Feather-legged Fly

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Filed under Outdoor Notes

November 15, 2010

One of the best reasons, beyond the culinary, for growing mint near your garden is that it is a great nectar source for any number of  parasites. One parasite I often see in my mint patch is The Feather-legged fly (Trichopoda pennipes).

Feather-legged fly on Aster, note the "feathers."

You’re looking for a small fly with smoky wings, a red rear end, and (you have to get personal) a feathery fringe on the rear legs–hence the name. Maybe next year I can get a photo of the rest of the fly.

This year will be remembered by many folks as the year of the Stinkbug invasion. Good news, Feather-legged flies are parasites of Stinkbugs, as well as Squashbugs (which are a serious pest of cucumbers, squashes, melons, etc.).

The female flies are actually attracted to the pheromones released by male Stinkbugs. They lay their eggs on the bug’s abdomen. Once the maggot hatches, it burrows into the host and starts feeding on bug body fluids. Eventually, the maggot pops out between the abdominal segments–which kills the bug–and drops to the ground and pupates.

Having a Feather-legged fly in their belly actually will not stop an adult bug from eating, but it does destroy their ability to make more bugs. So, while you may not see an immediate effect, over time the presence of Feather-legged flies should reduce your Stingbug and Squashbug populations.

Lastly, a cautionary note for any novice gardeners who may be reading this: do not plant the mint in your garden. Only plant mint somewhere that you can mow around it. Mint will take over your garden.

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