common picture-winged fly

(Delphinia picta)

Conservation Status
common picture-winged fly
Photo by Babette Kis
  IUCN Red List

not listed


NNR - Unranked


not listed


Common picture-winged fly is a common, medium-sized fly. It occurs in the United States from Maine to Florida, west to Minnesota and New Mexico, and in southern Canada from Nova Scotia to Ontario. It is found from late spring to late summer wherever there is rotting vegetation, including compost heaps, landfills, deciduous forests, swamps, and fields.

Adults are ¼ to 516 (7 to 8 mm) in length. They look like and are often mistaken for fruit flies, but unlike fruit flies they do not attack fresh healthy fruit.

The head is light brown. There are two large compound eyes and three small simple eyes (ocelli). The compound eyes do not meet at the top of the head on either sex. Each compound eye from top to bottom is oval. The cheeks (genae) are not more than one-fourth the height of the eyes. The mouthparts are optimized for sucking and project downward into a long snout that is sometimes compared to an old-fashioned gas mask.

The thorax is light brown on the sides, light brown or gray above.

The abdomen is black. On the female, the ovipositor is slightly bent downward at the tip. It has two pairs of prominent bristles above, one pair below, and many short hairs (setae) on the sides.

The legs are light brown to yellowish-brown.

The wings are mostly blackish-brown with a few transparent (hyaline) areas, including two clear triangles near the leading edge (costal margin). The costal margin is indented (broken) near the end of the subcosta (Sc) vein. Cell c, on the leading edge of the wing, is wide and is convex in front (anteriorly). The cup cell is closed at the end by a straight or outwardly arced vein with no outwardly pointed extension. The Sc is complete and is only slightly curved at the tip. The upper side of wing vein R1 is covered with small hairs (setulose) at the end. Vein R2+3 is distinctly wavy (sinuate).




¼ to 516 (7 to 8 mm)


Similar Species


Compost heaps, landfills, deciduous forests, swamps, and fields.




Late spring to late summer




When it walks it waves its wings in a rowing motion.


Life Cycle




Larva Food


Rotting vegetation


Adult Food


Rotting vegetation


Distribution Map



24, 29, 30, 82, 83.







Diptera (flies)  


Brachycera (circular-seamed flies, muscoid flies, short-horned flies)  
  Infraorder Cyclorrhapha  
  Zoosection Schizophora (schizophora flies)  
  Zoosubsection Acalyptratae (acalyptrate flies)  


Tephritoidea (fruit, signal, and picture-winged flies)  


Ulidiidae (picture-winged flies)  









Delphinia thoracica

Musca picta

Tephritis conica

Urophora nigriventris


Common Names


common picture-winged fly












On ferns: The central axis of a pinna, to which pinnules are attached. On mosses: the central axis (midvein) of a leaf. On insects: The vein on the leading edge of the forewing.


Costal margin

The leading edge of the forewing of insects.



On insects: The area between the compound eye and the mandible; the cheek. On birds: The area between the the angle of the jaw and the bill; the feathered side (outside) of the under mandible. Plural: genae.



Simple eye; an eye with a single lens. Plural: ocelli.



A stiff, hair-like process on the outer surface of an organism. In Lepidoptera: A usually rigid bristle- or hair-like outgrowth used to sense touch. In mosses: The stalk supporting a spore-bearing capsule and supplying it with nutrients. Plural: setae.





Visitor Photos

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Alfredo Colon

    common picture-winged fly      
    common picture-winged fly   common picture-winged fly  

Babette Kis


Delphinia picta picture-winged fly

    common picture-winged fly   common picture-winged fly  








Visitor Videos

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Other Videos
  The Picture-winged Fly (Delphinia picta) Exploring an American Beautyberry
Nature in Motion

Nov 12, 2016

Easily mistaken for a fruit-fly, this Picture-winged Fly species is not an agricultural pest. It breeds in decaying organic matter, including garden compost. The larvae and adults feed on rotting vegetation.

Flies (Diptera) » "Acalyptratae" » Tephritoidea » Picture-winged Flies (Ulidiidae) » Otitinae » Cephaliini » Delphinia » Delphinia picta

Music: Hot Swing by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (

Source: Artist:

  Picture Wing Fly - Delphinia picta

Sep 9, 2010

Neither harmful or beneficial. Just an interesting critter, curious and "oars" its wings.

"Bob" in the other video is a Long Legged Fly.

  Delphinia picta, picture-winged fly, in the garden 2016 HD
Down to Earth Garden

Jan 31, 2022

Picture-winged Fly, Delphinia dicta, on a wooden picnic table in the garden. The Delphinia picta feeds on dead and decaying organic matter; they do not feed on living plant matter.

Video taken September 5, 2016, 3:35 pm and 4:10 pm, two video clips added together.

Children's Garden/Down to Earth Garden

546 E 12th St, New York, NY 10009

A GreenThumb community garden.




Visitor Sightings

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  Alfredo Colon

Location: Albany, NY

common picture-winged fly  
  Alfredo Colon

Location: Albany, NY

common picture-winged fly  
  Babette Kis

Location: Barnes Prairie, Racine Co., WI

common picture-winged fly  






Created: 1/8/2023

Last Updated:

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