swift feather-legged fly

(Trichopoda pennipes)

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

not listed


not listed


not listed


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.




Total length: ¼ to ½


Similar Species












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 Map



24, 27, 29, 30, 82.




Relatively common in southeast Minnesota



Diptera (flies)  


  Infraorder Cyclorrhapha  
  Zoosection Schizophora  
  Zoosubsection Calyptratae  


Oestroidea (bot flies, blow flies, and allies)  


Tachinidae (tachinid flies)  






Trichopoda (feather-legged flies)  
  Subgenus Galactomyia  



Musca pennipes

Phasia jugatoria

Thereva hirtipes

Thereva pennipes

Trichopoda cilipes

Trichopoda flavicornis


Common Names


swift feather-legged fly










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



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.



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



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



The tube-like protruding mouthpart(s) of a sucking insect.



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.



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   swift feather-legged fly  
    swift feather-legged fly   swift feather-legged fly  

Mike Poeppe


… in the yard just west of Houston, MN.

    swift feather-legged fly      
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos








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

Published on Oct 25, 2016


  Trichopoda pennipes
Rui Andrade

Published on Aug 7, 2010

04/08/2010 - Portugal




Visitor Sightings

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  Alfredo Colon

Location: Albany, NY

swift feather-legged fly  
  Mike Poeppe

Location: Houston County, MN

… in the yard just west of Houston, MN.

swift feather-legged fly  
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

swift feather-legged fly  
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

swift feather-legged fly  
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings






Created: 2/9/2019

Last Updated:

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