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Mayetiola destructor

Resource Type
Common Name
Hessian fly

The Hessian fly (HF, Mayetiola destructor) is a pest of wheat (Triticum spp.), and a member of a large dipteran family (the gall midges, Cecidomyiidae). Its genetics and behavior are representative of several other important plant-galling pests [1]. The HF probably evolved with wheat in the Fertile Crescent. It was perhaps the first invasive insect pest in the United States [2].

HF adults do not feed and live for less than 3 days. Adult females mate only once and deposit 100 – 300 eggs between the lengths of wheat leaves [3]. The small reddish embryos usually require 4 days to fully develop. Neonate first-instar larvae crawl down the leaf after hatching and settle under the leaves at the joints of the stem or the base of the seedling. There, they attack the epidermal cells of developing leaf tissue. HF larvae are plant-galling parasites. First-instar larvae induce the formation of plant nutritive tissue and alter plant development [4]. The plant then becomes a nutritive sink that feeds the second-instar larvae. This transformation stunts plant development and reduces both grain quantity and grain quality [5]. When larvae feed on wheat seedlings, the shoots they are directly feeding on eventually die and produce no grain. Third-instar larvae do not feed and pass the winter in diapause. HF control typically relies upon the cultivation of resistant wheat varieties, which carry one or more major dominant HF-resistance genes. The HF has a relatively small genome (~158 Mb) composed of two autosomes (A1 and A2) and two X chromosomes (X1 and X2) [1]. Like other gall midges, HF cytogenetics and sex determination is characterized by chromosome imprinting and chromosome elimination events. Females are diploid for all four chromosomes (A1A2X1X2/A1A2X1X2) and males are diploid for the autosomes, but haploid for the X chromosomes (A1A2X1X2/A1A2OO). Polytene chromosomes are present in the larval salivary glands [6]. Genetic recombination occurs only in females, and males transmit only their mother’s chromosomes to their offspring. Chromosome elimination during embryogenesis determines the sex of the embryo. Embryos that eliminate the paternally inherited X chromosomes develop as males. Embryos that retain the paternally inherited X chromosomes develop as females. Embryonic chromosome elimination is usually maternally controlled, and therefore, the offspring of individual females are either all female or all male. Investigations of the HF genome have focused on the HF-wheat interaction [7-9], the genetic response of the HF to HF-resistance genes in wheat [10-12], and the unusual cytogenetics of the insect [13].


1. Pauly, P.J., Fighting the Hessian fly: American and British responses to insect invasion; 1776-1789. Environ. Hist., 2002. 7(3): p. 485-507.
2. Harris, M.O., et al., Virulent Hessian fly (Diptera: Cecidomyiidae) larvae induce a nutritive tissue during compatible interactions with wheat. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am., 2006. 99(2): p. 305-316.
3. Ratcliffe, R.H. and J.H. Hatchett, Biology and genetics of the Hessian fly and resistance in wheat, in New Developments in Entomology, K. Bondari, Editor. 1997, Research Signpost, Scientific Information Guild: Trivandurm, India. p. 47-56.

  1. Benatti TR, Valicente FH, Aggarwal R, Zhao C, Walling JG, Chen MS, Cambron SE, Schemerhorn BJ, Stuart JJ. A neo-sex chromosome that drives postzygotic sex determination in the hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor).. Genetics. 2010 Mar; 184(3):769-77.
  2. Aggarwal R, Subramanyam S, Zhao C, Chen MS, Harris MO, Stuart JJ. Avirulence effector discovery in a plant galling and plant parasitic arthropod, the Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor).. PloS one. 2014; 9(6):e100958.
  3. Chen MS, Zhao HX, Zhu YC, Scheffler B, Liu X, Liu X, Hulbert S, Stuart JJ. Analysis of transcripts and proteins expressed in the salivary glands of Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor) larvae.. Journal of insect physiology. 2008 Jan; 54(1):1-16.
  4. Chen MS, Liu X, Yang Z, Zhao H, Shukle RH, Stuart JJ, Hulbert S. Unusual conservation among genes encoding small secreted salivary gland proteins from a gall midge.. BMC evolutionary biology. 2010 Sep 28; 10:296.
  5. Liu X, Bai J, Huang L, Zhu L, Liu X, Weng N, Reese JC, Harris M, Stuart JJ, Chen MS. Gene expression of different wheat genotypes during attack by virulent and avirulent Hessian fly (Mayetiola destructor) larvae.. Journal of chemical ecology. 2007 Dec; 33(12):2171-94.
  6. Williams CE, Nemacheck JA, Shukle JT, Subramanyam S, Saltzmann KD, Shukle RH. Induced epidermal permeability modulates resistance and susceptibility of wheat seedlings to herbivory by Hessian fly larvae.. Journal of experimental botany. 2011 Aug; 62(13):4521-31.
  7. Harris MO, Freeman TP, Moore JA, Anderson KG, Payne SA, Anderson KM, Rohfritsch O. H-gene-mediated resistance to Hessian fly exhibits features of penetration resistance to fungi.. Phytopathology. 2010 Mar; 100(3):279-89.
  8. Aggarwal R, Benatti TR, Gill N, Zhao C, Chen MS, Fellers JP, Schemerhorn BJ, Stuart JJ. A BAC-based physical map of the Hessian fly genome anchored to polytene chromosomes.. BMC genomics. 2009 Jul 02; 10:293.
  9. Harris MO, Stuart JJ, Mohan M, Nair S, Lamb RJ, Rohfritsch O. Grasses and gall midges: plant defense and insect adaptation.. Annual review of entomology. 2003; 48:549-77.
  10. Stuart JJ, Chen MS, Shukle R, Harris MO. Gall midges (Hessian flies) as plant pathogens.. Annual review of phytopathology. 2012; 50:339-57.
Organism Image
Image Credit
Scott Bauer. Public domain. View source
NameProgramDate Constructed
Mayetiola destructor whole genome assembly v1Baylor HGSCOct 18th, 2010
Mayetiola destructor official gene set (OGS1.0)Maker 2.22 and manual curationAug 27th, 2014
Functional annotation of Mayetiola destructor OGS1.0AgBase functional annotation pipelineJun 4th, 2022
Assembly Stats
Contig N50
Scaffold N50
GC Content
Other Information
Community Contact
Jeffrey Stuart|