Interesting Facts About Horse-Flies: Their Bite Is Very Painful!

Horseflies belong to the tabanidae family. The other names by which they are known include breeze fly, forest fly, ear fly, or deer fly. They are considered as pests because of the bite that they inflict. Therefore, they belong to the world’s largest true fly category.
They are often large and agile in flight, and the females bite animals, including humans, to obtain blood. They prefer to fly in sunlight, avoiding dark and shady areas, and are inactive at night. They are found all over the world except for some islands and the polar regions (Hawaii, Greenland, Iceland). Both horse-flies and botflies (Oestridae) are sometimes referred to as gadflies.
Horse-flies have appeared in literature since Aeschylus in Ancient Greece mentioned them driving people to madness through their persistent pursuit. Shakespeare uses the theme of the maddening gadfly in his plays King Lear and Antony and Cleopatra.
Here are some interesting facts about horse-flies:
1. These flies are very noisy when in flight. Their bite is very painful. They have tiny serrated mandibles with which they rip and/or slice flesh apart. Their bite becomes itchy, and may cause swelling if it is not treated immediately.
Therefore, knowing about the treatment is necessary. It is very difficult to get a hold of these flies as they are agile and escape before the victim becomes aware of the pain signals.
2. Female horse-flies can transfer blood-borne diseases from one animal to another through their feeding habit. In areas where diseases occur, they have been known to carry equine infectious anaemia virus, some trypanosomes, the filarial worm Loa loa, anthrax among cattle and sheep, and tularemia. They can reduce growth rates in cattle and lower the milk output of cows if suitable shelters are not provided.
3. As the males of the species feed on nectar and pollen, they are called the pollinators. The females suck blood. This difference is due to the fact that the males do not have the mouth parts required for blood feeding.
The females more commonly feed on mammals, but in some cases can also be found feeding on birds, reptiles, as well as amphibians. The female lands on its prey silently and delivers a painful bite with its knife-like mouth parts. If the mouth parts are seen under a microscope, they look like jagged saw blades.
The bite is painful because they actually cut a hole in the skin and soak up the blood which comes out. If they are plenty in number, they are known to suck as much as three ounces of blood a day from the host.
4. Horseflies are large and hairy. They are about 30 to 60 mm in length. Flies of this type can sometimes be known as gadflies, zimbs, or clegs. In Australia, they are called ‘March flies’, while in Canada, they are referred to as Bull Dog flies.
There are approximately 3000 species of horseflies around the world, of which about 350 are found in North America alone. Large species like the mourning horsefly, black horsefly, etc. belong to the genus Tabanus, while the smaller and more common banded ones with either black, brown, or yellow bodies, dark markings on the wings, and brilliantly-colored eyes belong to the genus Chrysops.
The deerflies, who are notorious for carrying diseases like anthrax and tularemia as well as the filaria worm infestation, also belong to this family. Horseflies are more often found in hot weather.
5. Horse-flies are found worldwide, except for the Polar Regions, but they are absent from some islands such as Greenland, Iceland, and Hawaii.
6. The eggs of horse-flies are often attacked by tiny parasitic wasps, and the larvae are consumed by birds, as well as being paratised by tachinid flies, fungi, and nematodes.
Adult horse-flies are eaten by generalized predators such as birds, and some specialist predators, such as the horse guard wasp (a bembicinid wasp), also preferentially attack horse-flies, catching them to provision their nests.

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