Biting Flies

There are several different types of flies that people refer to as “biting flies”. They are all members of the insect order Diptera. Unlike insects in other orders, flies have one pair of wings. The second pair is reduced to a stubby appendage that scientists refer to as a haltere.

One of the most notorious biting flies is the black fly. Some people use the name buffalo gnat or turkey gnat to describe these insects. These flies are often found near shores. After a blood meal, the females deposit their eggs in the water or on an object near the water. In some areas, these flies occur in large swarms.

Black flies deliver a painful bite. The bite site can become swollen. Cattle and other livestock can suffer from black fly bites. These flies can be the vectors of several diseases to animals and humans.

Deer and horseflies actually bite cattle and mules as well as deer, horses, and people. They are large flies. Some species can reach more than an inch in length. They develop in water or in moist soil. Some of these flies can transmit tularemia that they get from rabbits and hares. Some of them can also transmit several diseases to domestic animals. These flies are strong fliers, but do not fly well on windy days.

There are tiny flies that people call sand flies or no-see-ums. They are common in coastal areas and along waterways. Although they are tiny, these flies deliver a painful bite because of the type of mouth that they have. They cause a red, inflamed spot that can itch for several days.

Stable flies are also included among the biting flies. These are medium-sized flies, about ¼” long. They look so similar to houseflies that many people call them biting houseflies. When they occur near the ocean, people often call them beach flies.

Stable flies feed in the morning and evening, but they feed less on cloudy or windy days. They attack people's ankles. They attack animals on their undersides. This can seriously affect milk production in dairy cattle.

Biting flies are almost impossible to control outdoors. They can be kept out of houses by careful maintenance and by keeping doors and windows screened or closed.

People who live in an area where biting flies are a problem often use insect repellant products when they go outdoors. When they go out, people usually dress in loose-fitting clothing to avoid leaving skin exposed. They also learn what times to avoid going outdoors and they avoid the feeding areas of their local biting flies.