KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (CBS Local) — If you see a huge insect attacking a bee or a wasp this summer, you’ve probably stumbled upon a bee panther.
Also known as the red-footed cannibalfly, the bee panther is a type of robber fly, a name that reflects its aggressive predatory habits.
Experts say bee panthers like to hide out and wait for a bee or wasp to fly by before launching at it in flight, stabbing it with its mouth part, known as the proboscis, and killing it.
When they’re ready to eat, the bee panther injects the prey with a saliva cocktail that immobilizes it and liquefies their insides.
See this giant bug snacking on a wasp? It's called the Bee Panther, or 'Red-footed Cannibalfly.' 😳 https://t.co/aDwh0XqAJP
— KHOU 11 News Houston (@KHOU) August 1, 2019
Adult cannibalflies are also known to attack dragonflies, grasshoppers, spiders and even hummingbirds.
Experts say the fly does play an important ecological role across the Southeast. However, while it doesn’t pose any serious threat to humans, they say don’t try to catch one.
“There’s no venom but it does have some saliva and digestive enzymes that can be irradiating — but just the physical bite would be painful,” Laura Russo, an assistant professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, told WBIR.
Experts say the life span of the fly isn’t very long it only lasts about two to three weeks and they prefer wooded areas.