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THESE FLIES ARE GOOD GUYS!
By: Tracey Liao Van Hooser | August 11, 2022
One of the best ways to manage garden pests is by encouraging natural predators. Everyone knows and loves ladybugs, but it’s time to show appreciation for syrphid flies and tachinid flies!
Also known as flower flies or hover flies, syrphid flies are real garden superstars. In their larval form, they can eat as many as 400 aphids, caterpillars, thrips and other small insects. As adults, these important pollinators feed on pollen and nectar. They are often mistaken for bees but syrphid flies won’t bite or sting. Familiarize yourself with their appearance in all life stages so you don’t accidentally squish or swat these good guys!
These beneficial insects are easily mistaken for the pesky common housefly. You can distinguish them by the bristly hairs on their bodies and the fact that, instead of buzzing around your picnic, these flies are sipping flower nectar! Tachinid flies lay their eggs onto garden pests like caterpillars, earwigs, and beetles. When these eggs hatch, the larvae burrow into their host and eventually kill them. (Any kids who love the YUCK factor will enjoy learning about tachinid flies!) There are many species of tachinid flies; you can see what some of them look like here.
Attracting Good Flies to your Garden
To encourage these beneficial insects to stay in your garden, simply plant nectar and pollen rich flowers. Daisy-like flowers and plants with clusters of tiny flowers are among their favorites. Some examples include seaside daisy, yarrow, alyssum, buckwheat, California lilac, California aster, and flowering herbs like cilantro, parsley, and dill.
Don’t reach for bug spray at the first aphid sighting. Bug sprays, even ones labeled “earth-friendly” or “for organic gardening”, do not know which insect you are targeting and you don’t want to unintentionally kill the beneficial insects in your garden. Always start with the least toxic approach to any insect problem (including giving the good bugs a chance to do their job!).
Learn More About Beneficial Insects!
Want to know more about attracting beneficial insects to manage garden pests? Check out this “10 Most Wanted Bugs” brochure or watch the recording of our “Bring in the Beneficials” webinar.