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Senecio gall fly - Sphenella fascigera

By N A Martin (2015)

Classification

Phylum:
Arthropoda
Class:
Insecta
Order:
Diptera
Family:
Tephritidae
Scientific Name:
Sphenella fascigera (Malloch, 1931)
  • Top view of an adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae): body length about 4 mm, wing length about 3.75 mm. Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
    Top view of an adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae): body length about 4 mm, wing length about 3.75 mm. Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall (arrow) induced in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) by the Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem gall (arrow) induced in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) by the Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Common Names

Senecio gall fly
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Synonyms

Tephritis fascigera Malloch, 1931
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Biostatus and Distribution

This endemic gall fly is found throughout the country in open ground and forests. The fly larvae either live in the flowers or induce stem galls in its host plants, herbaceous Senecio species and the shrub Brachyglottis kirkii.


Conservation status: Widespread in native ecosystems and present in gardens, parks, and waste ground.

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Life Stages and Annual Cycle

The fly breeds all year in Auckland where suitable host plants are available. In colder regions it may overwinter as adults. The fly induces stem galls in host plants with small flowers, e.g., Senecio glomeratus, or breeds in the larger flowers of other host plants, e.g., Senecio lautus.

The body of adult flies is a dull golden brown and about 4 mm long. The wings are about 3.75 mm long, with pale areas and spots. Like all flies they have 1 pair of wings. The hind pair of wings is reduced to small knobs, halteres, that help the fly balance during flight. The wings and the 3 pairs of legs are attached to the middle section of the body, thorax. The head has two large compound eyes and a pair of antennae each baring a long bristle. The mouth is on the underside. The male has a rounded genitalia at the end of its abdomen, while the female has a slender end containing an ovipositor. The ovipositor is used to make holes in stems or flower buds into which eggs are laid.

Like other tephritid flies, it has a distinctive way of moving and fluttering its wings. At rest, the wings may be held together over the body or form a V.

When the larva hatches from the egg, it presumably bores into the flower or plant stem. The white larva is legless and has black jaws for scraping plant tissue into its mouth. The larva moults as it gets larger. There are probably three larval stages, instars. A fully grown the larva is about 5 mm long. When fully grown, the larva makes a thin area in the wall of the gall or flower and then changes into a pupa inside its larval skin, which turns brown and is now called a puparium.

Fly emergence
When the adult is ready to emerge, part of the head, just above the antennae, balloons out. This structure, the ptilinum, pushes the front of the pupa open. There is a line of weakness between the top and bottom halves of the first segments of the puparium that splits allowing the top and bottom to open up. During emergence the fly pushes through the thin ‘window’ in the gall or flower. After the fly has crawled out, the ptilinum retracts into the head, the wings expand and the body hardens. Over the next 12 hours the fly acquires its full body colour.

It is not known how the male and females of this species find each other for mating.

Feeding
The larva has a toothed black mandible that it moves up and down to scrape the tissue on the inside of the gall or the ovaries and developing seeds in a flower.

Adult flies may feed on nectar and pollen of flowers.

  • Top view of an adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae): body length about 4 mm, wing length about 3.75 mm. Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
    Top view of an adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae): body length about 4 mm, wing length about 3.75 mm. Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of a male Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of a male Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of a male adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of a male adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
  • Underside of a female adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
    Underside of a female adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
  • Side view of a female adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
    Side view of a female adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a flower of Senecio lautus (Compositae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a flower of Senecio lautus (Compositae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a stem gall in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a stem gall in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae); note the thin ‘window’ in the gall through which the adult fly will emerge. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Stem gall in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae); note the thin ‘window’ in the gall through which the adult fly will emerge. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a stem gall in Senecio bipinnatisectusi (Compositae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a stem gall in Senecio bipinnatisectusi (Compositae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Black pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) from cavity in flower of flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Black pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) from cavity in flower of flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Black pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Black pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Black pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Black pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Hatched pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Hatched pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Recognition

Adult flies can be recognised as Tephritidae by their shape and distinctive way of fluttering their wings when on plants. Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera, belong to a group of flies with 2 pairs of seta, bristles, on the scutellum, upper side of the last thorax segment. Examination with a microscope is required to distinguish the species of this group.

The presence of Senecio gall flies can be recognised by their damage to flowers and the galls they induce in host plants. Plants with damaged flowers include Brachyglottis kirkii, Senecio lautus and Senecio vulgaris. Flower buds may have black areas, ‘windows’ and exit holes. Flowers may also be blackened and have dead florets. Seed feeding may be seen on opening flowers. Some damaged flowers should have within them a white larva or black pupa.

Galls are induced in stems, especially in the area where they branch. Often the stem and branches are distorted.

  • Upper side of a female adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
    Upper side of a female adult Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Martin Heffer © Plant & Food Research
  • Damage to flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae), by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Damage to flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae), by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Damage to flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae), by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Damage to flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae), by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem galls in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem galls in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall in Senecio glomeratus  (Compositae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem gall in Senecio glomeratus (Compositae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Cut open stem gall in the shoot tip of Senecio esleri  (Asteraceae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Cut open stem gall in the shoot tip of Senecio esleri (Asteraceae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
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Natural Enemies

An unnamed wasp parasitoid (Hymenotpera) has occasionally been reared from juveniles of this tephritid gall fly. One wasp, Podagritus albipes (Hymenoptera: Crabronidae), has been recorded catching adult senecio gall flies. Adult flies are also likely to be preyed upon by birds, spiders, and other insects.

Table: Predators of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae), from Plant-SyNZ database (6 June 2015). The reliability index shows the quality of evidence for the host association (0-10, 10=high quality).
Scientific NameCommon NameClassificationEnemy TypeReliability
Index
Biostatus
Podagritus albipes (Smith, 1878) (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Crabronidaepredator10endemic
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Host Plants

The Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera, is associated with Compositae (daisy family). Larvae live in flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii and Senecio species with large flowers, such as S. lautus and S. vulgaris. They also induce galls in stems of Senecio species that have small flowers, and in ragwort, Jacobaea vulgaris.

Feeding
The larva has a toothed black mandible that it moves up and down to scrape the tissue on the inside of the gall. It is presumed that their feeding and a chemical released by the larva induce the plant to form the gall. In flowers they feed on the ovaries and developing seeds.

Table: Host plants of the Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) from Plant-SyNZ database (6 June 2015). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
Forest tree groundsel, Kirk's daisy, Kohuhurangi, Kohukohurangi, Kohurangi, Kokohurangi, Ororo, TapairuBrachyglottis kirkii (Kirk) C.J.WebbCompositae10endemic
Ragwort, Saint James' wort, Tansy ragwortJacobaea vulgaris Gaertn.Compositae10naturalised
Australian fireweedSenecio bipinnatisectus BelcherCompositae10naturalised
FireweedSenecio diaschides D.G.DruryCompositae10naturalised
 Senecio esleri C.J.WebbCompositae10naturalised
Fireweed, PukateaSenecio glomeratus Poir.Compositae10non-endemic
FireweedSenecio hispidulus A.Rich.Compositae10non-endemic
Fireweed, Shore groundsel, Variable groundselSenecio lautus G.Forst. ex Willd.Compositae10non-endemic
Australian burnweed, Australian fireweed, FireweedSenecio minimus Poir.Compositae10non-endemic
Gravel groundselSenecio skirrhodon DC.Compositae10naturalised
Common groundsel, GroundselSenecio vulgaris L.Compositae10naturalised
  • Damage to flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae), by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Damage to flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae), by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Damage to flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae), by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Damage to flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae), by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Damage to flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae), by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Damage to flowers of Brachyglottis kirkii (Compositae), by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a flower of Senecio lautus (Compositae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a flower of Senecio lautus (Compositae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall (arrow) induced in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) by the Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem gall (arrow) induced in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) by the Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem gall in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem galls in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Minna Personen © Plant & Food Research
    Stem galls in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Minna Personen © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae); note the thin ‘window’ in the gall through which the adult fly will emerge. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Stem gall in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae); note the thin ‘window’ in the gall through which the adult fly will emerge. Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
  • Cut open stem gall in the shoot tip of Senecio esleri  (Compositae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Cut open stem gall in the shoot tip of Senecio esleri (Compositae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall in groundsel, Senecio vulgaris  (Compositae), induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem gall in groundsel, Senecio vulgaris (Compositae), induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem galls in groundsel, Senecio vulgaris  (Compositae), induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem galls in groundsel, Senecio vulgaris (Compositae), induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem galls in Senecio glomeratus  (Compositae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem galls in Senecio glomeratus (Compositae) induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall in Senecio minimus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A Martin
    Stem gall in Senecio minimus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A Martin
  • Stem gall in Senecio minimus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A Martin
    Stem gall in Senecio minimus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Nicholas A Martin
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Information Sources

Hancock DL, Drew RAI 2003. A new genus and new species, combinations and records of Tephritinae (Diptera: Tephritidae) from Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Australian Entomologist 30(4): 141-158.

Harrison RA 1959. Acalypterate Diptera of New Zealand. N.Z. Department of Scientific and Industrial Research Bulletin 128: 1-382.

Plant-SyNZ: Invertebrate herbivore-host plant association database. plant-synz.landcareresearch.co.nz/.

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Acknowledgements

The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Limited (Plant & Food Research) for permission to use photographs.

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Other Images

  • Stem galls in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Minna Personen © Plant & Food Research
    Stem galls in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) induced by larvae of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Minna Personen © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall (arrow) induced in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) by the Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem gall (arrow) induced in Senecio bipinnatisectus (Compositae) by the Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall in groundsel, Senecio vulgaris  (Compositae), induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem gall in groundsel, Senecio vulgaris (Compositae), induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Stem gall in groundsel, Senecio vulgaris  (Compositae), induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
    Stem gall in groundsel, Senecio vulgaris (Compositae), induced by larva of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae). Image: Nicholas A. Martin © Plant & Food Research
  • Pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a stem gall in Senecio eslerii (Compositae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
    Pupa of Senecio gall fly, Sphenella fascigera (Diptera: Tephritidae) in a stem gall in Senecio eslerii (Compositae). Image: Tim Holmes © Plant & Food Research
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Suggested Citation

Martin, NA. 2015. Senecio gall fly - Sphenella fascigera. Interesting Insects and other Invertebrates. New Zealand Arthropod Factsheet Series Number 31. http://nzacfactsheets.landcareresearch.co.nz/Index.html. Date Accessed. ISSN 1179-643X

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