Date of this Version
This NebGuide discusses the life cycle, control and prevention of the Hessian fly. Plant-safe dates and resistant wheat varieties are also examined.
The Hessian fly, Mayetiola destructor (Say), is not native to the United States, but was probably introduced by Hessian soldiers during the Revolutionary War. This insect was given its common name by Americans because of its damage on Long Island in 1779. The pest has become distributed throughout the United States wheat production areas since then.
The Hessian fly belongs to the family of insects known as gall midges (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae), a group noted for their habit of producing galls on many kinds of plants. The Hessian fly is one of the most destructive insect pests of wheat in the United States. Severe infestations are sporadic in Nebraska with the greatest damage potential occurring in the eastern half of the state; however, severe infestations have been noted as far west as Ogallala. Although the Hessian fly is injurious chiefly to wheat, at times it damages barley, rye and triticale. It has been found in grasses, but does not infest them heavily, and does not attack oats.