shows a Toxomerus sp. of syrphid fly on a yarrow blossom

The Little Things

Author: Amanda Carrigan

It’s easy to see the larger insects in the garden, like the bumblebees. But don’t forget to look for the smaller ones. Some of them pack a surprising amount of punch for their size. 

Right now two of the common tiny flying beneficial insects you are likely to see are flies: Toxomerus species of syrphid/flower flies, and Condylostylus species of long-legged flies. The little flower flies (pictured here on a yarrow blossom) look like tiny bees, but have very distinctive markings when examined more closely. They can hover and dart in the air, and have an endearing way of wagging their tails (abdomen tips) up and down when they sit on a flower. The long-legged flies are even tinier, and a shiny metallic green, gold, or bronze all over. Although the flower flies may be seen visiting flowers for nectar and pollen, the larvae of both kinds of flies are predators of small, soft-bodied critters, including garden pests like aphids, whiteflies, and thrips.

shows a Toxomerus sp. of syrphid fly on a yarrow blossom

A syrphid fly sits on the lower part of a yarrow flowerhead.

Photo: Amanda Carrigan