We are all too familiar with mosquitoes, and horse and deer flies, but there are other flies that bite us too. Some can carry diseases, but tend to be less of a threat than mosquitoes.
The Stable Fly, Stomoxys calcitrans, looks identical to a house fly….except for that stout beak that it uses to bite. Both females and males feed on blood. They are abundant at horse stables, on ranches, farms, and at the zoo. It is also known as “beach fly,” “dog fly,” and “lawnmower fly.” Their bite is painful, the fly persistent, and it can transmit anthrax, though rarely.
Swarms of these tiny flies (family Simuliidae) can drive one to madness in northern latitudes, and around fast-flowing rivers and streams everywhere else. Their larvae live in the water, anchored to rocks in the swiftest rapids where they filter food from the current. The adults are the “buffalo gnats,” “turkey gnats,” and “white socks” that can fly miles in search of a meal of blood. Only females bite, but in Africa they transmit “river blindness,” a horrible parasitic disease.
Biting midges or “punkies” in the family Ceratopogonidae are so small that most can barely be seen by the naked eye. The irritating bite of females is all out of proportion to their size. Fortunately, the majority of species drink the blood of other insects instead of pestering people. They are also known as “moose flies” in Canada, “pinyon gnats” in the southwest, and “five-0s” for their peak nuisance time of 5 PM in Alabama and Florida. Our species pose no disease risk to people, but some species transmit Blue Tongue virus to livestock. Larvae of no-see-ums are aquatic or semi-aquatic.
Rocky Mountain Bite Flies
Despite the name, these snipe flies in the genus Symphoromyia occur across most of North America. Females bite painfully and can be a real nuisance around alpine lakes. Larvae live in wet muck and probably prey on other invertebrates.
Pack the Repellent!
To avoid unpleasant encounters with these flies, be sure to use an insect repellent like Ben’s®, with 30% DEET, providing up to eight hours of protection or Ben’s new UltraNet Head Net to keep even the tiniest bugs like No-See-Ums out. Apply as directed for your safety and maximum effectiveness. Long-sleeved shirts, pants, and a hat helps, too. Avoid times of peak activity for no-see-ums.