Beating the bite of the yellow fly

Trolling yellow fly trap.

Trolling yellow fly trap.

Illustration courtesy of University of Florida
Published: Friday, June 6, 2014 at 09:31 AM.

It’s a bad year for yellow flies.

Yellow fly, a common name for tabanids, is in the family that also includes horse flies. There are more than 300 species of tabanids in North America , whose other common names include pine flies and deer flies.

Tabanid flies are among the most highly evolved insects making them one of the most highly adapted animals on the planet.

All tabanids are fierce biters with slashing/sponging mouthparts adapted to consuming blood. The mouthparts feature a blade similar to a “Ginsu knife” with a serrated edge. Because they are blood-feeders, they can transmit diseases such as tularemia and anthrax between prey animals Some people develop allergic reactions to the bites, which swell and turn into nasty red sores.

Fly attacks result in lowered gains and low milk production in livestock animals. In 1976, estimated losses in the United States were $40 million.

Adult tabanids are swift, strong fliers and may fly more than a mile from their breeding areas. Most deer flies require a blood meal to develop eggs. However, they also feed on pollen, nectar, or honeydew excreted by sucking insects like aphids.

Adult tabanids are encountered in Florida between May and September. Most tabanids overwinter as larvae, form a cocoon and emerge during the spring and early summer. Most tabanid larvae develop in water, animal droppings or mud. The majority has a yearlong life cycle but some larger species may take two or three years to mature. Adult life span is 30 to 60 days.

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