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Black Flies - Biting Insect Library

Black Flies

Black flies, also known as “buffalo gnats” or “turkey gnats” can be quite annoying to people and mammals.  Much like mosquitoes, both the male and female Black Fly feed on nectar.  It is only the female Black Fly who bites since she requires blood for the development of her eggs.


These bloodsucking insects can be found throughout the world from the warm tropics to the cold regions of the Arctic Circle.




Interesting Facts

Deceased farm animals have been found along streambeds and riverbeds, the victims of large swarms of Black Flies.  It is felt these bloodsucking insects cause toxemia or anaphylactic shock in the animals.  In some cases, rapid blood loss may also have been a cause of the death.  An animal may breathe in the flies through its nostrils in such large amounts that suffocation of the animal results.


Animal victims of Black Flies have included horses, cows, birds, hogs, sheep, turkeys and chickens, and even dogs and cats.


Children are often the targets of these bloodsucking insects while nearby adults may not be bothered by the Black Flies at all.


River blindness, or onchocerciasis, can be found in Africa, Mexico, Latin America, and some countries of South America.


By removing pollutants in our streams and rivers, we are actually creating inviting breeding grounds for Black Flies.  (But we still must continue to clean up our streams and rivers despite that fact!)


Black Flies are known to travel up to 10 miles from their breeding sites in search of a bloodmeal.


Black Flies seem to prefer the head area of its bloodmeal host, although these bloodsucking insects will also bite under clothing.


Black Flies are attracted to humans largely through the carbon dioxide we exhale, but these bloodsucking insects are also attracted by dark colored clothing, perfumes and sweat.


The smell of exhaled carbon dioxide also attracts these bloodsucking insects to livestock and other mammals.


Over 250 species of Black Flies have been found in North America, while there are about 2,000 species throughout the world.


Humans can develop severe allergic reactions to the bite of a female Black Fly, requiring medical attention.


Black Fly larvae are considered an important part of the food chain of streams and rivers.






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