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Manitoba Museum

Flies (Diptera)

Flesh Flies


As the name suggests, Flesh Fly larvae typically feed on dead and living tissues of animals, usually mammals. However, some species feed on animal feces (often from cows) while others are parasites on arthropods, or warm or cold-blooded vertebrates. The adults are vegetarians that feed on sugary substances including honeydew, flower nectar, tree sap, and fruit juices. They commonly visit plants with shallow flowers, such as those in the Aster family.

Representative Genera and Species:

Blaesoxipha, Boettcheria, Helicobia, Oebalia, Opsidia, Ravinia, Sarcophaga, Senotainia, Wohlfahrtia

Pollinator Life Cycle:

Development from egg to adult occurs in 16 – 30 days, and several generations may be produced each year. Instead of laying their eggs, the females of most species incubate them inside their bodies, and give birth to live young (larvae). Pupation, then development into the adult stage follows.

Rarity Status:

The status of Canadian species has not yet been assessed, and none are legally protected.

Physical Appearance:

These robust flies have a wide head, and range from 2 to 18 mm long. They are usually coloured black and grey, with a striped or checkered pattern. They are never metallic, but sometimes have a partly to entirely red abdomen. They have well developed calypters and antennae that are feathery at the base.

Pollinator Habitat:

The larvae of most species are scavengers and live in carrion, decaying organic matter, or feces. Others feed on living tissues and may invade wounds, or are internal parasites of other insects and/or vertebrates (including humans). Some species are found associated with bee/wasp nests where they consume provisions intended for the host’s larvae.

Canadian Distribution:

  • Alberta
  • British Columbia
  • Manitoba
  • New Brunswick
  • Newfoundland/Labrador
  • Ontario
  • Quebec
  • Saskatchewan

Prairie Types:

  • Fescue Prairie
  • Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Tall Grass Prairie
Flesh Flies