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Don’t Call The SWAT Team! These 9 Flies Are Local Delights

A close up picture of the Robber Fly, an orange-eyed fly eating a smaller insect while standing on a green stem.
Matt Bertone

What makes a fly a fly? Well sure, they have wings. But importantly, only two. The larger category for flies is Diptera, which tells you this if you break it down: In Greek, “di” means two (like divide or dialogue), and “ptera” means wing (like pterodactyl). 

Lots of other insects have four wings, but flies’ back wings evolved into a set of gyroscopes that let the insects balance themselves in-flight and perform the twisting acrobatics that makes them hard to smack.

Peacock fly

Credit Matt Bertone
Many flies wave their highly patterned wings to signal to mates and foes. The peacock fly - Callopistroyia annulipes - holds its wings upright to show off the patterns while walking back and forth. Peacock fly larvae live under the bark of dead trees.

Host Frank Stasio flies away with Diptera experts Matt Bertone and Chris Goforth. Bertone is the director of the Plant Disease and Insect Clinic at North Carolina State University. Goforth is the head of citizen science at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. BugFest: A Virtual Infestation is hosting remote events from Monday, Sept. 14 through Saturday, Sept. 19.

Goforth shares all sorts of fun facts about aquatic flieson Friday from 10 to 11 a.m., and both Bertone and Goforth will co-present “Bug Blitz 2020” on Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m. Immediately after, learn all about local flieswith Bertone. Later that night at 8 p.m., Goforth and others at the museum will throw a “Party at Your Porchlight”where they will show off some of the insects that only come out at night. Attend and get help identifying the insects circling the light.

You can check out the full schedule and register here.  

Stilt-legged fly

Credit Matt Bertone
Stilt-legged flies - Micropezidae - are charismatic, medium-sized flies that often mimic wasps by waving their front legs to fake antennae. They dance around on substrates near rotting vegetable matter where their larvae develop.

Mosquito Larva

Credit Christine Goforth
Fully-grown, mosquitoes are known for transmitting deadly diseases to humans. However as larvae, they provide important food for larger species, like dragonflies.

Other BugFest events:

"Paleozoic Megabugs! — Giant Arthropods from Before the Dinosaurs"
Saturday, Sept. 19, 2-2:45 

During the early days of life on land, the skies were filled with enormous insects, giant millipedes munched on decaying plants, and huge scorpions lurked beneath the trees. Learn about these impressive arthropods and the Paleozoic world that they inhabited in this talk from Museum paleontologist Christian Kammerer.

Saturday, 3-4 pm

George Carlin said that "the caterpillar does all the work, but the butterfly gets all the publicity." Not this time! Learn all about caterpillars — their amazing ability to eat (and poop), the transformations they go through as they grow, the ways they defend themselves from hungry predators and the incredible variety of colors and shapes they come in.

Elephant mosquito

Credit Matt Bertone
Most mosquitoes are the bane of humans, but not the elephant mosquito - Toxorhynchites rutilus. These large, blue mosquitoes with a bent proboscis feed enough as larvae to not need blood as adults. Even more important, their larvae feed on other mosquito larvae, serving to control pest species.


Hairy eye syrphid

Credit Matt Bertone
Hover or flower flies are a hugely diverse family containing numerous bee and wasp mimics. Adults are common at flowers and larvae do many things, from feeding on aphids to living in rotting wood or putrid water.


Boxwood leafminer

Credit Matt Bertone
This female boxwood leafminer is laying her eggs inside the leaf tissue of a common boxwood plant. Her larvae are pests that will develop inside the leaf over their year- long life cycle, creating small unsightly blisters.
Black soldier fly

Credit Matt Bertone
Black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens) are found across the word, where they breed in rotting vegetable matter and dung. They are important consumers of compost here in North Carolina and the larvae can be used as highly nutritious food for animals, and even humans.

Gall midges

Credit Matt Bertone
Gall midges are extremely diverse and many are tightly associated with their plant hosts, where the larvae create elaborate growths called galls. Here the galls of three different species in the same genus can be seen on their host, bald cypress.



Grant Holub-Moorman coordinates events and North Carolina outreach for WUNC, including a monthly trivia night. He is a founding member of Embodied and a former producer for The State of Things.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.
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