Guide to insects
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Last updated 08/15/2005
Insects of Coal Oil Point > Guide > Flies
Diptera - True Flies
Diptera is both a very abundant and diverse order. As their name suggests, flies are excellent fliers. Unlike most insects, they only have one set of membranous wings. Their hind wings have evolved over time into structures known as “halteres,” small knob-like structures responsible for balance.
Fly larvae are found in a wide range of habitats and have diverse food habits eating plant tissue, dead and living animal tissue, decaying organic matter, blood, other insects, etc. Adults feed mainly on liquids, often from sweet or decaying sources. Flies are also important pollinators of native plants and crops.
The most common flies at the reserve are two species of kelp flies, Fucellia costalis and Coelopa vanduzeei. The larvae, together with the beach hoppers, are responsible for the breakdown of the kelp that washes on the beach. The adult flies occurs in huge number in and around kelp wrack. These flies are an important food source to many shorebirds, including the threatened Western Snowy Plover.
The most curious of our flies is the petroleum fly, Helaeomyia petrolei. This fly spends its entire larval stage submerged in pools of crude oil, feeding on insects that fall into the oil. We do not know much about the population of petroleum flies at Coal Oil Point, but we expect that the reserve provides good habitat for them, as crude oil is common on the beach and around the dune pond.
Flies are responsible for a great deal of the diversity at Coal Oil Point, with over 120 species in the collection.
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* Additional information and pictures are available for the families in bold.
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