How could you not love a tiny fly called a punkie? Especially if it’s the reason cacao trees produce fruit, which becomes the mouthwatering chocolate so many of us are indulging in today?
And punkies are adorable, if you find hunched over little vampires adorable like I do. Ceratopogonid midges have a large, humped thorax and their heads are bent down, vaguely sinister. Insidiously small and rising up in clouds from wet areas, the females gorge themselves on your blood while you frantically try to smack them. No-see-ums? That’s them.
The larvae live in wet areas, swimming or crawling through damp dirt. These little predators have big eyespots and a slender head capsule, and some have mandibles with blood gutters for punching into their prey and streaming the haemolymph into their gullet.
Delightfully nasty little things.
Ceratopogonid midges in the genera Forcipomyia and Euprojoannisia are the main pollinators of the cacao plant in many parts of the world. Amidst the crawling and flying insects that may live on the cacao plant, only these tiny, biting flies are able to fit into the complicated cacao flower and spread the pollen that fertilizes other flowers.
I love a story of blood, sex, and chocolate on St. Valentine’s Day.
“Chocolate Midge.” U.S. National Park Service. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/searchq=cache:nsRKFFHw1roJ:www.nps.gov/subjects/pollinators/chocolatemidge.htm+&cd=9&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari
O’Doherty, D.C. and Zoll, J.J.K. “Forcipomyia hardyi (Diptera: Ceratopogonidae), a Potential Pollinator of Cacao (Theobroma cacao) Flowers in Hawaii.” Proceedings of the Hawaiian Entomological Society (2012) 44:79–81