Not Your Average Lookin' Fly
The feather-legged fly looks as if it were formed by a committee.
It's about the size of a house fly, but there the similarity ends.
Black head and thorax, hind legs fringed with a "comb" of short black hairs, and an abdomen that's the color of honey--bright orange honey.
It's one of those insects that prompts folks (including many entomologists) to ask: "What's THAT?"
We took a photo of "what's THAT?" yesterday on a Yolo County farm. Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis, identified it as family Tachinidae, genus Tichopoda and species, probably T. pennipes.
It's a parasitoid. The female lays her eggs inside squash bugs, stink bugs and other agricultural pests.
It was probably introduced here from Europe. Squash growers and other farmers employ it as a biological control agent.
To us, it appears to be a double agent: distinctive and deadly.
Don't let that honey-colored abdomen fool you...
Distinctively colored tachinid fly, probably Trichopoda pennipes, on Santolina rosmarinifolia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
View from above of Trichopoda pennipes on Santolina rosmarinifolia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Golden abdomen of a Trichopoda pennipes. Note the fringed legs. The fly is on Santolina rosmarinifolia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)