Horse & Deer Flies

Horse & Deer Flies

Horse-and-Deer-Fly
  • Common Name(s): Horse Fly, Deer Fly
  • Order: Diptera
  • Family: Tabanidae
  • Common Species: Tabanus spp. –Horse Fly, Chrysops spp.– Deer Fly
  • Commonly Confused With: Tabanids are pretty unique looking. It may be possible to confuse them with a bee or other Hymenoptera (ant, bee, wasp/hornet), but for the most part, people know what they are!

Characteristics

How to Identify?
Horse Fly adults are usually brown or black in color, though some yellow species do exist. Their antenna looks like curved horns on their head and is generally short in length. Their eyes are either black or green with intricate patterns or designs. Deer flies are usually green, brown, or yellow in color with stripes on the abdomen (back section of an insect). Their wings usually possess black spots or other blotchy patterns. Adult deer flies almost have a triangular shape compared to the bigger, more robust looking horse flies.

Habitat

Where do they live?
Horse flies and deer flies both live outdoors. They usually like to hang out in shady areas such as under trees and other foliage.

Food Source

What do they eat?
Adult female horse and deer flies feed on mammal blood, though a couple of species do feed on nectar. Adult males feed primarily on nectar. The larvae of tabanids can be aquatic (water-dwelling), terrestrial (land-dwelling), or semi-aquatic (mixture of water and land-dwelling).

Activity

What do they do?
These insects are major biting pests. Since the females feed on blood and are active during the day, it is not uncommon for humans to encounter an attack. Since it’s pretty gruesome, I will not describe how adult tabanids feed, but if you are curious about the process to check out the following link from the University of Florida under the Damage Section for more info: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/livestock/deer_fly.htm

Fun Fact

Horse flies rely almost solely on movement for hunting prey, which means if you walk by one waiting in a shady area you could very well be its next victim/meal!

Additional Resources

Source(s)

Author: G. Wyatt West– B.S.E.S University of Georgia 2017; Board Certified Entomologist

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