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:

DSCN5320

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

DSCN5333

Sipping mud nearby ( mmmm) was a buckeye butterfly:

DSCN5322

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

DSCN5366

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!

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40 thoughts on “Trichopoda lanipes and Wild Carrot

  1. Thanks for the introduction to the feather-legged fly–it’s a new one for me, too. I agree, a handsome fellow, even if his method of reproduction is a bit ghastly. That was quite a productive day for you, and your photos are excellent. Love the one with the inchworm! (Sorry I’m so late here but just found you through your comment.)

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  2. That fly is one sexy beast I say. As to the designation of “weed”, I refuse to yield to the majority of lawn addicts who insist upon applying that term to all the more desirable plants that easily out compete their chosen turf. Honestly, once we got rid of our standardized St. Augustine lawn, the few stolons that stubbornly reappeared in the beds that replaced their former territory became “weeds” in my eyes. I very happily tugged them out.

    That said, I’m intrigued by the idea of simply cutting the unwanted volunteer plants off at the soil, rather than disturbing things and inviting other entrants to the “last to arrive” party. If the dog walkers (and folks who’ve had past unpleasantness with those seeds getting stuck to socks) could simply enjoy the flowers and then work to clip the stems before seeds appear, we could ALL enjoy the natural bounty…together? It…could…happen!

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    1. I saw one on one of the herbicide sites (yeah no idea how I got there but) that our beloved evening primrose goes by another name. They call it Hog Weed. Of all the nerve! The snip technique works well in our situation: mostly trees and shrubs on clay soil and in shade. The ‘weeds’ we get are quite different than what might blow in to say a gravel path. Our local restoration group has started to do that more and more. Like, clipping the ragweed before it flowers and then leaving the nitrogen behind to feed other plants. Win win.

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  3. Your last sentence made me smile! I’m a big fan of wild carrot and probably for the same reason that you are. The beneficial insects love the Umbelliferae family. That is so interesting about the fly. I know that parasitic wasps lay their eggs in a host but I didn’t realise that flies did similar and to think that green shield beetles actually do have something to be wary of. I too think that wild carrot is a great succession plant and will grow almost anywhere. It doesn’t mind our clay either … and has an amazing tap root into the bargain!

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  4. Well there’ s weeds and there’ s weeds. I think your wild carrot is very pretty. My ground elder,Aegopodium podagraria is anothe thing entirely. Tangled mats of roots and indestructible.
    You are certainly the place to come for weird and wonderful bugs. Fascinating!

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    1. Thanks Chloris. I do have some plants that I will not tolerate. Privet seedlings being at the top of the list.

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  5. I tend to think of “weeds” as “wildflowers somewhere.” Though some are invasive in my garden, somewhere in the world they are beneficial to their local ecosystems. As for native plants in my part of the country that some people consider “weeds,” well, if they naturalize here, I usually leave them or try to find a place for them. Flies are valuable insects. Great photos!

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    1. Thanks. I once read something by one of the permaculture people (forget who) that changed everything for me. He said he almost never spends time weeding — never has to. Because he doesn’t disturb his soil those succession seeds in the soil bank don’t get woken up. Also, everything is planted so densely there is no room for seeds that might happen to blow in. But most of all if something does start to grow he almost never pulls it. If it is truly going to be an issue snips it and lets the green stuff drop onto the surface because even if we don’t like the plant good things can still happen in the rhizosphere and on the soil surface. It works and takes one of the back breaking chores completely out of the picture.

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  6. I have a dog and I like wild carrot flowers, whats going on with your neighbours? Bees and Bumbles get a lot of press and the important job fly pollinators do, often gets overlooked. I’ve read that 8 out 10 wildflowers would disappear if they were not pollinated and the beetles, flies and other invertebrates that do not look quite so appealing do a vital pollination job too.

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    1. I tend to think that every piece of creation plays some vital role. Sometimes we are just unaware of what its importance is. My neighbours are people who must be terribly busy to take offence at what is only a temporary inconvenience.

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  7. I’m definitely in for your weed fan club, ~wild carrot, goldenrod, asters, I could go on and on. Maybe we could do ‘Weed of the Month’ posts. Perhaps we should call them ‘Useful Plants’ rather than ‘Weed,’ a name that has baggage. :)
    Great closeups – I appreciate insects more and more because of photos like this!

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    1. One for the club! haha. And yes words are everything. Women Who Run with the Weeds? Dances with Weeds? Broads for Leaves? I dunno. I don’t think I am cut out for organizing. Thanks, Eliza. I think the word I should have used was wild flower. ;)

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    1. I thought it was handsome too. When I first spotted it I actually stopped and blurted out: Who are YOU? It was big and the flight pattern was weird. The dog walkers. Some of the people involved in our local restoration project were complaining about the seeds getting caught in dog hair. When even conservationists don’t get these basic issues I sometimes despair. Luckily wild carrot is robust. I think they knew before they even started that its removal would take a dedication they couldn’t possibly muster.

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  8. That is a very impressive fly. Apart from not wanting them anywhere near my food, I quite like flies, they are interesting creatures. A bit stupid, but interesting. At first glance I thought this was a hoverfly particularly as I have a photo I took years ago of a hoverfly on a wild carrot flowerhead like your Trichopoda lanipes. I love the butterfly, but I misread inchworm and thought you’d typed footworm which is a nickname hubby and I gave to a very long earthworm that lived in front of our house under the driveway!

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  9. Very nice photos and interesting narrative. Don’t remember having heard of the wild carrot before. That last photo kind of looks like something I would take and not realize the inch worm was there until I got the file on my computer. :)

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  10. Weeds—like almost everything else on earth—are misunderstood in a dangerous way. As you point out they are not only good, they are vital—and how that understanding has been turned upside down is just another mess to untangle.
    Lawns are harmful, unnatural plants forced into incompatible environments are often harmful; weeds are necessary because they are where they are with a purpose.
    —And, as you’ve said, with an abundance of purpose; they are also–among other things– food, medicine, and beauty.

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    1. It is weird how so many gardeners have been propagandised by herbicide sellers to think of these very important members of creation as enemies. I mean I can appreciate that some plants can be rather invasive but … what these ads are selling us is the idea that only the things we purchase have value. You are absolutely right that this upside down thinking is dangerous. It gives me the shivers.

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  11. Love the flowers on wild carrots. Anything with pretty flowers is not a weed in my world. Happy to join your club! I was at a lecture once on the benefits of flies as pollinators. He joked that butterflies are just the gateway pollinators and that there are many more insects that are just as beneficial : )

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    1. Thanks for saying so Tina. I thought it was an awfully pretty fly. Love the gold outline on the polished black eyes and those smoky wings! (swoon) hahahaha

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