T.E.R:R.A.I.N - Taranaki Educational Resource: Research, Analysis and Information Network


Fly (Australian sheep blowfly) Lucilia cuprina

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:     Arthropoda
Class:        Insecta
Order:       Diptera
Superfamily:       Oestroidea
Family:      Calliphoridae
Genus:      Lucilia
Species:     L. cuprina
Binomial name: Lucilia cuprina
Synonym: Phaenicia cuprina
Common name: Australian sheep blowfly, Greenbottle fly.

There are two species in this genus Lucilia in Australia and New Zealand which have similar characteristics. They are Lucilia sericata and Lucilia cuprina. These flies are very similar in appearance and morphological characteristics, which can sometimes cause errors when trying to differentiate between them. They each exhibit specific genetic variations which can be distinguished by using random amplified polymorphic DNA and/or mitochondrial DNA sequences, and are known to cause myiasis (flystrike) in sheep. They are both one of the first blow flies to arrive at a corpse and each have smooth larva. Unlike L. cuprina, L. sericata does not usually infest live sheep. L. cuprina is a worldwide sheep pest though it is usually found in dry climates. L. sericata has a coastal distribution.
Lucilia cuprina is a species of blow fly characterized by a shiny green or greenish/blue abdomen with bronze/coppery reflections. The large eyes are reddish. They are about the size of a house fly or a little larger and are essential agents in the breakdown of organic matter.  They have two pairs of wings, the first pair being membranous wings and the second pair being reduced wings known as halteres which are used for flight stabilisation.
Lucilia cuprina, like all flies are holometabolous, meaning they go through a complete metamorphosis. These flies have four stages of growth: egg, larvae, pupa, and adult. Adult L. cuprina arrive early on carrion, appearing hours or even minutes after death. There, on the fresh body, they lay their eggs. The eggs then hatch into larvae which begin to feed and grow. After about five days, larvae enter the pupal stage. This is said to be an inactive stage, although many changes occur during this part of the flies’ life cycle. The pupa does not feed, but rather uses the time inside the casing to change from rice-like larvae into an adult fly with wings and six legs. The whole process can take anywhere from eleven to twenty-one days depending on environmental conditions including temperature and nutritional availability. In most cases warmer temperatures and better nutrition lead to a faster life cycle. L. cuprina can have between four and eight generations per year depending mostly on temperature.

Lucilia cuprina also causes the condition known as 'sheep strike'. The female fly locates a sheep with an open wound in which she lays her eggs. This cutaneous myiasis or infestation not only causes severe discomfort or stress to the animal, but will also cause death when left untreated.