Beating the bite of the yellow fly

Published: Friday, June 6, 2014 at 09:31 AM.

Tabanids are ambush attackers that lie in wait in shady areas under bushes and trees for a chance to feed. They locate prey mainly by vision. Attacks occur during daylight, with peak activity beginning at sunrise and two hours before sunset.

They are drawn to moving objects, especially dark-colored ones, and are attracted to the color blue.

There are no effective biological control programs for controlling tabanids. Native insects including some dragonflies feed on them. They are also parasitized by wasp species that place paralyzed yellow flies in their nests as food for developing wasp larvae. The large burrowing sand wasps seen in late spring and early summer are among the most effective yellow fly predators and, although they have a hornet-like appearance, do not sting. Cattle egrets and killdeer also feed on tabanids.

There is no known chemical method of control for yellow fly populations. Traps can be effective in small areas.

Commonly used traps take the form of a dark ball covered with glue to ensnare the pests reducing the population in the immediate area.

DEET, citronella and geranium oil are effective repellants. Ear tags and collars impregnated with pesticides help control attacks on animals.

For personal protection, avoid being outside around dusk and dawn. Use a repellant. Wear long pants and a long sleeved shirt and choose light colors. Most tabanids tend to swarm around the highest point on their prey although yellow flies also attack the legs. There is evidence that wearing a tall hat will help discourage them from biting; it has been suggested the tall peaked hats depicted on crackers or hillbillies were worn to discourage tabanids.

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