Of Course a Horse Fly Has No Remorse

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Horse_fly_Tabanus_2It’s time to place your bets as the Kentucky Derby is getting ready to open the gates. Other than the prestige of winning a high profile race, there’s something else that can get horses (and humans) moving fast – horse flies!

These large, big eyed, dark colored flies can deliver a painful bite.  Horse flies share some life style similarities with their cousin, the mosquito. The larvae develop underwater (or in wet areas) and the adults mainly feed on nectar, but the females need to obtain a blood meal to produce eggs. While mosquitoes require stagnate water to develop, horse fly larvae typically develop in wet soil near lakes, ponds, streams, and other fresh water systems. Adult females will fly long distances in search of a blood meal. They typically target large animals such as horses, cows, and deer but humans are also on the menu. Unlike mosquitoes, horse fly bites are painful. They have scissor-like mouthparts that are inserted into the skin and “snipped” to cause a wound that bleeds. Then they use a sponge-like apparatus to sop up the blood. Once an animal is targeted the horse fly may pursue it relentlessly, biting multiple times until a full blood meal is obtained. They can also spread serious diseases such as anthrax and tularemia. When it comes to horse flies just say neigh!

Horse fly control is very difficult because of where they develop and the long distances adults will travel. Here are some tips to help keep them at bay:

  • If you have a barn or stable, light traps and sticky traps like fly paper will capture some individuals that visit.
  • Keep animal areas clean and contact your veterinarian for products to treat the animals.
  • Provide shaded areas for pets and livestock.
  • Eliminate standing water on your property if possible.
  • Keep weeds and tall grasses trimmed short.