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Flying Insects

Velvet Ant
Blow Fly
Carpenter Bee
Flesh Fly
Horse Fly
House Fly
Indian Meal Moth
Mud Dauber
Umbrella Wasp
Webbing Cloths Moth
Yellow Jacket

Velvet Ant

Description: These insects are wasps, not ants. Females are wingless and covered with dense hair, superficially resembling ants. The red velvet-ant is the largest velvet-ant species, reaching about 3/4 inch in length. They are black overall with patches of dense orange-red hair on the thorax and abdomen. Males are similar but have wings and can not sting.

Several other species of velvet ants are common in Texas, including the gray velvet ant or thistle down mutillid, Dasymutilla beutenmulleri, and D. fulvohirta. Most are solitary parasites of immature wasps (Vespidae and Sphecidae), solitary bees and some other insects such as beetles and flies. Winged males can be confused with other Hymenoptera. Adults of the tiphiid wasp, Myzinum sp. (Hymenoptera: Tiphiidae) are black and yellow, 3/4 inch long . They can occur in large numbers, sometimes on flowers of landscape plants. Larvae are parasites of white grubs (Coleoptera: Scarabeidae).

Life Cycle: Females seek the immature stages of ground-nesting bees, digging to the nesting chambers and eating a hole through the cocoon. She deposits and egg on the host larva, which soon hatches into a white legless grub. The immature velvet-ant eats the host larva, developing through several larval stages before forming a pupa.

Habitat, Food Source(s), Damage: Mouthparts are for chewing. Lone females can be found crawling on the ground, particularly in open sandy areas. Adults are most common during the warm summer months. Larvae are solitary, external parasites of developing bumble bees.

Pest Status: The common name, “cow killer,” is thought to describe the painful sting these insects can inflict to man and animals, although it is doubtful that many cows are actually stung.

Blow Fly

Description: Include a number of species including the common bluebottle fly, Calliphora vomitoria (Linnaeus) the green bottlefly, Phaenicia sericata (Meigen) and others. Adult flies are metallic blue, green, copper or black colored flies that otherwise resemble house flies in appearance. The hair on the terminal antennal segment (arista) is feathery (plumose).

Other Calliphoridae include the black blow fly, Phormia regina (Meigen), and the cluster fly, Pollenia rudis (Fabricius). Larvae of cluster flies parasitize earth worms. Adult flies hibernate in homes. Species of the family, Sarcophagidae, are also found in association with carrion and excrement, although some feed on decaying vegetation or are parasitic. One example of this family is the flesh fly, Sarcophaga haemorrhoidalis Fallen (Diptera: Sarcophagidae). Adults are similar to blow flies but are patterned a checkerboard (tessellated) of gray and black on the abdomen. The hair on the last antennal segment (arista) is bear or less feathery than those of Calliphoridae.

Life Cycle: Female flies lay eggs on or near suitable habitats. Tiny maggots hatch from eggs in 6 to 48 hours. Maggots develop through three stages (instars) on carrion for 3 to 9 days before leaving the food source to pupate in soil. After 2 to 7 days in a prepupal stage, they form a puparium from their last larval stage skin. A fourth larval stage occurs within the puparium before pupation. Adult flies emerge 10 to 17 days after the formation of the puparium. Development from egg to adult occurs in 16 to 35 days, depending on temperature and environmental conditions.

Habitat and Food Source(s): Maggots have hook-like mouthparts that tease apart tissues in which they live. Adults have sponge-like mouthparts similar to those of house flies. Larvae (maggots) primarily feed on dead animals and animal refuge. Some feed on vegetation and others are obligatory parasites. These flies are attracted to any type of fresh meat or road kill left in the field.

Pest Status: Similar to houseflies when common indoors; larvae feed on dead animals or garbage waste; some species are parasitic.

Carpenter Bee

Carpenter bees build nests in wood, creating galleries that can weaken structures; however, they rarely cause severe damage. People may be frightened by carpenter bees because of their large size, their similarity to bumble bees, and their annoying noise.

Most carpenter bees, Xylocopa spp., are large and robust insects resembling bumble bees. They are usually about 1 inch long and colored a metallic blue-black with green or purplish reflections. They differ from bumble bees in that their abdomen is shiny with fringes of hairs on some segments. Males of some species are lighter colored, ranging into golden or buff hues.

Female carpenter bees bore into sound wood or sometimes into decaying wood to make nests. Nests usually consist of tunnels 1/2 inch in diameter and 6 to 10 inches deep that are partitioned into several chambers, each containing an egg and a supply of food (pollen). Carpenter bees may use old tunnels for their nests, which they sometimes enlarge; several bees may use a common entry hole connecting to different tunnels. Over a period of time, tunnels may extend as far as 10 feet into wood timbers. Tunnels are vacated after the brood’s larval and pupal stages complete their development. Development from egg to adult may take about 3 months. Carpenter bees overwinter as adults, often in old tunnels, and there is only one generation a year.

Carpenter bees cause damage to wooden structures by boring into timbers and siding to prepare nests. The nests weaken structural wood and leave unsightly holes and stains on building surfaces. Sound, undecayed wood without paint or bark is usually selected for nests. Carpenter bees also frequently attack dead wood on trees or lumber from southern yellow pine, white pine, California redwood, cedar, Douglas fir, cypress, mimosa, mulberry, ash, and pecan trees. They avoid most harder woods. The presence of carpenter bees around buildings and wooden structures can be annoying or even frightening; however, males cannot sting and females rarely attack.

Flesh Flies

Flies in the family Sarchophagidae are the “Flesh Flies,” so-called because many species lay their eggs in open wounds.
Flesh flies don’t often enter houses of food handling establishments in large numbers.
The female flesh fly lays her eggs on meat scraps or on dog excrement. They may be frequent in dog runs.
Flesh flies primarily breed in animal carcasses.
Flesh flies as well as blow flies and bottle flies are of the first insects at a dead animal carcass.
Forensic entomologists use the larvae of flesh flies collected at the site where a murder victim is found to help pinpoint the time of death.

Flesh flies are medium to large sized flies and usually have three dark thoracic stripes and mottled abdomens.
Many of the common species have a red tip on the abdomen.
Though some species may be smaller than house flies, most flesh flies are about 1/3 to 1/2 inch long.
Due to their markings and coloration, sometimes House Flies are confused with Flesh Flies.
Flesh flies are larger than house flies. Flesh flies have a checkerboard pattern on top of their abdomen and are gray in color.

Horse Fly

Description: There are over 100 species of horse and deer flies known to occur in Texas. Eyes of live specimens are often beautifully colored with iridescent and metallic color patterns. Deer flies (Chrysops spp., 33 species) range from 1/4 to ½ inch long, black to brown in coloration, often with yellowish markings. They characteristically have clear wings with black or brown patterns, making wings appear to be banded. Horse flies (Tabanus, 52 species, and other genera) range from 3/8 to just over 1 inch long and vary in coloration by species. Some are all black while many have colored patterns on their abdomens and wings.

Life Cycle: Winter is spent as partially grown larvae that pupate in spring and begin emerging as adults in late spring and summer, varying by species. Females often lay eggs in specific locations, such as on vegetation overhanging water. Eggs are laid in masses that darken to brown or black before larvae hatch out and drop to the ground or into water. Larvae are generally whitish, spindle-shaped and develop through six to thirteen stages (instars) over one or more years before pupating. One generation per year occurs for most species.

Habitat and Food Source(s): Larvae have chewing or tearing mouthparts; adult female mouthparts are modified for piercing and sucking blood. Adult females of many horse and deer fly species are attracted to man and animals in search of a blood meal, although a blood meal may not be necessary to produce the first cluster of eggs. Males are nectar feeders and often hover at certain times of the day, presumably to attract females and maintain a territory. Species are often locally abundant near breeding habitats, and the various species have distinctive adult activity periods during the year and/or during the day. Larvae live in species specific habitats, although most are aquatic, semi-aquatic or terrestrial. They are generally predaceous and cannibalistic, feeding on other insect larvae and earthworms, although some (particularly deer fly larvae) may feed on plant matter.

Adult horse and deer flies can be collected by swinging an insect net around one’s head while walking through an infested area, such as along a wooded path, near swampy areas, on the beach or other bodies of water at the right time of the year. Special traps, such as malaise traps, baited with a source of carbon dioxide (e.g., dry ice) and visually attracting objects (e.g., a black plastic sheet or sphere) are very effective for obtaining large numbers of specimens. Larvae can be collected along water edges by sifting mud and washing plant roots in a screen-bottomed bucket or box.

Pest Status: Adults bite animals and man; biting activities can be annoying in outdoor areas, and the bites can be very painful and remain swollen for several days; incessant attacks on livestock can reduce weight gain; capable of mechanically transmitting some animal diseases (e.g., anaplasmosis).

House Fly

Description: House flies are 3/16 to 1/4 inch long with robust bodies and two clear wings. The thorax is marked with four dark stripes. Larvae are called maggots and are creamy-white and cone-shaped, with the hind end blunt and bearing breathing holes (spiracles) tapering to the head which bears black hook-like mouthparts.

A number of flies resemble house flies. The stable fly, Stomoxys calcitrans (Linnaeus), superficially resembles the house fly, but bears stiff, elongated mouthparts modified for biting animals and people and feeding on blood. They are very persistent and usually bite around the ankles. Their life cycle and food sources are similar to house flies, although development is slower (20 to 25 days from egg to adult).

Life Cycle: Female flies lay numbers of eggs in suitable larval food sources such as decomposing food in garbage, animal excrement or other decomposing organic materials. Eggs hatch within a day into small maggots. Within a week, maggots grow and develop through three stages (instars) before they inflate their last larval skin into a puparium (pupa). After 4 to 6 days, adult flies emerge. Development from egg to adult can be completed in about 8 days under optimal conditions, and 12 generations can occur each summer. Adults normally live up to 25 days but may overwinter.

Habitat and Food Source(s): Adult flies have sponging-sucking mouthparts, with which they inject mainly liquid food or food dissolved with regurgitated saliva. Larvae have mouthparts (mandibles) used to tease apart decomposing organic materials. Larvae feed with the ends of the bodies bearing the breathing pores on the surface and their narrow heads imbedded deep in the food source. Just before completing larval development, they leave their food source in search of a dryer place to pupate. This is the time many larval infestations become noticeable. Large numbers of house flies can develop in poultry houses and around barns and feed lots where animal excrement accumulates. House flies developing there can fly to nearby homes and become an nuisance. Around the home, house flies can develop in garbage and piles of fermenting lawn clippings.

Pest Status: Larvae infest soils high in organic matter and injure seeds and seedlings, particularly during cool, wet spring growing conditions; medically harmless.

Indian Meal Moth

The Indian meal moth, Plodia interpunctella (Hubner) is one of the most commonly reported pests of stored grains in the United States. In Pennsylvania it is not a major problem, but can be troublesome occasionally. Larvae of the Indian meal moth feed upon grains, grain products, dried fruits, nuts, cereals, and a variety of processed food products. The Indian meal moth is also a common pantry pest.


The Indian meal moth is a handsome moth with a wing expanse of nearly three-quarters of an inch. It is easy to distinguish from other grain pests by the peculiar markings of the forewings; they are reddish brown with a copper luster on the outer two-thirds, but whitish gray on the inner or body ends. The hind wings lack distinctive markings and are more or less uniformly gray. Adults can be seen resting on the grain surface or grain bin walls. The adults fly at night and are attracted to lights.

The eggs of the Indian meal moth are whitish, ovate and very small. Because of their small size, they are difficult to see without the aid of a microscope. Eggs are deposited on the grain surface singularly or in groups of twelve to thirty.

Newly hatched larvae are very small and difficult to see. Larger larvae are usually yellowish, greenish, or pinkish. Fully grown larvae are one-half to five-eights of an inch in length with a brownish head capsule. Larvae have three sets of legs near the head (thoracic legs) and five sets of prolegs on the abdomen. Larvae of the meal moth spin a web as they become fully grown and leave behind silken threads wherever they crawl. The webbing is often sufficiently abundant to attract attention. Loosely clinging webbing on the grain is characteristic of this pest.


As long as the temperature within a grain bin or building where grain is stored remains above 50° F, the Indian meal moth can survive and reproduce. A typical life cycle (egg to adult) is completed in forth to fifty-five days. A potential for seven to nine generations per year exists; however, because of cool temperatures during the winter months fewer generations are usually completed. Under optimal conditions, the entire life cycle can be completed in approximately twenty-eight days.

A mature female lays 100 to 300 eggs on food material, either singularly or in groups of twelve to thirty. Larvae begin to hatch in two to fourteen days, depending on environmental conditions. Newly hatched larvae feed on fine materials within the grain and are small enough to pass through a sixty mesh screen. For this reason, it is difficult to exclude larvae from most packaged foods and grain.

However, larvae cannot chew through packages, so they must enter through a hole or at the seam. The larval stage lasts from two weeks to one year, and is responsible for grain losses. In grain, larval feeding is usually restricted to the top one to two inches. Large larvae feed on the grain germ. When mature, larvae spin a silken cocoon and transform into light-brown pupae. The cocoons and pupae can be seen on the grain surface and walls of grain bins. Adults emerge in four to thirty days, mate, and females lay the next generation of eggs. Adults live from five to twenty-five days.

Mud Dauber

Description: Adult mud daubers are 3/4 to 1 inch long wasps, varying in color by species from dull black to black with bright yellow markings to iridescent blue-black. The best identifying feature is the longer, narrow “waist” (petiole – the section between the thorax and abdomen).

Life Cycle: These are solitary wasp species, with nests constructed and provisioned by individual mated females. Eggs of mud daubers are laid singly on hosts in cells in mud nests provisioned with food, sealed and abandoned. Larvae grow up to 1 inch long and are cream-colored, legless and maggot-like. They pupate in cocoons within the cells and overwinter in nests. There can be several generations annually.

Habitat, Food Source(s), Damage: Mud daubers (Sphecidae) build small nests of mud under overhangs like eaves of buildings. The pipe organ mud dauber, Trypoxylon politum (Say) mud nests of long parallel tubes and provision their nests with spiders. The black and yellow mud dauber, Sceliphron caementarium (Drury), constructs a globular nest containing one cell to several cells, also provisioned with paralyzed spiders. Adults are commonly seen in wet spots, balls of mud for building their nests. The iridescent blue mud dauber, Chalybion californicum (Saussure), takes over nests of the black and yellow mud dauber. It provisions its nest mostly with black widow spiders.

Pest Status: Mud daubers (Sphecidae) and potter or mason wasps (Eumeninae) are solitary wasp species; although capable of stinging, they are rarely aggressive. Mud dauber nests can be a nuisance in garages, under eaves and in other buildings.

Umbrella Wasp

Umbrella wasps can reach 1 inch long

Umbrella wasps come in a variety of colors including yellow with black, orange, or reddish brown. They are very similar to yellowjackets.

The umbrella wasp derives its name from the upside-down umbrella shape of its nest. These insects are closely related to yellowjackets, but have smaller colonies of up to several hundred workers. The nest is constructed of a paper-like substance that is a combination of chewed wood and wasp saliva. The nest hangs from a horizontal surface, supported on a single paper stalk with a single row of downward pointing cells. They are often built under eaves or inside attics. The umbrella wasp inflicts a painful sting.

Adult umbrella wasps feed on sugary liquids. They gather natural foods, such as insect larvae, to feed to their offspring.

In early fall, the umbrella wasp colony begins to produce males and special reproductive females. These female mate with males and soon leave the nest in search of protected spots in which to spend the winter. The remaining workers eventually die and the nest becomes vacant.

Other Information
In the evening, workers rest on the wide, flat section of the nest. Colonies do not survive the winter, and are started by a single fertilized female.

Webbing Clothes Moth

The webbing clothes moth, Tineola bisselliella, and the casemaking clothes moth, Tinea pellionella, are occasional fabric pests in California. Clothes moths are weak flyers and are not attracted to lights. They tend to hide when disturbed, and for this reason, infestations of clothes moths are not usually noticed until damaged fabrics, furs, or feathers are found. Close examination of the objects reveals the presence of silken webs that are spun by the larvae.

The webbing clothes moth is the most common fabric moth. Adults are golden colored with reddish golden hairs on top of the head. Wings, with a span of about 1/2 inch, are fringed with a row of golden hairs. Because the moths are weak flyers and not attracted to lights, they are usually found very close to the infested items, such as in dark areas of closets.

Don’t confuse the clothes moth with the common food- and grain-infesting moths that are frequently seen flying around the house. At rest, clothes moths are only about 1/4 inch in length, whereas most food-infesting moths are about 1/2 inch in length. Clothes moths are relatively easy to catch when they land. When examined with a hand lens, little tufts of hair are evident on their heads—food and grain moths do not have these tufts. Clothes moths usually only fly around the immediate area of the house where the infestation is found, and their flight pattern is distinctive: they tend to flutter about rather than fly in a direct, steady manner like the food-infesting moths.

Casemaking clothes moths are similar in size and appearance to webbing clothes moths. The wings of the casemaking clothes moth are more brownish than those of the webbing clothes moth and have faint dark-colored spots. Hairs on the head are lighter colored than those of the webbing clothes moth. Larvae of both species are nearly identical, except that larvae of the casemaking clothes moth always carry a silken case with them as they feed. They never leave this silken tube, but enlarge it as they grow. They feed from either end and retreat into it when disturbed. This case takes on the coloration of the fabric eaten by the larvae.

Females of both species of clothes moth lay an average of 40 to 50 eggs over a period of 2 to 3 weeks and die once egg laying has been completed. Males outlive females and continue to mate during the remainder of their lives. Eggs are attached to threads of fabric with an adhesive secretion; they hatch in 4 to 10 days during warm weather. Larvae molt from 5 to 45 times, depending on indoor temperatures and type of food available. The larval period lasts from 35 days to 2 1/2 years. Larvae are shiny white with a dark head capsule. They spin webbing as they feed and may partially enclose themselves in a webbing cover or feeding tube, depending on species. Excrement of the clothes moth may contain dyes from the cloth fibers being consumed and thus be the same color. When they are ready to pupate, larvae wander away from their food source to find crevices. With the casemaking clothes moth, pupation takes place inside the case—usually on the fabric.

Pupation lasts from 8 to 10 days in summer, 3 to 4 weeks in winter. Heated buildings enable clothes moths to continue development during winter months. Generally, developmental time for the clothes moth from egg to egg is between 4 to 6 months, and there are generally two generations a year.


The term “yellowjacket” refers to a number of different species of wasps in the genera Vespula and Dolichovespula (family Vespidae). Included in this group of ground-nesting species are the western yellowjacket, V. pensylvanica, which is the most commonly encountered species and issometimes called the “meat bee,” and seven other species of Vespula. V. vulgaris is common in rotted tree stumps at higher elevations, and V. germanica, the German yellowjacket, is becoming more common in many urban areas of California, where it frequently nests in houses.

These wasps tend to be medium sized and black with jagged bands of bright yellow—or white in the case of the aerial-nesting D. (formerly known as V.) maculata—on the abdomen and have a very short, narrow “waist,” the area where the thorax attaches to the abdomen.

Yellowjackets commonly build nests in rodent burrows, but they sometimes select other protected cavities, such as voids in walls and ceilings of houses, as nesting sites. Colonies, which are begun each spring by a single reproductive female, can reach populations of between 1,500 and 15,000 individuals, depending on the species.

The wasps build a nest of paper made from fibers scraped from wood mixed with saliva. It is built as multiple tiers of vertical cells, similar to nests of paper wasps, but enclosed by a paper envelope around the outside that usually contains a single entrance hole. If the rodent hole isn’t spacious enough, yellowjackets will increase the size by moistening the soil and digging. Similar behavior inside a house sometimes leads to a wet patch that develops into a hole in a wall or ceiling.

Immature yellowjackets are white grublike larvae that become white pupae. The pupae develop adult coloring just before they emerge as adult wasps. Immatures normally aren’t seen unless the nest is torn open or a sudden loss of adult caretakers leads to an exodus of starving larvae.

Aerial-nesting yellowjackets, D. arenaria and D. maculata, build paper nests that they attach to the eaves of a building or that hang from the limb of a tree. The entrance normally is a hole at the bottom of the nest. These aerial nesters don’t become scavengers at the end of the season, but they are extremely defensive when their nests are disturbed. Defending D. arenaria sometimes bite and sting simultaneously. Wasp stingers have no barbs and can be used repeatedly, especially when the wasp gets inside clothing. As with any stinging incident, it is best to leave the area of the nest site as quickly as possible if wasps start stinging.