The term gnat is a scientifically imperfect term. Most people refer to gnats as any small annoying fly that travels in a group or a hovers over you like a cloud. The term gnat is used differently in different regions of the country, but almost always describes a small fly that may or may not bite. Gnats can be a biting fly or a non-biting fly. Some entomologists reserve the term gnat for non-biting flies, but in truth some “gnats” such as no-see-ums or biting midges have a vicious bite that pack quite a punch.
Whether gnats saw through our skin to extract blood or simply buzz around our eyes and nose, gnats are universally and historically detested. So much so, that Exodus 8:16-18 says that God sent a plague of gnats to torment Pharoah into freeing the children of Israel from slavery. Whether they were biting gnats or simply annoying eye gnats, we will never know, but even in ancient times when this text was written, gnats were reviled and loathed.
Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell Aaron, ‘Stretch out your staff and strike the dust of the ground,’ and throughout the land of Egypt the dust will become gnats.” They did this, and when Aaron stretched out his hand with the staff and struck the dust of the ground, gnats came on people and animals. All the dust throughout the land of Egypt became gnats.
Many gnats that we consider pests or annoyances, play an important role in our environment. Some species aid in the pollination of plants, eat decaying plants and animals, and act as a food source to fish and other animals in the intricate food web.
Generally speaking, gnats are small flies, and can be divided into biting flies and non-biting flies. True flies are in the order Diptera, Greek for 2 wings. True flies have only 1 pair of wings, but have balancing organs called a halteres located at the base of the wings. Flies and gnats can be commonly found in moist environments such as lakes, ponds, streams, marshes, and swamps. Gnats can survive near freshwater bodies of water and saltwater bodies of water.
Gnat bites range in appearance depending upon the sensitivity of your body’s reaction and the number of bites you sustained. Bites are most likely to occur on uncovered skin such as ankles and legs, arms, neck, and head. In the United States general symptoms of gnat bites are redness at the bite site, itchy sensation, and skin irritation. However, if you are in a country where serious diseases are transmitted by biting gnats, boils, ulcers, and even blindness can result from gnat bites. Below are photos of common, and not so common, reactions to gnat bites.
Biting gnats are of primary concern for families excited about an outdoor adventure. Mosquitoes are the most common biting fly, but they are not often referred to as gnats. Most gnats do not bite humans, however some species of gnats require a blood meal to produce viable eggs. Males of these species, do not bite, they usually feed on nectar. However, in order to successfully reproduce, the female of these species must bite other animals in order to secure their own progeny. Mosquitos and biting gnats have very different mouthparts and manner in which they bite. Mosquitos have a needle-like mouthpart which the mosquito uses to pierce your skin then suck up your blood as if through a straw. Most gnats that bite have mouthparts more akin to a pair of scissors with serrated blades and then they lap up your spilled blood. These sawzall blade style mouthparts cause intense pain when a tiny biting midge decides it requires your sanguine contribution.
Of the biting insects commonly referred to as gnats, the most common gnats that plague humans are the biting midge also commonly called no-see-ums, the buffalo gnat, and sand fly gnats. Each of these biting gnats can be found in different environments and areas of the country. We will examine each of the biting gnats individually and learn how to protect yourself from their painful bite.
Biting Midge Gnat, No-See-Ums
Biting midges, Culicoides sp, are perhaps better known by their vernacular names. Biting midges are often called no-see-ums, punkies, or sand fleas. No matter what you call them, everyone agrees these aggressive biting gnats are painfully annoying. Dedicated hikers, campers, fishermen, and other outdoor enthusiasts will abandon the most picturesque locations when the no-see-ums are biting. Biting midges are aptly nicknamed no-see-ums because they are so small you rarely see them until they attack your legs, ankles, and feet.
There are thousands of different species of biting midges, but the majority of them prefer to live in salt marshy areas. The moist mucky areas around ponds, streams, swamps, and saltwater mangroves are the ideal breeding habitat for no-see-ums. They like areas that are wet, but not necessarily under water. The bite intensifies during the calm of the morning and the evening, because biting midges are not strong fliers. If there is a breeze you may experience a respite from their bite. Many people set up fans at their camp site to blow these biters away.
In areas where punkies prevail, specials screens are used to keep them outside. No-see-ums are very small, about the size of the sharp pointed end of a pencil, or 1/16”. The holes in typical window screens are larger than the critter you are trying to keep out. Therefore, no-see-um screens and nets can be applied to campers, tents, picnic table covers, and homes in areas of high biting midge activity. This special screen has smaller mesh size, which does inhibit air flow, but keeps no-see-ums out.
The bite of a biting midge is sharp and painful. Because they live and breed in the organic matter on the earth’s surface, they usually attack the exposed skin of your feet, ankles, and legs. The painful bites accumulate quickly and form small red welts or bumps. These bites are intensely itchy and painful and may take a week or two to heal completely.
In the United States, biting midges, are simply a painful annoyance, but in other countries they are associated with disease. In tropical and sub-tropical areas of the world, biting midges can pass filarial worm larvae to humans. These worms develop under human skin or in the lymph tissue causing illness. Biting midges can also pass diseases to sheep, cattle, and horses.
Pest Control for No-See-Um Gnats
Control efforts for biting midges, or no-see-ums is not an easy task. No-see-ums live and breed in and about waterways. Pesticides may not be used in the areas where no-see-ums breed. Applying pesticides to salt marshes or mangrove swamps is likely illegal and would have a negative effect on the natural aquatic environment.
Control efforts targeting the biting adults is usually ineffective for long term control. While a spray application may lesson the biting midges on a particular evening, it will have little effect on subsequent evenings. No-see-ums have a rapid life cycle and are continually leaving their marshy habitat and invading areas of human activity. Controlling no-see-ums at the adult phase would require daily spraying which is not recommended. Many local governments of coastal communities, have mosquito spraying programs and field many complains about no-see-ums. Most local governments do not engage in no-see-um control and are unable to provide services against these biting gnats.
The best protection against these aggressive biting gnats are physical barriers. While in these enticing coastal areas, many people wear flip-flops and shorts. However, the most experienced adventure seekers are often wearing sneakers, socks, long pants to avoid the bite of the no-see-ums. In addition, mosquito repellent containing DEET is labeled to repel biting midges. For a DEET free option, a repellent containing lemon and eucalyptus oil has shown promise in keeping no-see-ums at bay. If you have access to electricity, set up fans to rapidly circulate the air around you. This helps to push the no-see-ums away from your immediate vicinity and provide a small safe room.
Buffalo Gnat, Black Fly, Bull Gnat Bites
Black flies, of the family Simuliidae, are known by many names. As the name black fly suggests, they are black in color. Many people call refer to these biting gnats as a buffalo gnat because the hump on its back resembles the hump on the back of a bison. Other common names for this biting gnat is the bull gnat and the turkey gnat. Regardless of the name you give this biting gnat, worldwide, they cause much devastation as they are the vectors for the parasite that causes River Blindness.
Buffalo gnats prefer to breed near fast moving rivers and streams. In the United States, outdoor enthusiasts are those most at risk of encountering the bite of black flies. Black flies live almost exclusively in or near the water from which they hatched. After a female buffalo gnat has secured a blood meal, she lays eggs in or near a flowing water source. One female buffalo gnat will lay between 150-500 eggs in her lifetime. Most buffalo gnats overwinter at the egg stage. When they hatch, the larvae attach themselves to underwater rocks with silk. The black fly larvae have a fan like structure on their head with which they capture their meals such as algae, bacteria, pollen, and other organic matter. After a time, these larvae enter an underwater pupa or cocoon and emerge as adults in a bubble of air. Adult buffalo gnats usually stay close to the waterway from which they emerged and are therefore ready to bite when people or animals come near the river bank. Buffalo flies are more temperature dependent than the no-see-ums often encountered in Florida. Once the water temperature reaches about 70℉, the eggs stop hatching and adult populations naturally decline.
Like mosquitos and other biting gnats, it is only the female buffalo gnat that bites. She requires blood from another animal to lay viable eggs. While the bite of a black fly or a bull gnat, is painful and annoying to humans, it is not deadly to us here in the United States. However, these biting gnats can accumulate in such large numbers that they have been known to get into the respiratory tracts of domesticated chickens causing them to suffocate. They are so bothersome to livestock that occasionally these buffalo gnats incite a stampede causing smaller animals to be trampled.
As concerted efforts to clean up our waterways have been successful, black fly populations have increased. Cleaner bodies of water have allowed the black fly population to flourish in recent years.
Pest Control for Buffalo Gnats
Because they live and breed in water, controlling buffalo gnats at the early stages is impossible. Strict regulations regarding pesticides in or near water prevent the treatment of buffalo gnat breeding grounds. The negative effects of such a practice could have devastating effect on fish and the general health of our rivers and streams. Additionally, spraying or fogging the banks of a river will not achieve control. Rather, it is best to focus on preventing the bites of these aggravating gnats.
Fishermen, hikers, or campers will be better served wearing protective clothing and covering any exposed skin. Buffalo gnats tend to bite up high on the head, face, neck, and arms. Consider wearing a hat with protective netting which prevents the black flies from accessing these areas. Some studies have shown that black flies are more attracted to dark colored clothing than light colored clothing. Buffalo gnats are most active at dawn and dusk; avoid these peak activity times if possible. If you have electricity, arrange fans to have a steady breeze blowing through your riverside retreat area. As the weather cools, you will naturally notice a decline in the black fly population. If you are particularly sensitive to black fly bites, time your camping and fishing trips during times of the year where these biting gnats are less plentiful.
Sand Fly Gnats
True sand flies, of the family Phlebotomus, are not particularly problematic in the United States; in fact when we use the term sandfly we are likely referring to biting midges (no-see-ums) or horse flies. However, in other parts of the world, the true sandfly is a biting menace and a vector of very serious diseases. True sandflies are about the size of biting midges or no-see-ums and have a hump-backed appearance. Sandflies are responsible for the spread of Chandipura Virus, which is a cousin of rabies. Sand flies also spread the bacteria which causes Carrion’s Disease and Leishmaniasis.
With bases and operations worldwide, our US Military personnel has experienced the dreadful diseases spread by the sand flies. Thousands of our soldiers who have served in the Middle East and South America have been diagnosed with Leishmaniasis. Leishmaniasis is a parasite that is spread through the bite of the female sand fly. This disease may present as skin ulcers on the body and eventually ulcers around the mouth and nose. Often patients experience fever, low red and white blood cell count, and enlarged spleen and liver. The incubation period is long, it may be months or even a year before symptoms begin. Therefore, a service member may be home from deployment before the symptomatic boils begin to appear. A report published by Walter Reed Medical Center states that they diagnosed and treated 2,040 cases of Leishmaniasis between 2001-2016, with the majority of the cases linked back to a deployment to the Middle East. However, they suggest the number of affected service members is much higher as mild cases often go unreported or the diagnosis was made outside of the military medical system.
Worldwide, true sand flies are more than a pesky annoyance; they are a purveyor of deadly diseases. In areas where DDT was commonly used to prevent mosquitos and their diseases, sand flies were dramatically reduced. However, innovative, and novel approaches to sand fly management are required to prevent outbreaks of the above-mentioned dreadful diseases.
In addition to biting gnats, humans and animals alike are afflicted with gnats that do not bite; it seems like these non-biting gnats exist only to annoy and pester. A few of these species can breed and reproduce indoors which can escalate into serious infestations if not properly treated. The most common non-biting gnats that disturb humans are eye gnats, fungus gnats, and sewer gnats. Although they don’t pinch, bite, or suck our blood, non-biting gnats can be exasperatingly irritating.
Eye gnats aggregate in large groups and the females feed on fluids in the eyes, nose, and any open wounds on the body. Because of their propensity to concentrate around the eyes and face, they are most often called eye gnats, but sometimes they are referred to as frit flies, grass flies, or eye flies. Although they do not bite, they are extremely annoying for people and animals alike. Eye gnats are known to spread conjunctivitis, or pink eye, among humans, and several diseases among cattle.
Individually, eye gnats are very small, approximately 1.5 to 2 mm in length, but when confronted with large groupings of these small gnats, they can be extremely irritating. Unlike many other pest gnats, eye gnats do not puncture our skin and take blood. Rather, they aggressively and persistently attempt to access human and animal secretions in the form of sweat, puss, eye sludge, and blood if available. They have spongy mouthparts that can absorb these secretions which they require to produce viable eggs.
Eye gnats breed and develop in moist, sandy soil, with abundant organic matter. Cattle fields, barns, and horse arenas are ideal breeding locations for eye gnats. They are not strong fliers, but they are often found miles from their breeding location because they are carried off by the wind. After a heavy rain you may notice an increase in the population as well.
It is difficult to control or minimize eye gnats using pesticides alone. Particularly in agricultural areas eye gnat control requires good cultural farming practices and efficient procedures related to the disposal of manure and other organic matter. Eye gnats lay their eggs in highly organic soil, and the young larvae (maggots) burrow into the soil and begin to eat organic matter and roots. Often pest control applications do not reach the larvae under the soil and are thus ineffective. Mosquito repellents with DEET have been shown to prevent eye gnats from approaching people, but if you plan on applying an insecticide to an animal, read and follow the label closely. In addition, trapping eye gnats with homemade traps baited with raw eggs can help to provide some temporary relief. Eye gnats, which spend most of their time in the soil’s organic material, then gravitate towards our eyes, nose, and mouth, spread disease and are extremely irritating to both humans and animals.
Another non-biting gnat that sometimes annoys humans and causes concern is the fungus gnat. Fungus gnats are tiny black flies that are most often encountered in over-watered house plants. Fungus gnat larvae feed on fungus that is abundant in moist soil. Fungus gnats do not harm residential potted plants, do not bite people or pets, and they are not even attracted to humans for our eye mucus like eye gnats. However, any fly in your home demands an eviction. The aesthetic contributed to your home or office with a beautiful and air cleansing potted plant, is negated when you must brave fungus gnats to appreciate that plant.
Believe me when I say, I recognize that keeping house plants alive is no easy task for some people. While some people have the knack, and grown lush indoor ecosystems, others have dried sticks sitting in a pot in the corner of the room. Wherever you fall on this green thumb spectrum, the challenge is to set up a watering schedule that allows the plants to thrive, but not water so often that fungus gnats thrive. To verify which plant is infested with fungus gnats, place cheesecloth over the soil and let it sit overnight. The next day, check to see if the cheese cloth captured any fungus gnats. The best remedy for fungus gnats is to allow the soil to completely dry out before watering again. Once the soil is dry, the fungus gnat larvae will die. Adjust your watering schedule until you find the correct frequency that addresses the fungus gnat concern. An application of Bacillus thuringiensis (BT) can help kill off the fungus gnats. BT is a bacteria that is naturally occurring in soil, and is toxic to fungus gnat larvae.
Sewer gnats are another non-biting gnat that you may encounter in your home. Sewer gnats, of the family Psychodidae, are often called drain flies, filter flies, moth flies, sewer flies, or sink flies. As these terms imply, sewer gnats live and breed in sinks, drains, and sewers. Sewer gnat larvae live in the sludge-like slime of drains and the pipes around sinks, showers, and toilets.
Adult sewer gnats, or drain flies, do not look like a typical gnat. Most creatures that are sometimes referred to as gnats are small, black bothersome flies, that often accumulate in large clouds. Adult sewer gnats, AKA drain flies, have a decidedly moth-like appearance. Adult drain flies are about 1/5” in length and densely covered with hair. When at rest, they hold their wings over their body reminiscent of a moth. Drain flies or sewer gnats can reproduce indoors, do not bite humans or damage your home, but they can become quite the eyesore.
The most effective way to get rid of these non-biting sewer gnats is to manually clean the drain, toilet, or pipe in which they are breeding. By removing the slimy sludge, which is actually rotting organic matter, you remove the food source for the nursery of larvae. Using a stiff wire brush, thoroughly scrub the infested area. Boiling hot water down the line may help to kill the larvae, but often doesn’t contact the sides and top of pipes. This leaves many breeding sites untouched. Regular maintenance of drains with a bacterial drain cleaner can help to prevent the buildup of organic material in which these flies breed. These products contain live enzymes that consume the sludge, thereby preventing the drain to be used as a sewer gnat breeding spot. Pest management professionals often apply these products as a foam which coats the entire surface inside drains and pipes for better results.
Gnat Bite Allergy
Of the biting gnats discussed above, here in the United States we are most likely to encounter biting midges (no-see-ums) or the black fly (buffalo gnat). These gnat bites are much like mosquito bites. Some people may be able to ramble through no-see-um infested marshes without a single bite mark, while others will experience a rash, intense itchiness and discomfort, and redness for weeks after the romp in the woods.
The severity of the reaction depends upon how many bites you sustained and whether your body has an allergy to the proteins injected into your system from these bites. Depending upon the severity of your gnat allergy, the itch and discomfort may last up to a week. As is relatively common with bee and wasp stings, a reaction involving the inability to breathe is extremely rare after an attack of gnats. However, a severe allergic reaction after gnat bites is always possible.
Diseases Spread by Gnat Bites
In the United States, gnat bites rarely cause diseases or illness. However, in many other parts of the world, gnat bites exact a devastating toll on human health and life.
Biting midges, or no-see-ums, are extremely irritating to people, but are not known to transmit any disease to humans. However, they can infect ruminants, mainly sheep, with Blue Tongue Virus. This disease is not transmissible to humans, but has a 30% mortality rate for young lambs. Black flies, also called buffalo flies, are not known to spread diseases in the United States. However, they do transmit Onchocerciasis, also known as River Blindness, in Africa and other tropical areas of the world. River blindness is caused when the black fly bites and transmits a parasitic worm into a person. If untreated onchocerciasis can lead to long term skin damage and blindness.
Diseases spread by sandflies, are not commonly found in the United States. However, in areas of Europe, Africa, South America, and the Middle East, these biting flies cause much human suffering. Sand flies can transmit the Leishmania parasite to humans. This parasite can cause cutaneous leishmaniasis, which is characterized by skin lumps or bumps that become scabbed over ulcers. Eventually these ulcers become brightly colored boils. Sometimes the parasite attacks the mucous membranes of the nose, throat, and mouth. The most serious leishmaniasis is when the parasite attacks the internal organs known as visceral leishmaniasis. Often the boils associated with this dreadful disease take months or years to clear, but without treatment the visceral, or internal, form of this disease is often fatal.
While not a biting gnat, eye gnats are associated with the spread of conjunctivitis, or pink eye. Eye gnats are not host specific, meaning they will feed on the eye fluid from a cow, a human, a pig, then a human again. Each time the eye gnat lands on or feeds upon a creature, it may encounter a bacteria or a virus. When the gnat subsequently feeds upon your eye, it may spread that bacteria or virus to your eye causing pink eye. Eye gnats are also implicated in other terrible diseases throughout the world. In South America, eye gnats are believed to transmit yaws. Yaws is a skin disease that causes ulcers and in extreme cases can affect bone and cartilage. In Brazil, eye gnats are associated with spreading a particular bacterium which causes Brazilian Purpuric Fever which may lead to sepsis in children.
Here in the United States, we are beyond blessed to consider gnats as simply a source of irritation rather than danger. The next time you are swatting away at the no-see-ums or the buffalo gnats, remember, unlike many places on Earth, these gnats are not likely to cause any long-term illness.
Gnat Bites on Dogs
If you like to take your dog with you on hiking or camping trips, be aware that they are susceptible to gnat bites as well. A campsite near the riverbank or the intercoastal waterway, although picturesque, invites biting gnats to the party. If you are getting bit by punkies or buffalo gnats, chances are your pup is as well. You will undoubtedly notice your dog jump, scratch, and bite at himself to get the offending gnats off. Take simple precautions to protect your dog. If you have a fan set up to blow the gnats away, make sure your dog stays with you in the safe zone. Put your dog in the tent or camper if he is being terrorized by biting gnats. Talk to your veterinarian about dog safe mosquito and gnat repellent. The bumps and rashes from gnat bites can become infected if your dog overly scratches them.
Gnat Bites Vs. Flea Bites
Gnat bites and flea bites may appear quite similar to each other. Both gnat and flea bites appear on your body as small, red, raised bumps. They both itch and their bites are usually felt at once. If you are experiencing fleas rather than gnats, there is more that can be done to eradicate the little biters. One way to differentiate is the simple knowledge that fleas do not fly; they do not have wings. They have impressive jumping abilities, but if the insect that is biting you is visibly flying, it is not a flea. Also, be aware of your location when you are suffering the biting attack. If you are only attacked in gnat breeding zones such as near the riverbank or saltwater marsh, biting gnats are likely to blame. Outdoors, fleas are usually found in tall grass, in the shade near trees and shrubs. If established on your pet, fleas may breed indoors as well, in carpeting, pet bedding, and furniture. A single gnat may slip in occasionally through a window, but they can not breed indoors like fleas can.
Of course, if you can capture a specimen of the biting insect, that is the best evidence of what is biting you. Absent a specimen, look at all of the circumstances surrounding your bite and follow the evidence to the biting insect. If fleas are to blame for your bites, fleas can be controlled with pet medications, yard treatments, and removing the fleas and eggs from your home.
Gnat Bites Vs. Bed Bug Bites
It can be tricky to differentiate bed bug bites and the bite marks of biting gnats from one another visually. Biting gnats hit hard and fast. They quickly pierce the skin, take your blood, and they are off. Bed bugs take minutes to fully engorge during a feeding. Because of this, they inject a numbing agent into your skin which allows you to sleep through the bed bug bite. Biting gnats have no such analgesic, and their bite immediately causes pain.
Visually, bed bug and gnat bites may appear similar, however the physical reaction to these insect bites is different for every person. Both of these insects may leave red itchy welts accompanied by swelling.
How To Treat Gnat Bites
For minor skin irritation and itchiness after a gnat attack, treatment usually consists of home based first aid type remedies. Generally, the irritation and redness subsides within a few days of a gnat bite. In order to prevent infection, avoid scratching the gnat bites and breaking the skin. If the bites are intensely bothersome, follow the guidelines below to alleviate the itch.
Wash affected area with soap and water.
Apply a cold compress to relieve itch and reduce swelling.
Apply over-the-counter itch creams such as hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion to the bites. These salves will help to soothe the irritation and redness caused by the gnat bites.
An antihistamine medication usually taken for allergies, may help to alleviate the gnat bite symptoms.
If your gnat bites are not resolving or the affected area has pus or red streaks through the wounds, you should seek medical treatment. Skin infections are a common side effect of itchy bug bites, and with antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria now, these infections can snowball into dangerous medical scenarios.
Although, quite rare with regards to gnat bites, any allergen that you are exposed to may trigger a severe or anaphylactic reaction. If after being bitten by gnats, you experience difficulty breathing, swallowing, or swelling of the lips or mouth, seek immediate medical attention. This type of allergic reaction requires immediate medical care and should not be overlooked.
How To Prevent Gnat Bites
As a pest control company, there is little we can do to prevent gnat bites. Because most biting gnats, live, breed, and bite near the water, most pesticides can not be legally used in these areas. However, your knowledge of their biology and behaviors gives you the power to prevent gnat bites. Those most commonly plagued by biting gnats are those who enjoy the great outdoors and are willing to brave the elements for the peace and serenity that they crave. As part of your outdoors checklist, make sure you factor in protection from no-see-ums and buffalo gnats.
If you plan on spending time in or around bodies of water, know that biting gnats are a possibility. Wear protective clothing which covers as much skin as possible. An insect repellent containing DEET or lemon eucalyptus oil has been shown to repel biting gnats. Many biting gnats breed in the moist muck along the edges of rivers, lakes, and marshes. Wear closed toed shoes and socks when walking through this no-see-um nursery. As most gnats are poor fliers, a strategically placed fan may blow them off course and provide you some relief from these biting gnats.
At the end of the day, gnats are an annoyance, and can cause seriously itchy bites, but in the United States, they rarely cause serious illness or injury. When you feel the pull towards nature as described by renowned naturalist John Muir, “the mountains are calling and I must go,” be sure to bring your biting gnat repellent gear!
Oh, the complexities of nature! At the onset of this article discussing fly bites, we should make clear that any insect that flies is not necessarily a fly. How then is a fly actually defined? And what flying insects are not considered flies? True flies include not only your common house fly and stable fly, but also mosquitos and no-see-ums. Mosquitos are flies, but butterflies are not. The fruit fly buzzing around your over-ripe bananas are flies, but dragonflies are not. As a general rule, if the correct spelling for the name of the fly contains the word fly as one word like butterfly and dragonfly, the creature is actually not a fly.
Worldwide there are approximately 120,000 different species of flies that have been categorized and named. True flies belong to the order Diptera, Greek for 2 wings. Only flying insects with one pair of wings (2 wings total) are considered true flies. Rather than a second pair of wings, true flies have a halteres. This organ is located at the base of their wings and helps them to remain balanced and oriented while in flight. Most flies have sponging mouthparts which are used to soak up nectar and excretions from animals, but some flies do indeed have piercing biting mouthparts. Flies undergo complete metamorphosis, meaning they begin as an egg, emerge as a larvae (maggot), they enter a cocoon or pupate, then emerge as an adult. Flies have compound eyes and either long antennae like a mosquito or short antennae like a house fly.
Flies are found throughout the world and boast an astonishing array of diversity. Aside from the black common house fly, some flies mimic the appearance of bees, while others are brightly colored. Flies aid in pollination, fly larvae (maggots) help to break down rotting carcasses and other organic debris, and many flies even offer pest control services. Parasitic flies help backyard gardeners and farmers by feeding on aphids, beetle grubs, and other pests that destroy crops.
Do Flies Bite Humans?
Most fly species are not only harmless to humans, they are in fact beneficial to humans. However, there are a few species of flies where the female fly requires a blood meal to lay viable eggs. Mosquitos are by far the most notorious of these biting flies. In fact, mosquitos are considered the most dangerous animal in the world because of the many deadly diseases they spread. Even with modern advancements, still, it is estimated that approximately 1 million people die per year worldwide of mosquito borne illness.
Mosquito and no-see-um bites, both of which are true flies, will not be discussed in this article. You can find a full article discussing mosquito bites at https://ngpest.com/mosquito-bites-on-humans/ and no-see-um bites are discussed in our lengthy article on gnat bites.
In addition to mosquitos and no-see-ums, other common flies that bite are black flies, deer flies, horse flies, yellow flies, stable flies, and sand flies. Worldwide, these few species of biting flies cause much devastation. Of course, the bites are painful and irritating, but in many places of the world, the concern is less about the irritation and more about the diseases and parasites that are spread by these biting flies. Flies that bite are blamed for transmitting malaria, river blindness, leishmaniasis, and a host of other devastating illnesses to humans.
Because of their biological need to secure a blood meal, biting flies have different mouth parts than non-biting flies. For example, the common house fly, which does not bite, can only consume food in its liquid form. As a result, the house fly essentially has a sponge with which it absorbs pungent moist nutrients. Liquid collects on this “sponge” and is drawn up by capillary action, and ultimately enters the house fly’s food canal. The house fly is attracted to moist organic matter such as pet fecal matter and decomposing carcasses because it can easily extract the nutrients from these moist environments. However, often a housefly regurgitates a droplet of digestive enzyme when it lands on a non-liquid meal. This enzyme quickly breaks down the meal into a liquid form and the house fly laps up the enzyme along with the added nutrition of your cheeseburger particles.
However, the mouth parts of biting flies are quite different from the sponging mouthparts of non-biting flies. For example, a mosquito has a proboscis which is in the form of a long sharp beak of needle. The proboscis has a protective outer sheath or scabbard which folds back as six sharp individual stylets pierce through the skin of both animals and humans. Each of these stylets has a unique function. Essentially, the mosquito pierces your skin; one of the stylets keep the mosquito steady on its host. Once a blood vessel is accessed, the mosquito begins sucking up your blood. At the same time, the blood is being removed from your body, one of the stylets, the hypopharynx, pumps saliva into the accessed area. This mosquito saliva keeps the blood from coagulating and allows it to continue to flow until the mosquito has had its fill or it meets the back of your hand.
The physical reaction we have to a mosquito bite is an immune reaction to this saliva. The proboscis of these biting flies is highly specialized and perfectly adapted for their survival. With serrated edges quickly sawing through our skin, it is no wonder the bites of flies such as horse flies and deer flies can be so painful!
Black Fly Bites
Black flies are known by many names. They are commonly called buffalo gnats because of their humped back, they are also referred to as turkey gnats or bull gnats. Because of their small size and their tendency to aggregate in large groups, they are often referred to as gnats, but they are indeed a biting fly. Black flies are small, approximately 1/16” in length. They have translucent wings which show off their usually black body. Black flies have an obvious hump like a buffalo or a camel.
Black flies are seasonal, depending on air and water temperatures. They prefer cooler weather. When black flies are active, they can accumulate in large numbers. They are most often found along rivers with quickly moving water. The female lays her eggs directly onto a rock, branch, or other object that is under the water. Black flies live nearly their entire life cycle in the water. In fact, many ecologists who evaluate the health of our rivers view active and flourishing black fly populations as a good thing. A robust black fly population indicates the river is oxygen rich and not filled with pollutants.
When it is time for a female adult black fly to lay eggs, she almost always seeks to secure a blood meal. With her serrated blade-like mouthpart, similar to the mosquito proboscis described above, she can pierce humans and other animals. Most species of black flies will bite nearly any mammal, while others prefer to prey upon birds. No species of black fly relies solely on human blood.
Black flies tend to aggregate in large numbers and sometimes enter animal and human noses, mouths, and throats. In extreme cases, animals have suffocated because of large numbers of black flies in their noses and airways. Black flies tend to congregate around our heads, therefore bites most often occur on the face, neck, and head.
Black fly bite reactions can range in severity from a simple puncture mark at the site of the blood meal to swelling that can be the size of a golf ball. In rare cases, some people develop what is termed black fly fever. This is likely a reaction to the black fly saliva that is injected during the bite, but it is characterized by flu-like symptoms such as headache, fatigue, fever, and swelling of the lymph nodes. This phenomenon usually resolves itself within a few days, but seek medical treatment if symptoms become severe or troublesome.
In the United States, black fly bites are not known to spread diseases. However, in less developed areas of the world, black flies transmit the parasite that causes the disease river blindness. Many people on earth must view black flies as more than a nuisance, they can transmit terrible diseases. Unfortunately, the people susceptible to river blindness often must utilize the same river for their water supply as the black flies use for breeding.
Yellow Fly Bites
The generic term yellow fly is used to describe several biting flies commonly found in Florida and Georgia. In the family Tabanidae,there are about 35 species of biting flies that are predominantly yellow in color. These include deer flies and horse flies which are discussed specifically below. However, entomologists agree that the true yellow fly is Diachlorus ferrugatus. This yellow fly is also known as the doctor fly in its native South America.
The yellow fly, Diachlorus ferrugatus, is known as a fierce biter and is often described as the most aggressive of all of the flies of the Tabanidae family. The yellow fly is one of the only flies that will assault you indoors if they happen to get inside your house, car, or tent. The bite is excruciatingly painful to humans and may produce a severe reaction in some individuals. Yellow flies look very similar to deer flies. Adult yellow flies are approximately 1 cm in length, and as you would have guessed, their bodies are predominantly yellow in color. The yellow fly’s front legs are black and the remaining legs are yellow. The yellow fly’s eyes are a beautiful bright blue-green color surrounded by purple bands, but I wouldn’t take much time to appreciate the beauty of this beast by staring into its eyes!
Adult yellow flies are most often found in wooded areas near freshwater lakes, ponds, and rivers. Yellow fly larvae grow and develop underwater in areas thick with underwater logs, pieces of wood, and tree roots. Yellow fly nurseries are usually found in 3-6” of water in mucky, marshy, woody, and shaded areas. Although they are capable fliers, the adult yellow fly is usually found nearby. These aggressive flies are often found resting on large trees protected by Spanish moss. Yellow flies prefer shady wooded areas and are less likely found in open pastures, but the water rich environments of Florida and Georgia are the perfect habitat for yellow flies.
Like other flies that bite, yellow flies require a blood meal in order to produce viable eggs, therefore only females bite. Yellow flies are active throughout the daytime, but have an increase in activity in the late afternoon and on cloudy days. The yellow fly is a quiet flier, so you generally will not hear it before it bites. While black flies tend to bite near the head, the yellow fly makes no such discrimination. Yellow flies will bite any exposed skin they can sink their proboscis into. The yellow fly bite is fast and furious. It is instantly painful, and will likely leave a reminder behind of the painful bite. Yellow fly bites often swell larger and remain painful for longer than the bites of other tabanids. Avoid scratching at the bite mark as infection can easily set in if the skin is broken and damaged.
If you are planning a hike or camping trip in yellow fly territory, be prepared! Prevention by way of physical barriers is most effective to prevent yellow flies. Cover your skin! If yellow flies see an exposed skin, and they need your blood, they will get it! Many people wear nets around their face and neck and gloves to protect their hands. Long pants, closed toed shoes, and a long sleeved shirt will shield you from these aggressive biting flies. An insect repellent with DEET is moderately effective against yellow flies.
Deer Fly Bites
Like the yellow fly, deer flies are of the family Tabanidae. These two species look quite similar to one another, and live, therefore bite, in similar conditions and habitats. When being attacked, it is difficult to differentiate between deer flies and yellow flies. The deer fly is primarily dark gray, black, or yellow in color, with black stripes and markings. The most distinguishing feature is their eye color, yellow flies have beautiful bright greenish blue eyes, where the deer fly lacks the vibrant eyes. To help you remember the distinction, remember deer flies have large, dark colored eyes like a doe.
Adult deer flies are between ¼” and ½” in length, larger than a common house fly but smaller than a colossal horse fly. They are excellent fliers and primarily use their vision to spot and track their prey. To a lesser extent, they use carbon dioxide tracking and odor to locate a blood meal. Because they do not rely on scent to locate their blood meal, traditional mosquito repellents are practically ineffective. Moving objects that are dark in color are most susceptible to deer fly attacks. Once they target you, they can fly so fast they can even catch a runner or jogger, so a casual hiker or woodland meanderer cannot hope to escape a determined deer fly.
Deer flies lay their eggs on vegetation, branches, or rocks that are overhanging freshwater lakes, rivers, and ponds. Once hatched, the larvae drop into the water or moist river bank to continue their life cycle. Deer fly larvae are found in soil with extremely high moisture content. The larvae consume organic matter found in the mud and muck where they live.
Adult deer flies are generally found in wooded areas close to the water where they deposit their eggs. Deer flies have scissor-like mandibles that pierce the skin and cause blood to flow. The blood that flows is absorbed into the fly via a sponge like material on its mouth. This bite is extraordinarily painful and almost always leaves behind a red welt. The pain of a deer fly bite is lingering and burning. They are most active for the first few hours after sunrise and just before and after sunset. Experts have recorded that deer flies are less likely to attack on cloudy days.
Deer flies are a scourge for cattle. Deer flies and other tabanids can cause cattle and other farm animals to lose excessive amounts of blood resulting in illness and even death. It is estimated that 20-30 flies feeding for 6 hours would cause 100mL of blood to spill from an animal.
Deer fly bites are painful, but rarely dangerous. Deer fly bites will sting and burn quickly and fiercely. Because of the serrated scissor action with which they break the skin, many times these bites bleed for a time after the fly has left the scene. They often leave a red welt with swelling and lesions. Rarely, does a deer fly bite require more than first aid type treatments, but deer flies are vectors of tularemia also known as rabbit fever. In the United States, cases of tularemia are limited to the western United States, and even then, rare. However, in other parts of the world, this is a disease of real concern that is transmitted by the bite of deer flies.
Deer Fly Trap
Because deer fly’s life cycle is so closely integrated with the water, pesticide treatments targeting early life stages are not possible. People in high deer fly areas sometimes resort to extreme measures to reduce their risk of deer fly bites. Deer fly traps can reduce the adult population in a given area.
University of Florida entomologists developed a trolling deer fly trap that catches and removes hundreds of deer flies from the area trolled. The key for this trap to work is it must be moving. Deer flies are attracted to movement. This trap is best suited for deer flies and rarely catches yellow flies or horse flies. The trap is made by painting a solo cup or a nursery pot blue. Then, apply Tanglefoot, an adhesive sticky material to the cup or potted plant. Depending upon your needs, mount this inverted cylinder shaped sticky trap to the front of your tractor or lawn mower. As you cut the grass, you will remove hundreds of deer flies from the yard. Some people rig a row of traps that can be placed along the front or back of their vehicle. Then they drive slowly through the yard eliminating deer flies as they drive.
Perhaps my favorite adaptation of the deer fly trap is mounting it to a hat, and hike or move about briskly while wearing this unusual looking hat. While other hikers may complain of painful bites and are busily swatting at deer flies, the wearer of the hat trap will gleefully be trapping deer flies and enjoying the nature experience.
Absent wearing a homemade trap on your head, the best protection against deer fly bites is covering your skin. In areas where you are bound to encounter deer flies, wear long sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed toed shoes.
Horse Fly Bites
Horse flies are often found in similar environments as the deer fly discussed above, but they are easily distinguished by their gargantuan size. Adult horse flies are approximately twice the size of deer flies, and their bites are extremely painful. On average horse flies are about ½” in length, whereas a common house fly is usually about 6mm in length! These large biting flies are dark brown to black in color with green or black eyes. Upon initially seeing the fly, if you are in awe of its large size, it is probably a horse fly. Just know, as its body is larger than an average fly, so are its mouthparts. Horse flies bite using scissor shaped mandibles with which they cut into your skin. Their mouths are also equipped with hooks which enable them to remain attached to you as they lap up your spilled blood. As you can imagine, the horse fly bite is extremely painful. Horse flies are also hardy and persistent. A simple swat or mild squishing will not deter a horse fly in need of blood.
Like other tabanids, the horse fly is a common nuisance pest in the wooded areas near bodies of water. Many areas of Georgia and Florida are blessed with an abundance of these natural peaceful areas. Horse fly populations are highest between May and September. The female horse fly lays her eggs either on branches or trees overhanging water or near the water. When they hatch, the horse fly larvae live in the water feeding upon the organic matter found within the mud of the lake or pond. Most species of horse flies actually spend the winter as larvae, and pupate in the spring. For many species of horse flies, the life cycle takes about a year, and the adult only lives for a month or two.
Attempting to take full advantage of their short life, horse flies mate shortly after emerging as adults. The female then begins her search for a blood meal. Without a proper blood meal, her eggs will not be viable. Horse flies are a particular scourge for horses, but they will readily bite humans and most other mammals including dogs. Horse flies attack, and are known to even pursue, mammals that are dark in color, or wearing dark colored clothing. Horse flies are strong fliers and are persistent in their pursuit of blood.
While exceedingly painful, horse fly bites are generally not dangerous for humans. However, horse flies can be dangerous to horses. Horse fly bites spread equine infectious anemia, or swamp fever, to horses. This serious disease, transmitted by the horse fly, can cause grave illness and even death in horses. In areas with extremely high numbers of horse flies, livestock herds have been known to lose dangerous amounts of blood, which can weaken and kill them.
Human reactions to horse fly bites vary, but the inevitable result of such a bite is intense immediate pain. You will immediately feel this bite and likely swat, hit, and otherwise move heaven and earth to dislodge this pest from your body. The site of the bite will usually turn red and swell. Experts recommend washing the site of the horse fly bite and applying ice if practicable. Although painful, horse fly bites are unlikely to result in a serious illness and usually take a few days for the symptoms to alleviate. Other possible symptoms of a horse fly bite include, a rash, dizziness, weakness, and rarely swelling of the lips or eyes. If the horse fly bite is scratched, opened, and dirt allowed to enter and fester inside, infection is always a possibility. If you notice any symptoms of anaphylactic reaction or infection, seek medical treatment immediately.
Stable Fly Bites
Stable flies are a filth breeding fly that bites. Visually, they look similar to a common house fly, but rather than landing on your BBQ or burger, they seek a blood meal. Stable flies are common in and around stables because the organic matter (animal feces) is the perfect environment in which to lay their eggs. Other common names for the stable fly is the dog fly, because of its affinity for biting dogs, and the biting house fly, because it looks so much like a house fly.
Because stable flies are generally found in barns where cattle blood is plentiful, they rarely bite humans. A study of flies collected on equine facilities in Florida found that only 24.3% of the flies captured on horse farms had fed on horses; 64.6% had fed on cattle, 9.5% had fed on humans and 1.6% had fed on dogs. Stable flies are strong fliers and can be found miles away from the stable into which they were born. In Florida, stable flies commonly bite beach goers at the idyllic panhandle beaches. Do not put your guard down, stable flies can and will bite humans if the need arises, but generally horses and cows are most at risk.
Stable flies are unique in that both male and female stable flies bite and consume blood, but the females require the protein found in blood for proper egg development. To get a full meal, stable flies remain attached to cattle for approximately 5 minutes; humans are not ideal hosts for stable flies as we do not allow for this persistent feeding. In humans, stable fly bites are less painful than the bites of horse flies or deer flies. Stable fly bites will cause an initial pinching or pin-prick feeling, but nothing like the intense burning of a horse fly bite. Stable flies tend to bite animals on their legs and under their bellies, and as such humans usually are bit on their legs and behind the knees. Stable fly bites are less likely than other fly bites to become red, swollen, and irritated and trigger allergic reactions.
Large numbers of stable flies can be highly problematic in agricultural settings and zoos. Stable flies are aggressive, and when populations are high they can weaken animals and cause illness. While not necessarily a threat to humans, stable flies spread diseases and the wounds they cause can become infected.
As with most filth breeding flies, the best stable fly control methods involve removing the breeding location. By reducing moist organic matter around the farm and animals, you can disrupt the stable fly life cycle. This may involve altering the procedure for dealing with manure, hay, and animal bedding. All of these areas are potential stable fly breeding locations. If the stable fly eggs are removed before they hatch, the fly population will exponentially decrease.
Sand Fly Bites
Sand flies are small light-colored flies. They are usually about 3mm in length and range in color from tan, golden, to light brown. They have almost a moth-like appearance with hairy wings that make the shape of a V when they are at rest. They have exaggeratedly long legs and long piercing mouthparts, which they use to suck the blood of their host. As with all of the biting flies we have discussed here, the female sand fly must procure a blood meal in order to lay successful eggs. Sand flies feed a variety of mammals including the following: deer, horses, racoons, rodents, cattle, horses, birds, and of course humans.
The bite of a sand fly is painful, and may cause redness, irritation, swelling, and itchiness. In many parts of the world, particularly parts of the Middle East and northern Africa, the bite of the sand fly is much more serious than a minor skin irritation. Although not considered established in the United States, the dreadful disease leishmaniasis is contracted via the bite of the sand fly. Cutaneous leishmaniasis causes large skin sores and ulcers. Often, these ulcers on the skin scab over and get crusty, and infection of the affected area is a primary concern. The CDC estimates there are over 1.2 million cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis yearly worldwide. When diagnosed in the United States, the disease can usually be traced to foreign travel. It is especially common in military personnel who have served in the Middle East.
The irritation that accompanies a sand fly bite in the United States can be treated with over the counter first aide type treatments. Thankfully, in the United States sand flies are little more than an irritation, but should you experience sand fly bites while on vacation in Costa Rica or while on deployment in the Middle East, be on the look out for signs of much more serious skin irritations. The symptoms usually begin a few weeks after the sand fly bite, but the dormancy period may be as long as a few months. The sores usually start small and benign, but often progress into large ulcer-like sores.
Fly Bite Pictures
Human reactions to fly bites vary from person to person and are highly dependent upon the species of fly and number of bites sustained. Most fly bites leave redness, swelling, and pain behind, but extreme reactions are possible.
While this article is mostly focused on flies that bite, there are many species of flies that do not bite. Although non-biting flies do not pierce us and take our blood, they can still affect human health. Most non-biting flies live and breed in moist organic matter that is crawling with pathogens and bacteria that can cause illness. Take for example, the common house fly. Before landing on your hot dog or burger, that house fly was likely standing in dog poop, a decaying carcass, or checking out the contents of the dumpster out back. He carries on his legs and feet the bacteria of all the places he has recently visited… none of which you likely want on your cheeseburger. In addition, some fly species regurgitate previously eaten food when they land. This regurgitation may include fecal matter, carrion, and other unsavory substances. Non-biting flies are indeed a public health risk despite the fact that they take nothing from us.
House Fly Bite
The common house fly does not bite… but it does carry disease that may hit you worse than a bite. Not only are house flies an annoyance while gathered with family and friends, but they are also known to carry up to 65 diseases. Food poisoning and salmonella, which includes vomiting and diarrhea are the most common ailments a house fly brings to your party. When planning any outdoor event where you will serve food, consider the fly situation. Your pest management professional can help you minimize and prevent flies from ruining your special occasion.
Fruit Fly Bite
Those tiny fruit flies buzzing around your rotting bananas… they seem to appear out of nowhere and can be difficult to get rid of. Although they don’t bite, they are unsightly and annoying. Fruit flies are attracted to rotting fruits and vegetables but can also feed and breed in the garbage disposal, trash cans, recycle bins, and mop buckets. As with other non-biting flies, fruit flies that breed in filth, carry that filth to all of the places they visit.
Fruit flies’ mouths are specially adapted to consume the foods that attract them. Fruit flies do not bite in part because they do not have a piercing or sucking mechanism on their mouths. They eat rotting or decaying foods because they are typically soft in texture. Fruit flies do not even bite their own food! Instead, they release a substance that helps to dissolve or partially digest food particles, then they suck up the liquified nutrients.
Fruit flies are not a bite concern, but will require specialized efforts to get them out of your home.
Do Crane Flies Bite?
Crane flies eerily look like a gigantic mosquito. These mosquito look-alikes appear as if they would have a voracious appetite for a blood meal, and people often marvel at that HUGE mosquito. However, crane flies are not mosquitos and in fact do not even bite. If you find a large mosquito looking bug, but it does not seem to buzz around you in an attempt to bite, it may be a crane fly.
Adult crane flies only live for about 4 days and do not even eat as adults. Crane fly larva are considered important as they aggressively eat dead and decaying leaves. This necessary environmental contribution can sometimes conflict with human uses of land. Aggressively consuming turf, golf courses, and field crops, crane fly larvae can become a pest. Effective crane fly management focuses on the larval stage as that is where the potential damage can occur.
Preventing Fly Bites
Fly bites are a painful aggravation that are not always preventable. When venturing into fly territory, certain preventative measures can reduce your risk of fly bites. Depending upon the environment, you are at risk for different fly bites. Wooded areas near fresh water are known for relentless deer flies and horse flies. Black flies are often found near fresh, clear, running water. Stable flies are found near agricultural and equestrian operations. Despite the differences in locations, prevention is similar for all of these biting flies.
Use an EPA Registered Insect Repellent. Many insect repellents target mosquitos, as they are the most common and dangerous biting fly. Therefore, most insect repellents are less effective against horse flies, deer flies, and black flies. However, less effective does not mean ineffective. By using an insect repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, or Oil of Eucalyptus you may spare yourself the torment of a painful fly bite.
Perhaps the most effective fly bite prevention technique is to simply cover your skin. Wearing a bikini while kayaking down the river is not practicing ideal fly prevention. When going into high biting-fly territory, experts recommend wearing long sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed toed shoes. Tuck your shirt into your pants and your pants into your socks. There is some evidence that biting flies prefer dark colored targets. If given a choice, purchase light colored hiking gear such as pants, shirts, and even a tent. If practical, wear a hat with mosquito netting to protect your face and neck. The less your skin is available to these biting flies, the better your chances of escaping the forest unscathed.
If you are particularly sensitive to the bites of these flies, you may have to strategically time your camping or hiking expeditions. Learn the life cycle of the fly that is prevalent in the area and try to avoid peak black fly time.
While no one can completely prevent biting flies, take a lesson from your grandpa’s play book. While hiking, grab a branch and sway it and safely swing it around your face and other areas that may be exposed. This constant swatting motion may be enough to encourage the deer fly to seek elsewhere for the blood that they require.
Treating Fly Bites
Although excruciatingly painful, in the United States fly bites are rarely a medical emergency. Fly bites are irritating and the relentless nature of their attacks can certainly ruin a day of outdoor fun, but in the United States we rarely see serious side effects or diseases caused by these bothersome fly bites. Most fly bites can be treated with simple first aid procedures and over the counter medications. Any one of the biting flies discussed in this article can be treated as follows:
Clean the affected area with soap and water
Reduce swelling and irritation by applying a cool compress or ice pack on the bite site
An anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen may help to reduce swelling and pain
Apply an anti-itch cream such as hydrocortisone cream to relieve the itching and swelling
With these treatments, most fly bites are relieved and go away within a few days. However, seek medical treatment if persistent symptoms remain, especially if the fly bite occurred overseas.
As with any insect bite, avoid scratching the area. Scratching bug bites introduces a plethora of bacteria to a potentially open wound increasing your risk of infection. If you suspect the fly bite has become infected, seek medical treatment at once.
Allergic Reaction to Fly Bites
Allergic reactions to fly bites are highly unusual, but not unheard of. Any time a foreign substance, such as fly saliva, is introduced into our body, the risk of an immunological reaction exists. Indications of an allergic reaction to a fly bite include weakness, dizziness, nausea, and swelling in various areas of the body. Difficulty breathing or swallowing are serious symptoms of an allergic reaction; seek medical attention at once.
The human immune system is remarkable. Our immune responses change over time and with repeated exposure to different substances. Do not discount the possibility of an allergic reaction for the simple fact that it has never happened to you before. Even if the allergic reaction manifested as mild symptoms, get the advice of an allergist for future safety precautions you should take.
Biting Fly Pest Control
To be honest, pest control for many of the biting flies discussed in this article is imperfect. While there are environmentally sound and effective procedures for managing house flies and mosquitos, the deer flies, horse flies, and black flies are more difficult to manage. Because their life cycle is so intricately linked to waterways, pesticides cannot be used to disrupt the immature phases and it is impractical to spray every potential fly resting place in a wooded area.
Here at Nextgen Pest Solutions, our pest control procedures are in line with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) best practices. This means that we work to educate our customers and potential customers about the most environmentally sound way to solve their problems. We do not make promises, blanket spray your house or yard, when we know it is unlikely to effectively solve your problem. IPM means that we think outside of the box and encourage creative solutions to solve problems. For example, if deer flies are the problem, look at the section above about deer fly trolling. We encourage you to trap deer flies as you move about your property.
Biting flies such as horse flies, deer flies, and black flies are generally not a suburban neighborhood issue. When dealing with these biting flies, recognize that you are in their environment and protect yourself from their painful bites by covering up and using insect repellent.