Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Feather-legged Fly (Trichopoda pennipes)

Identification:  About the size of a large housefly.  Thorax is mostly black.  Abdomen is bright orange.  Has a fringe of comb-like black hairs on rear legs.  Smokey wings.  The wings of males have a darker area.  The abdomen tip of females is black.

Range:  Native to North America and found in most areas.

Food:  Adults feed on nectar.  Larva are parasites of certain true bugs, primarily squash bugs and stink bugs.

Habitat:  Found wherever crops that will attract its host species are growing.  Often hovers over squash plants searching for prey.  (BugGuide Species Page)

Life Cycle:  The female fly lays one to many small, white or gray, oval eggs on large nymphs or adult bugs. The larvae burrow from the egg directly into the bug's body. Only one larva survives within each pest bug. A large, cream-colored maggot exits from the body of the bug, drops to the ground, and pupates in a dark reddish-brown, capsule-like puparium. The bug soon dies.  A new generation of adult flies emerges to lay eggs about two weeks later. Each female fly may lay several hundred eggs, and there may be three generations each year, depending on location. The parasitoid overwinters as a larva within the body of the overwintering bug, emerging in late spring or early summer.  (Cornell University ... site also includes photos of several life cycle stages)

Remarks:  T. pennipes appears to have different biotypes across the country, preying on very specific hosts in different regions. (Cirrus Images)

The stinkbug "stink" that repels many predators, seems to attract T. pennipes.

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Lisa at Greenbow said...

I have never seen a fly with an orange body. I will be looking for this. Great photo.

Nathan Strange said...

I've got squash bugs and stink bugs everywhere and they've decimated my garden. I *need* this fly to come to my house! Can they be ordered from an organic source, such as the mexican bean beatle's parasitic wasp? Sounds crazy, but you never know -

Helen said...

Great shot and an interesting story to go with it. Helen

Marvin said...

Thanks for the comments everyone.

The Cornell article linked above says these flies are not available commercially -- at least, when that article was written. I really don't know.

The same article says, "Parasitism of squash bugs may be as high as 80%. However, parasitized bugs continue to feed and lay eggs for some time, and the influence of the fly is not always sufficient to prevent economic crop damage."

Texas Travelers said...

Great photo and find.

Thanks for sharing this very cool fly. I may have photographed it several years ago and couldn't identify it. Before I got serious with Bug Guide. Now I have to go back and look for it.

I have been doing more on plants lately.

Two new posts at 'I C U Nature' on plants.
Roughleaf Dogwood.
Snow on the Prairie.
Come visit and tell us what you think,
Troy & Martha

Birdy Official said...

Never saw this fly before. Looking very beautiful and unusual.