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Hebe leaf blister gallfly - Dasineura hebefolia

By N A Martin (2018)

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Click to collapse Classification Info





Dasineura hebefolia Lamb, 1951

Click to collapse Common names Info

Hebe leaf blister gallfly, Hebe midleaf gall midge

Click to collapse Biostatus and distribution Info

This endemic fly induces leaf blister galls in two species of large-leaved Hebe, Veronica species (Plantaginaceae). Based on the presence of galls, it has been found in Auckland, Waikato and Wellington Regions and presumably it is present throughout the North Island. The galls have mainly been found in native ecosystems.

Conservation status: Present in the North Island, not threatened.

Click to collapse Life stages and annual cycle Info

Little in known about the fly’s annual cycle. There is evidence indicating two generations per year, with adults emerging from galls in spring and autumn.

The adult flies are small and delicate. They are about 3 mm long (body and wings folded. The body is brown with a darker brown dorsal (top) side of the thorax (middle part of body). The head has large black compound eyes. The body and wings are covered in dense setae (hairs). The fly has three pairs of long dark legs. Like a typical fly it has one pair of wings. The hind pair of wings is reduced to two small knobs, or halteres, which help the fly to balance during flight. These are dark grey. The male has hairier antennae that presumably assist it in finding a female. The male has external genitalia at the end of the abdomen that protrude upwards, while the female has a swollen abdomen with a tapered end. After mating the female uses her ovipositor to insert eggs into host plant leaves. They are usually laid in a row along the midrib of a leaf.

Eggs are inserted along the midrib of a young leaf. The newly hatched larvae form a chamber under the midrib. The leaf tissue on either side of the midrib is stimulated by the presence of the eggs and larvae to grow and form the gall. The larva is white at first, but as it enlarges it becomes orange coloured. The larva moults, or changes skin, as it gets larger. There are three larval instars (stages). Larvae have a special structure near their head on the ventral (under) side. This dark structure varies in shape, but is present in all gallfly (Cecidomyiidae) larvae. It is believed to be involved with feeding.

The last larval instar is yellow and when fully grown is 3-4 mm long. Prior to pupation the mature larva makes a tunnel to the surface of the gall, but leaves the surface skin of the leaf intact. It also constructs a cell in the cavity of the gall. The pupa is yellow and the legs, antennae and wing buds are visible. There are two spikes on the head.

Fly emergence

When the adult fly is ready to emerge, the pupa wriggles up to the surface of the leaf and with the spikes on its head, it pierces the epidermis (skin) of the leaf covering the tunnel. The pupal skin splits and the adult pulls itself out, its wings expand the wings and body harden before it flies away.

Click to collapse Recognition Info

The identification of these gall flies requires expert knowledge. However, the occurrence of the flies in a habitat can be recognised by the presence the leaf blister galls on its host plants, two species of Hebe, Veronica macrocarpa and Veronica stricta (Plantaginaceae).

Leaf blister galls are found in other species of Hebe (Veronica) in other parts of New Zealand and with different leaf form. The species of fly causing these galls are not known.

Click to collapse Natural enemies Info


There are no reports of predators of the adult flies, but it is likely that they are preyed upon by birds, spiders and predatory insects.


One species of wasp parasitoid of is known from Hebe leaf blister gallfly, though it has not been described and named.

Three species parasitoid wasps (Hymenoptera) were reared and photographed. Two kinds of parasitoid wasp pupae were found. One kind has a naked pupa that show the legs, antennae and wing buds, whereas the other kind has the pupa in an oval skin.

Some parasitoids of gall flies lay their eggs in eggs of the gallfly. The wasp larva usually does not kill the gallfly larva until the fly larva is fully grown.

Table: Natural enemies of Hebe leaf blister gallfly, Dasineura hebefolia (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae), from Plant-SyNZ database (7 April 2018). The reliability index shows the quality of evidence for the host association (0-10, 10=high quality).
Scientific NameCommon NameClassificationEnemy TypeReliability IndexBiostatus
Torymoides sp (Wasp)Hymenoptera: Torymidaeparasitoid7endemic

Click to collapse Host plants Info

This species of Hebe gallfly causes leaf blister galls in two large leaved shrubby Veronica species that are found in the North Island. The name of the Veronica shrubs on which the gallfly was first discovered were given as Hebe (=Veronica) salicifolia. The plant genus has since been revised and the plants in that area are now called Veronica stricta and Veronica macrocarpa. Hence, Veronica salicifolia which is only found in the South Island, is not a valid host plant. Leaf blister galls are found in other species of Hebe (Veronica), but are probably caused by unnamed species of gallfly.

The adult female fly lays it eggs in a young leaf by the midrib, and sometimes by a side vein. After the egg hatch, the plant tissue in the vicinity of the feeding larvae multiplies to form a swelling on either side of the midrib or vein.

Table: Host plants of the Hebe leaf blister gallfly, Dasineura hebefolia (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) from Plant-SyNZ database (7 April 2018). The reliability score shows the quality of evidence for the host association (1-10, 10=high).
Common Name(s)Scientific NameFamilyReliability IndexBiostatus
Hebe, KōkōmukaVeronica macrocarpa VahlPlantaginaceae9endemic
HebeVeronica stricta Banks & Sol. ex Benth. var. strictaPlantaginaceae9endemic

Click to collapse Additional information Info

Diversity of gallfly (Cecidomyiidae) life styles

The first formally described gall flies, Cecidomyiidae, were as their name suggests associated with galls on plants of interest to humans. Since their original discovery and naming as Cecidomyiidae, it was found that this family of flies has members with wider range of life styles that include beneficial species and important pests. Others are potentially useful biodiversity indicators.

Among the beneficial species are gall flies that are predators! These species have larvae that feed other insects such as aphids and mealybugs, and mites such as spidermites (Tetranychidae) and gall mites (Eriophyoidea). These predatory gall flies contribute to the biological control of pests of crops. Some species are reared in large numbers for release into greenhouse crops.

Other species of Cecidomyiidae feed on fungi. These include species that may be seen on the surface of plant leaves feeding on the spores of rust fungi. Other gall flies feed on fungi that we call toadstools and mushrooms. These include species that are pests of commercially grown mushrooms. One group has an amazing life cycle, where larvae give birth to more larvae (paedogenesis).

Of the species living on plants, many induce galls though some do not. Those not inducing galls include species living in flowers or seed heads of plants. Others feed on young leaves in expanding buds. Most plant feeding Cecidomyiidae induce galls. Galls are growths on plants formed of plant tissue, but caused (induced) by other organisms. Galls associated with Cecidomyiidae are usually induced by feeding of larvae. Galls may be formed in any actively growing tissue. There is a huge diversity of galls on New Zealand native plants. There are also pest species form other countries that affect crops and ornamental plants such as Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor) on grasses and barley, Apple leafcurling midge (Dasineura mali) on apple trees and Chrysanthemum gall midge (Rhopalomyia chrysanthemi) on Chrysanthemum leaves. Some gall inducing species have been released into New Zealand to assist the biological control of weeds, e.g. St John’s wort gall midge (Zeuxidiplosis giardia) to control St John’s wort (Hypericum perforarum).

Diversity gall forming Cecidomyiidae in New Zealand

Seven species of gall forming Cecidomyiidae in New Zealand have been described and formally named. However, recent studies have shown that there probably more than 150 species and perhaps more than 200. The seven named and described species include those that form leaf blister galls, bud galls, stem galls and root galls. Some groups of plants have a large diversity of galls, for example many species of small-leaved Coprosma (Rubiaceae) have galls, some species have up to five types of gall. There are usually two types of bud gall, one or two kinds of stem gall, a shoot tip gall and a leaf blister gall. Olearia (Compositae) species may have one or more of three kinds of leaf blister gall and a bud gall. While Hebe, Veronica species (Plantaginaceae) may also have up to five kinds of galls.

Plant galls are distinctive and easily recognised. At present it is assumed most of them are specific to a particular plant species or plant genus. Plant galls are thus potentially useful biodiversity indicators that could be used in surveys by non-experts. This could be done by providing surveyors with pictorial guides for each species of plant in habitats to be surveyed. How many galls can you find on native plants?

Click to collapse Information sources Info

Lamb KP. 1951. A new species of gall midge (Cecidomyiidae) from Hebe salicifolia Forst. leaf galls. Transactions of the Royal Society of New Zealand. 79 (2): 210-212.

Plant-SyNZ: Invertebrate herbivore-host plant association database.

Click to collapse Acknowledgements Info

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

Click to collapse Other images Info

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