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Hessian fly Photo Identification

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  • Pest Type: Insect
  • Crops Affected: Wheat, Cereals, Barley
  • Scientific Name: Mayetiola destructor
  • Pest Order: Diptera
The maggots (larval stage) are the destructive stage. Maggots of the fall generation work their way under the leaf sheaths near the crowns and feed by rasping the plant and sucking the exuding sap. Such feeding weakens and stunts plants and subjects them to abnormal winter kill. Larval feeding in late spring results in poorly filled heads and lodged straws.

Life Cycle
Egg: Eggs are red and are laid in lines of 10 or 12 in grooves on the upper side of leaves.

Larvae: The immatures or larvae are small white legless maggots.

Pupae: The pupal stage or puparia are called the "flaxseed" stage, because the puparia resemble flaxseeds.

Adult: The adult Hessian fly is a very small black fly, smaller than the common mosquito; i.e., less than 0.125 inch long. The abdomen of the female is a dull red.

Control Measures
Scout wheat fields, especially in late October or November after first frost, looking for areas of poor stand and stunted plants. Also check plants in the spring. Examine the base of plants by pulling back the sheaths of several leaves and look for the "flaxseed" pupae. Use resistant varieties (although varieties are not resistant to all biotypes of the fly) and plant after the "Hessian fly-free date." Once an infestation of Hessian fly has developed in a field, there is no effective rescue treatment. Parasitic wasps can sometimes reduce Hessian fly populations in the spring. Some seed treatment insecticides can provide partial, early-season control, but the key to avoiding this pest in wheat production is to plant after the fly-free date. If you are not sure of that date for your area, contact local advisers.

The Hessian fly is found in most wheat producing areas of the world. It can be a pest in wheat across most of the US, and is especially troublesome in the eastern one-half of the country. is your source for ag news and information on crop pest identification, commodity and market prices, agricultural news & issues, and access to crop production management tools such as crop yield & planting calculators and herbicide, fungicide, and weed control information.