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Beneficial Garden Bugs: The Good Flies

Not all bugs are alike.  Some bugs in Florida are garden pests, because they can do a lot of damage to plants, especially during the growing season. However, if you see a strange bug lurking on one of your plants, hold off on spraying with pesticides until you have that bug identified!

Other bugs are actually beneficial insects that protect your plant by feeding on some of the most notorious garden pests like aphids and mosquitoes. Broad-spectrum pesticides are non-selective and, unfortunately, can kill both the good bugs and the bad bugs. Proper identification and protection of beneficial insects will save you money on pesticides and provide you with garden allies for years to come.

Three of Florida’s beneficial garden insects are types of flies; the Damselfly, the Hover Fly, and the Mydas Fly. Below is a short description of each and their benefits.

The Damselfly

The Damselfly. Photo credit: blogs.ifas.ufl.edu

Though not a true fly, the Damselfly is one of the most obvious and strikingly beautiful flying insects that is typically mistaken for its close relative the Dragonfly. Some of the distinguishing features are that the Damselfly is smaller with a thinner twig-like body. It may look beautiful, but in the garden, it is a warrior in disguise. A single dragonfly can eat hundreds of mosquitoes per day. The Damselfly is not a picky eater and can also eat large quantities of moths, flies, caterpillars, and beetles as well.

The Hover Fly

The Hover Fly. Photo Credit: edis.ifas.ufl.edu

Commonly mistaken for a bee or wasp because of the yellow and black stripes on its abdomen, the Hover Fly is actually a true fly. Like a tiny helicopter, it can dart around quickly or hover indefinitely in the air. One easy way to differentiate it from a wasp or bee is that its striped abdomen has a flattened shape, unlike the abdomen of a bee which is round or a wasp which has a downward, sharp-pointed taper at the end. While the adult Hover Fly is a beneficial pollinator that feeds on flower nectar, a healthy larval population of the Hover Fly can decimate up to 80% of an average aphid infestation.

The Mydas Fly

Mydas maculiventris. Photo credit: Mimi Vreeland

The Mydas Fly is no average house fly.  As a matter of fact, it is one of the largest true flies in the world. Some Mydas flies can reach a length of over 2.5 inches. The adult Mydas Fly is also considered a pollinator and has a penchant for the nectar of Saw Palmetto flowers. Their beneficial larvae are soil-inhabiting and have a voracious appetite for subterranean white grubworms and beetle larvae that do damage to lawns, ornamental plants, and vegetables.

Do not under-estimate the benefits these flies will have on the health of your garden’s ecosystem, should they decide to stay and call your garden “Home.”

2 Comments on “Beneficial Garden Bugs: The Good Flies

  1. Many thanks, that information is a real eye opener and I’m sure there are more beneficial insects out there. Do you have a reference guide, thanks, Frank..

  2. Thank you for your feedback, Frank. Here are a couple of links to our EDIS documents on beneficial insects. The following links include more of the commonly seen beneficial insects: https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/topic_beneficial_insects and https://mrec.ifas.ufl.edu/lso/BANKER%20IST/Beneficial%20Insects%202.pdf that you can cut and paste into your browser. Though not an exhaustive compilation, they are a good start for identifying beneficial insects in your garden. Have a great day!

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