Whether you know it or not, you’ve seen a tachinid fly before. It looks like the common house fly, but it’s actually incredibly beneficial to your garden.
Tachinid flies are one of the best native insects you can ask for in regards to natural pest control, and they’re super easy to lure into your garden.
Below, we’re going to explain how to do just that and precisely why you want these ugly little angels in amidst your greenery in the first place.
Worldwide Distribution of the Tachinid Fly
This is a very successful fly, with over 1,520 genera consisting of more than 10,000 described species. America’s population of the tachinid fly consists of well over 1,300 different species spread out across nearly every single state.
This is great news for all you potential gardeners and really bad news for all the bugs these guys eat and destroy.
You don’t need to worry about these little guys attacking your plants. They’ll leave them alone almost entirely in their search for food and for suitable hosts within which to lay their eggs.
Types of Tachinid Flies
You actually have a few varieties to keep an eye out for in the garden.
- Voria ruralis- Specializes in cabbage looper caterpillars as both a food and an egg source.
- Lydella thompsoni- Likes the European corn borer and as such, is a dear friend of corn farmers. This species was actually introduced a few times to different regions around the US.
- Myiopharus doryphorae- The Colorado potato beetle is a favorite of this one for an egg source, which of course, kills the poor beetles, paving the way for more tachinids.
Different types of these flies will exist at different points around the world, so research which ones you’re most likely to see in your area and what sort of pests they go for.
Tachinid Fly Identification
Tachinid flies are parasites that resemble house flies. They come in different colors (gray, striped, dark-red, black), size, and shapes.
They certainly aren’t picky at all, and they lay their eggs on the body of targeted host insects.
You can increase your chances of seeing the tachinid fly by paying close attention to the types and variety of plants you’ve put down, as well as the signs to look for later on.
For instance, if you should happen to see a caterpillar crawling around with little white dots on its back, leave it alone. It’s been infected with tachinid eggs and will soon die, releasing a new little hoard of larvae into the world to continue their good deeds for your garden.
If you’re squeamish, skip to the next paragraph, because the reproduction methods of this little fly are something straight out of a horror science fiction.
Adult flies looking for a place to lay eggs and if they see a big, juicy caterpillar or beetle, they land and insert their eggs directly into the host’s body.
Whether eaten or injected, the eggs are toxic to the host. Once the babies hatch internally, they start off by eating whatever the host can live without at first, allowing them to continue moving about normally until this non-essential tissue runs out.
That’s when they prey on the vital organs, killing the host quite swiftly. But by this point, the young have developed enough to begin the pupating process regardless of the status of the host.
Once the larvae hatch inside the host, the host bug eventually dies and the larvae escape to begin the cycle anew. A single fly can expect to be a grandparent twice over in just under a year.
Benefits to Your Garden
These teeny little bugs are great to have around because they prey on most of the smaller, more annoying pests you see flying and crawling around your garden.
Whatever is ‘bugging’ you, they will likely kill and eat pretty quickly.
In addition to killing pests, tachinid flies also help to pollinate the plants around them much like honeybees, which makes them especially helpful in higher elevations that honeybees can’t survive at.
If you don’t have a lot of bees around, you’ll definitely want to take notice of this little insect. They may be what ends up pushing your garden over the brink of survival as the season progresses.
How to Attract Them to Your Garden
If you genuinely want these little guys around, make sure to plant a highly diverse garden that will be appealing to a whole variety of pollinators.
Doing this will attract the beneficial little predators straight to you, drawn in by the frenzy of prey items that become available.
You can even purchase some pollinators for your garden, provided that you have enough food around to keep them happy and well-fed throughout the planting season.
If your garden is full of enough flowering herbs, then expect to see a lot of tachinid flies once the heat of the season hits.
Plants that attract tachinid flies include dill, carrot, sweet clover, angelica, buckwheat, and yarrow.
Keeping Tachinids Once You’ve Got Them
This can be the tricky part. Depending on what you’ve planted, you may see an upsurge or a downtick of the beneficial flies over the course of the season.
They’re most attracted to flowering herbs planted in rich soil, especially plants from the Aster family. Herbs such as dill, parsley, cilantro, chamomile, feverfew, daisy, and ox-eye.
You can even leave certain weeds behind to keep them interested, such as the wild carrot and the sweet clover.
It’s always possible that they could be a little too good at their jobs.
If one day you suddenly notice that the caterpillar population has plummeted, and by sheer coincidental luck you just so happen to be in the process of putting together a beautiful butterfly garden, then tachinid flies could easily be the source of the issue.
The larvae of the tachinid fly will burrow its way inside worms and caterpillars, later killing them. Hence why silkworm ranchers consider this normally highly beneficial fly to be a supreme pest and dangerous nuisance.
It’s always a good idea to make sure to attract as many beneficial insects to your garden as possible, even if you have to release them. However you decide to do it, the tachinid fly is one of the best choices you can make as a gardener starting out for the season.