Long-legged fly resting on a eggplant leaf in search of potential prey. Photo by FOL taken in The Serene Forest
Long-legged flies are Friends!
When your garden has reached ecosystem status, you will begin to notice it buzzing with life. Bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are definitely a priority to attract. But there are many other insects that help out your plants that you should be attracting as well. The lesser known of these insects, or beneficial predators/insects, include the Long-legged fly or flies of Dolichopodidae family for you science geeks.
Most people think of flies as the annoying critters that keep landing on your hotdog at a picnic. Or maybe they think of the gross looking maggots that show up when you forgot you left that hotdog somewhere for a few weeks. The long-legged fly is here to change your thoughts on flies.
Adult long-legged flies typically like areas near bodies of water. They enjoy moist soil, bark, rotting logs or other moist organic materials. Their bodies are typically an almost metallic green, blue or sometimes copper color. The wings are slightly larger than the body. The legs as you would expect are long and males show them off with bright colors.
So how does this insect help your garden's ecosystem? For starters, I have yet to be bothered by a long-legged fly at a picnic. More importantly, these flies are predators in the garden targeting a good number of the critters that can cause destruction in the garden. Their appetite consists of aphids, mites, thrips, white flies, small caterpillars/worms, and other insect larvae. The fact that they eat aphids is enough to be considered friend. Long-legged flies get started early too. Their larvae are predaceous to those insects as well.
Long-legged fly resting on a citrus leaf above aphids it will feed on later. Photo by FOL taken in The Serene Forest.
Insects like this really reinforce the principle of gardening for an ecosystem and not simply just rows of vegetables. Once the bad insects are in the garden, it is only a matter of time before the predators show up and help achieve balance. However, if gardeners are too quick to spray their plants to quickly kill harmful insects, these predators may never show up. Next is a viscous cycle of bad insects, spray, bad insects, spray and so on. By allowing predators a chance into the garden, you may reduce your time, money, and effort on pest control to very little if anything. Bad insects show up and before they get out of hand your predators have swept through and filled their bellies.
Keep an eye out for long-legged flies in your landscape!