When I opened the back door this morning, a loud buzzing next to my ear proved to be an enormous horse fly, over an inch and a quarter long.

There’s a Huge Horse Fly at My Door – Yikes!

Huge Horse Fly at My Door!

When I opened the back door this morning to let my cat out, I heard a loud buzzing next to my ear. It was an enormous pitch-black fly, over an inch and a quarter long, sitting on the screen door. I quickly closed the wooden door so it wouldn’t come into the house, and started doing research to find out what it is. And viola, it’s a horse fly. A HUGE horse fly! I learned it’s also called a mourning horse-fly (presumably from the mourning one must do when bitten). Just kidding, I think. The scientific name is Tabanus atratus Atratus is Latin for ‘clothed in black.’

When I opened the back door this morning, a loud buzzing next to my ear proved to be an enormous horse fly, over an inch and a quarter long.
Horse Fly

What it Looks Like

Horse Fly adults grow up to (1/2 to 1 1/4 in (20-28 mm) long, with the largest having a wingspan of 2.4 in (60 mm). Impressive, right?

Horse fly larvae are white to tan in color, with 12 segments and can be as long as 2 in (55 mm) long. Adults can be all black, including the wings, or nearly black, gray, or brown-purple. They have prominent mouth parts. A male has a large head, with prominent compound eyes eyes that meet in the middle. The female’s eyes are separate.

When I opened the back door this morning, a loud buzzing next to my ear proved to be an enormous horse fly, over an inch and a quarter long.
Horse Fly Wing

Where they Live

Horse flies are found worldwide, but are absent from the polar regions, and some islands such as Greenland, Iceland, and Hawaii.  There are more than 160 species known!

Habitat

The horse fly requires warm, moist environments such as streams, freshwater and saltwater marshes needed for breeding. They lay their eggs on vegetation hanging over water, or on wet soil.  Larvae live around ponds and ditches  look like a regular house fly maggots.

Horse Fly Eyes
Horse Fly Eyes

What they Eat

Females have very sharp mouth parts, which form into a stabbing organ with two pairs of sharp sawing edges that, with the help of muscles, move from side-to-side to enlarge the wound. There is a spongy part to lap up the blood that flows from the wound they’ve just created. This stabbing organ aggressively tears and slashes tissues and blood vessels of their victims to obtain protein for egg reproduction. They suck on the blood of mammals, particularly cattle and other livestock. (They don’t usually bite humans, but when they do, you’ll certainly feel it. (Hence, my theory as to why mourning fly is an appropriate title.) The males, which lack mandibles, feed on nectar, plant juices, and pollen only, and some are important pollinators of certain flowers.

When I opened the back door this morning, a loud buzzing next to my ear proved to be an enormous horse fly, over an inch and a quarter long.
Horse Fly Eyes
When I opened the back door this morning, a loud buzzing next to my ear proved to be an enormous horse fly, over an inch and a quarter long.
Horse Fly Compound Eyes

Their Life Cycle

One female can lay from 100-800 eggs per year, which are  laid on vegetation hanging over bodies of water.  The horse fly larvae is cannibalistic and feed on midges, crane flies and even other horse fly larvae. Larvae require two years to complete life-cycle.  Adult males are short-lived. Females survive through fall.

Habits

Horse flies do not often bite humans, concentrating mostly on livestock. They can transmit bacterial, viral, and other diseases such as surra and anthrax, to humans and other animals through its bite.

The effect on livestock can be a serious problem. Blood loss and irritation from the flies can severely affect beef and milk production, as well as grazing. Livestock usually have no way of avoiding the painful bites, and millions of dollars have been spent trying to control these pests.
Adult flies may pass a number of disease agents and nematode parasites to animals. Equine infectious anemia (EIA), sometimes referred to as swamp fever, occurs in the southeastern United States and is mechanically transmitted to horses and other equines by horse fly bites. Symptoms in animals include lethargy, weight loss and sometimes death.  –  Orkin

Female horse-flies can also transfer blood-borne diseases from one animal to another through their feeding habit.

Horse Fly Tabanus_atratus

By USGS Bee Inventory and Monitoring Lab from Beltsville, USA [CC BY 2.0 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tabanus_atratus,_U,_Face,_MD_2013-08-21-16.06.31_ZS_PMax_(9599360121).jpg#/media/File:Tabanus_atratus,_U,_Face,_MD_2013-08-21-16.06.31_ZS_PMax_(9599360121).jpg, via Wikimedia Commons

A Bite to Humans

If you have been bitten by a horse fly, you’ll already know that it’s painful. First a welt will appear and you may experience wheezing, weakness, dizziness, wheezing and angioedema (a temporary itchy, pink or red swelling around the eyes or lips); Some people will have an allergic reaction.  The site of the bite should be washed and a cold compress applied. Scratching the wound should be avoided and an antihistamine preparation should be applied. In most cases, the symptoms subside within a few hours but if the wound becomes infected, you should seek medical attention.

When I opened the back door this morning, a loud buzzing next to my ear proved to be an enormous horse fly, over an inch and a quarter long.
Horse Fly

Sources: Bug Guide, Orkin, Wikipedia

Nighyt-nite!  Don’t let the Horse Flies bite!

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As always, thank you for taking the time to visit my blog!

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A QUESTION FOR YOU: Have you ever been bitten by a Horse Fly? Have your animals?

*** Leave a comment below and remember to share. ***

It’s just sexy!

Jeanne Melanson and Star

Jeanne Melanson

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Jeanne Melanson

Owner at Animal Bliss
Born in Nova Scotia, I moved to the United States 20+ years ago.I am a dedicated lover of animals and fight for their rights and protection.I love people too, of course, and enjoy meeting folks from all walks of life.I enjoy philosophical discussion, laughing, and really odd ball stuff.I hope you enjoy my site.Leave me a comment to let me know you were here!Peace out.
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