swift feather-legged fly

(Trichopoda pennipes)

Conservation Status
swift feather-legged fly
Photo by Alfredo Colon
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

not listed

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Swift feather-legged fly is a medium-sized tachinid fly. It is native to western Europe and North America. In the United States it is common east of the Great Plains, was introduced and is locally common on the west coast, and is present but uncommon in the arid southwest. It was introduced in California as a biological agent to control the squash bug, an agricultural pest. It is relatively common in the southeast quarter of Minnesota, where it is at the northern extent of its range.

Adults are ¼ to ½ long, about the size of a house fly.

The head is black and velvety. There are two large compound eyes at the side of the head and three small simple eyes (ocelli) in a triangle at the top of the head. The compound eyes are brown. They do not meet at the top of the head in either sex. The upper face (frons), corresponding to the forehead, is black. The area between the frons and the compound eye (frontorbital plate) is yellow. The antennae have three segments. The second segment has a longitudinal groove (suture) on top. The third segment has a long, forward-pointed bristle (arista) on the upper side. The arista is bare, not feather-like (plumose). The protruding mouthpart (proboscis) is not slender and piercing.

The thorax has three segments. Each segment has four principal exoskeletal plates, one above, one below, and one on each side. The upper (dorsal) plates, from front to rear, are the prescutum, scutum, and scutellum. There is a distinct groove (transverse suture) across the thorax separating the prescutum and scutum. The prescutum is light orange with three broad black stripes that do not quite reach the suture. The scutum is entirely black, sometimes with two faint orange stripes. The scutellum is black. The plate on each side just above the base of the hind leg (hypopleuron) has a row of bristles. The part of the thorax from which the wings arise (pteropleuron) also has bristles.

The abdomen is bright orange, often with a blackish smudge. On the female, the tip of the abdomen is entirely black. On the male it is entirely orange.

As with all flies, there is only one pair of wings, the hind wings being reduced to small, knob-like structures (halteres) that are used for balance in flight. The halteres are yellow. The wings on the female are entirely smoky brown and mostly opaque, becoming transparent at the rear margin. On the male there is often orange on the basal half at the forward (costal) margin. At the base of each wing there are two small, rounded lobes (calypters) that cover the halteres. The calypters are well-developed and bright orange. The first posterior cell (R5) is narrowed at the wing tip

The legs are mostly black except for the first segment (coxa) and the base of the third segment (femur) of each leg, which are orange. The fourth segment (tibia) of the hind leg is robust and bears a prominent, feather-like fringe of long, black, flattened hairs.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Total Length: ¼ to ½

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
     
     
 
Habitat
 
 

 

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

 

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

 

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

The female lays one or more eggs usually on the underside of a host insect. When the eggs hatch the larvae bore into the insect body. Only one larvae per host survives. After two weeks the larvae, which has grown to about the size of the host’s body, emerges, killing the host. The larva (maggot) burrows into the soil, pupates, and emerges as an adult in about two weeks. There are up to three generations per year. The last generation overwinters in the soil as pupae, or in the body of the host.

 
     
 

Larva Food

 
 

Leatherbugs (Coreoidea), stink bugs (Pentatomidae), shield-backed bugs (Scutelleridae), and bordered plant bugs (Largidae)

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

Flower nectar

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

24, 27, 29, 30.

 
  1/5/2021      
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Relatively common in southeast Minnesota

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Diptera (gnats, mosquitoes, true flies)  
 

Suborder

Brachycera (circular-seamed flies, mouches muscoïdes, muscoid flies, short-horned flies)  
 

Infraorder

Muscomorpha  
  No Rank Eremoneura  
  No Rank Cyclorrhapha  
  No Rank Schizophora  
  No Rank Calyptratae  
 

Superfamily

Oestroidea  
 

Family

Tachinidae (tachinid flies)  
 

Subfamily

Phasiinae  
 

Tribe

Gymnosomatini  
 

Genus

Trichopoda  
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

Musca pennipes

Phasia jugatoria

Thereva hirtipes

Thereva pennipes

Trichopoda cilipes

Trichopoda flavicornis

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

swift feather-legged fly

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Arista

A large bristle on the upper side of the third segment of the antenna of a fly.

 

Calypter

On flies: one of two small membranous lobes at the base of the forewing that covers the haltere. On mosses: A thin cap that covers and protects the capsule and operculum and drops off at maturity.

 

Costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.

 

Halteres

In flies: a pair of knob-like structures on the thorax representing hind wings that are used for balance.

 

Ocellus

Simple eye; an eye with a single lens. Plural: ocelli.

 

Proboscis

The protruding mouthpart(s) of a sucking insect.

 

Scutellum

The exoskeletal plate covering the rearward (posterior) part of the middle segment of the thorax in some insects. In Coleoptera, Hemiptera, and Homoptera, the dorsal, often triangular plate behind the pronotum and between the bases of the front wings. In Diptera, the exoskeletal plate between the abdomen and the thorax.

 

Tibia

The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot).

 

 

 

 

 

       
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Alfredo Colon
       
  swift feather-legged fly   swift feather-legged fly
       
  swift feather-legged fly   swift feather-legged fly
       
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Camera

     
Slideshows
   
  feather-legged fly (Trichopoda pennipes)
Bill Keim
 
  feather-legged fly (Trichopoda pennipes)  

 

slideshow

       
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Other Videos
 
  Trichopoda pennipes = FEATHER-LEGGED TACHINID FLY
Rob Curtis
 
   
 
About

Published on Oct 25, 2016

Trichopoda pennipes = FEATHER-LEGGED TACHINID FLY

   
       
  Trichopoda pennipes
Rui Andrade
 
   
 
About

Published on Aug 7, 2010

04/08/2010 - Portugal

   
       

 

Camcorder

         
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Alfredo Colon
8/7/2019

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

swift feather-legged fly


Alfredo Colon
8/16/2018

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

swift feather-legged fly


     
     
 
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Created: 2/9/2019

Last Updated:

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