These golden-backed flies prey on other insects and how to know your tree is dead

For The Baltimore Sun

I found these flies reproducing in my garden. Never seen them before. Are they pests?

Interesting find. This is the golden-backed snipe fly, or Chrysopilus thoracicus. The female is on the right. Far from being pests, both the larvae and adults are predators that eat other insects.

They are common in eastern forests, with the larvae living in decaying wood and the adults found on leaves. It’s nice to know that there are lots of little-noticed beneficial insects quietly going about the business of managing the insect world. Leave them be.

My weeping cherry tree started getting buds in the spring and then just stopped. Now all the other trees are green and this one is still bare. It had a flowing sap issue two years ago but last year seemed healthy. Is there hope? Is there such a thing as going dormant for a year, as a friend suggested?

Sorry, trees cannot go dormant for a year. It's not unusual for a tree, as a last gasp before death, to put out flowers in an attempt to propagate itself. Your tree is dead. The flowing sap may have been from the holes of a borer which commonly kills weeping cherry.

University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.

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