Cover Photo by: Thomas Shahan – License

Do Horse Flies Really Bite? Horsefly bites are very unpleasant due to their size, tenacity, and venom. How come horseflies seem to be more prevalent in the summer?

When the weather is hot, the horseflies are more busy. However, it’s possible that more people are spending time outside this summer, rather than an increase in the number of horseflies looking for blood.

As more individuals venture outdoors in the warm weather, their skin will be exposed, increasing the risk of being attacked by flies. This, combined with the prevalence of reporting in newspapers and on social media, can give the impression that insects are having a banner year.

What is a horse fly?

North American horse flies can be found in urban and rural locations near water sources that serve as breeding grounds. It is possible for these flies to fly for up to 30 miles at a time. As a well-known horse and other mammal pest, this species is likely to have earned its popular name. They frequently perch on the borders of trails and highways, particularly in wooded areas, in search of a new home.

How to spot and identify a horsefly

A horsefly’s size is the most obvious telltale sign of its presence. Most of the time, the bug is much larger than other biting flies, and its eyes are often patterned or colored in an interesting way. The eyes of males are so large that they meet at the top of the head.

Even while not all horseflies are aquatic-dependent, a large number of species lay their eggs on waterside plants. There are certain species of larvae that live in water, while there are others that prefer moist soil. Pupation and adulthood are accomplished through consumption of other invertebrates.

As a result, larvae are more likely to be found near bodies of water, while adults are more likely to be found elsewhere. Flies that are attracted to cattle and horses are common in farms.

Horse fly bites

The question is, do horse flies actually bite people as well as horses? Yes, that’s the quick answer. Unlike male horse flies, which eat pollen and nectar from plants, female horse flies subsist exclusively on blood. Horse flies are most likely to attack moving and dark items. They will not stop biting their host until they have obtained their blood meal or have been killed. Short-lived chases have even been documented in some instances. If you’re bitten by an adult female horse fly and her mouthparts aren’t for sucking and piercing like mosquitoes, the pain can be excruciating.

Why horse flies bite

Unlike mosquitoes and other biting insects, only female horseflies have mouthparts that can penetrate the skin and feed on blood. There’s a reason for this: Only females need to consume blood.

Diptera and Siphonaptera Senior Curator Dr. Daniel Whitmore tells us, ‘They require considerable protein input to aid in the development of their eggs following fertilization.’

Males don’t require blood because they don’t mate, thus they don’t have to.

Comparing horseflies’ feeding behavior to that of a mosquito, the brutality of horseflies’ blood feeding may be seen. A pair of razor-sharp mandibles sawed through the skin, breaking tiny blood vessels as they did so. Anticoagulants in the fly’s saliva then keep the insect’s food flowing by thwarting the formation of blood clots.

Horseflies, unlike mosquitoes, do not secrete an anesthetic, which is why their bites may be so excruciating. This anguish is exacerbated by the fact that they pierce the skin with such a crude method.

Learn more about horse flies on Pestworld.

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