Trichopoda lanipes and Wild Carrot

Before I get to the good stuff I thought I better toss in a flower picture as a buffer. You’ve been warned … turn back now if you are a fly hater. haha

Mimosa borealis
Mimosa borealis. A sweet smelling Edward’s Plateau native shrub or something invented by Dr. Seuss?

While all my dog owning neighbours seem to despise the wild carrot, pollinators appreciate its value.

I genuinely enjoy the display each spring. Like the poet William Carlos Williams, I see beauty in humble things.

Yesterday, as I was admiring them I happened to meet someone new. May I present Trichopoda lanipes?

Trichopoda lanipes 1
Feeding on wild carrot nectar

Trichopoda lanipes are true bug parasites. Similar tachnid species deposit their eggs into creatures like stink bugs and leaffooted bugs. As the maggot develops it consumes its host. Alive. Does this idea bother me? More than a little. But then I think of what the stink bugs did to my tomatoes last year and the horror is mitigated. A little.

Beneficial insects usually have fan clubs but I could find very little information about Trichopoda lanipes beyond little bits of trivia here and there.

It was discovered and named by Johan Christian Fabricus himself in 1805. Fabricus was a student of Linnaeus who took his teacher’s ideas about flower classification and adapted them to the world of insects.

Trichopoda lanipes 3b
smoky coloured wings

and a closer view …

close up

I was pretty sure it was a fly based on the eyes but I had to ask BugGuide for help with the full id. According to their information seeing one in April might be a bit unusual as they usually fly around from June to October.

More wild carrot visitors:

The queen butterfly herself:

queen butterfly april 2016

One of our bees:


An older bee with tattered wings. We thank you for your service, miss.


Sipping mud nearby ( mmmm) was a buckeye butterfly:


And over here was an inchworm hanging out on an evening primrose:


Wild carrot is considered a weed by many but I think it is just as valuable as plants like the sweet mimosa tree. Besides feeding beneficial insects with its nectar, the leaves host the black swallowtail caterpillar. The roots are edible. Pull the plant up from the ground and the whole world smells carrot sweet. And that tap root structure is terribly important for land rehabilitation. I am grateful that the wild carrot like other early succession plants do grow in disturbed places. Each plant is like a thin drill breaking up hard pan soil to allow air and water to circulate. Eventually they will leave behind a soil structure where plants with delicate root systems can thrive.

I think I need to start a fan club for weeds!