Syrphid Fly - Mallota sp.
Order Diptera | Family Syrphidae - Flower Flies, Hover Flies

Live adult flies photographed at DuPage County, Illinois.
Insects & Spiders | Flies Index | Tachinidae | Dung Flies | Bee Flies | Robber Flies
Syrphid Fly - Mallota sp.

The hover flies are a large group of superbly beneficial insects. Their coloring and movements of most species mimic bees or wasps -- they are either stout-bodied and covered with hair, resembling a bumble bee, or boldly patterned with yellow, orange and black, resembling aculeate (stinging) wasps. Some species even go so far as to wave their front legs in front of their face to mimic the jointed antennae of aculeate wasps. This phenomenon is called Batesian mimicry, indicating that defenseless organisms resemble or "mimic" dangerous or unpalatable models.

Adult hover flies require nectar or honeydew and pollen to ensure their reproduction (as well as to power their physical activities), and larvae generally require aphids for breakfast, lunch and dinner to complete their development. However, in the absence of aphids, larvae of some species can subsist and develop entirely on diets of pollen [1].

Quite a few flower fly species feed on aphids (aphidophagous). All are in the subfamily Syrphinae. Common aphidophagous flower flies in California vegetable crops include Toxomerus marginatus, Allograpta obliqua, Syrphus opinator among many others.

Syrphid flies are routinely used as a biological control in the lettuce fields of California's vegetable-producing regions, where the fly's larvae are generally effective in controlling lettuce aphid (Nasonovia ribisnigri). It is primarily the Syrphidae that enable organic romaine growers on California's central coast to produce harvestable crops.

Syrphidae larvae are, in turn, parasitized by wasps in the Hymenoptera families Ichneumonidae and Pteromalidae [1].

References
  1. University of California, DANR, "Syrphidae and Biological Control Agents for Vegetable Crops" .pdf
  2. BugGuide.net, Genus Mallota
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Flies of North America - Order Diptera. Flies are prevalent in virtually all habitats, with over 16,000 species in North America. Flies can be distinguished from all other insects in that they only have one pair of normal wings. Most flies have compound eyes and mouthparts adapted for piercing, lapping or sucking fluids.
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