• Kirk Mason

Parasitoid Flies - Not All Heroes Wear Capes!

At first glance Tachina fera may appear like an ordinary, potentially bothersome house fly; look a little closer and you will see that this particular type of fly is the often overlooked, quilled protector of our food, gardens and ecosystems!

Tachinids are a group of agile parasitoid flies, providing a key ecosystem service by helping our plants reproduce through feeding on the pollen and nectar of plants and spreading it between them. On top of pollination, tachinid flies help control pest species that target plants in our gardens, crops and nature reserves.

These flies are no threat to humans because they cannot bite and are not predatory but instead are natural enemies of many pest species! A grisly process starts through one of several ways: the flies glue eggs directly on the host, inject eggs into the host or lay eggs on the food plant of their hosts – where the larvae will pursue its target. When the larvae hatch, they will burrow into the host and feed on the innards of their victim. Once the larva is large enough it will leave the host’s body and pupate, eventually emerging as an adult fly, where the cycle will continue anew!

Although this lifecycle is gruesome, parasitoids such as the tachinids provide an essential ecosystem service and can reduce the damage done by pests such as the gypsy moth caterpillar; which if left unchecked can completely strip our magnificent trees and in some cases can even fell the mightiest oaks!

So, whether you are a keen gardener, enjoy the sight of a magnificent oak or simply just like to enjoy affordable food - you may want to give a nod of approval to the next bristled tachinid fly you see!

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