New Predator for Greenhouse Pests

October 7, 2005 - 10:25

USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have helped Cornell University colleagues make the first-ever identification on this continent of the Old World hunter fly, Coenosia attenuata. , according to the USDA.

This winged predator is originally from Europe, where it’s also known as the “killer fly.” A member of the same insect family as the common housefly, the old world hunter fly preys upon fungus gnats, shore flies, leafminers, fruit flies, moth flies and some leafhoppers, according to the USDA.

The old world hunter fly’s presence here was confirmed in studies by Cornell graduate student Emily Sensenbach, under the direction of ecologist Steve Wraight of ARS’s Plant Protection Research Unit (PPRU) and associate professor John Sanderson. The PPRU is located on Cornell’s Ithaca, N.Y., campus.

According to Wraight, this particular fly lives up to its name — and not just because it preys on other flying insects. It sits, waits and only pursues prey that is in flight. When it catches its target, the fly punctures it with a daggerlike mouthpart and consumes the liquid inside. Its soil-dwelling larvae are also predatory, feeding mainly on larvae of other insects.

This fly was first noticed in the United States in 1999 in Onondaga County, N.Y. Wraight is not certain exactly how it got to the United States but suspects that the horticulture industry played a role, according to the USDA.He added that the fly was seen in South America, Southern Asia, Africa, the Canary Islands, New Guinea and Australia before being identified here.

According to Wraight, there is considerable potential for using hunter flies in biological control of insect pests.

To learn more about hunter fly research, which is funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Floriculture and Nursery Research Initiative, read the October issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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