged midge, in a stream in North Georgia. It’s so new to science that it hasn’t even been named. I asked Moulton why the rest of us should care about these things that his colleagues in entomology get so enthused about.
|New, Unnamed Species of Net-Winged Midge
at a UT Laboratory
Back in the laboratory, researchers break down the details to the very DNA of these humble, two-winged creatures. Gene sequencing creates family trees that show relationships between them. In the case of this newest net-winged midge, adults survive for approximately two to four weeks in the spring. The larval and pupal stages are still undiscovered, but should be present by March.