All Taxa Biodiversity Inventory - Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Diptera - Fruit flies

Neaspilota vernoniae (Loew)

Photograph by Jeffrey Lotz - FDACS/DPI















Fruit flies




Size: Approximately 5-6 mm long from antennae to wing tips.
Wing pattern: Pale to dark brown markings more or less arranged into three irregular stripes, with additional marks radiating to wing tip.
Body color: Brown with yellow highlights on posterior of thorax and base of wings.
Oviscape: Concolorous with body, approximately 0.9 mm long, tapered to a blunt tip.


Neaspilota vernoniae Adult Female, Cades Cove, August 2002, Photograph by Jeffrey Lotz - FDACS/DPI.
Neaspilota vernoniae Adult Female, On host, Cades Cove, August 2002, Photograph by Gary J. Steck.
Vernonia noveboracensis Host for Neaspilota vernoniae, Cades Cove, August 2002, Photograph by Gary J. Steck.

Similar species:

 At least 5 species of Neaspilota are found in GSMNP but the other species, with the exception of the distinctive N. reticulata, have much less conspicuous or no wing markings at all.

(GSMNP in green)

Northern US from Kansas and Nebraska east to the Atlantic Coast and south to North Carolina (GSMNP) and Tennessee (GSMNP).




 In Park:

Cades Cove and The Purchase.



 Restricted to species of Ironweed Vernonia (Asteraceae). In GSMNP adults have been collected from Vernonia noveboracensis (L.) Michx. and V. gigantea (Walter) Trel. ex Branner & Cov.

Vernonia noveboracensis
Cades Cove, August 2002
Photograph by Gary J. Steck



 Open sunny fields, meadows, and grassy balds, often wet, in which the hosts are found. Low to high elevations.


 Adults have been collected in August in GSMNP. Flight time of July-August throughout its range. Univoltine?

 Breeding and Courtship:


 Oviposition and Immature Stages:

 Females attack unopened flower heads and oviposit through the phyllaries. Larvae feed on the developing seeds and other tissue. Pupariation is within the flower head.

 Predators and Parasites:


 Community Ecology:

Two other tephritid flies, Neaspilota albidipennis and Tomoplagia obliqua, whose larvae also feed in seed heads of Vernonia, co-occur with N. vernoniae in GSMNP, but the extent of their relationships are unknown. Likewise, in Kansas, N. vernoniae occurs together with T. obliqua and another Neaspilota and Trupanea species (Schwitzgebel & Wilbur 1943).



Populations of this fly depend on maintenance of its host plant populations, which, in turn, require regular disturbances to maintain open meadows and edges along forests and roadsides.

 Special Protection Status:

- Rangewide: None

- In Park: All plants and animals are protected within the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Collection requires a permit which is usually granted only for research or educational purposes.



Gary J. Steck, Ph.D., Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Gainesville
Bruce D. Sutton, Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Gainesville


Jeffrey Lotz, Division of Plant Industry, Florida Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services, Gainesville
Gary J. Steck, Ph.D., Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Gainesville

Web Page Development:

Bruce D. Sutton, Florida State Collection of Arthropods, Gainesville


Foote, R. H., F. L. Blanc, and A. L. Norrbom. 1993. Handbook of the fruit flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) of America north of Mexico. Cornell University Press, Ithaca, New York, 571 pp.
Freidberg, A. and W.N. Mathis. 1986. Studies of Terelliinae (Diptera: Tephritidae): a revision of the genus Neaspilota Osten Sacken. Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology, No. 439, 75 pp.
Schwitzgebel, R.B. and D.A. Wilbur. 1943. Diptera associated with ironweed, Vernonia interior, in Kansas. Journal Kansas Entomological Society 16: 4-13.


oviposition - The act of laying eggs.
oviscape - The hardened sheath enclosing the needle-like ovipositor, or egg-laying structure, of female tephritid flies.
phyllaries - The leafy bracts surrounding the flower head of Asteraceae.
puparium - The hardened, cocoon-like structure, unique to Diptera, which develops from the cast 3rd instar skin, within which metamorphosis from pupa to adult takes place.
univoltine - Having one generation per year.

Please send any questions or comments to G. J. Steck or B. D. Sutton

Last Updated: November 1, 2002