Black Fly

Black Fly

A black fly (sometimes called a buffalo gnat, turkey gnat, or white socks) is any member of the family Simuliidae of the Culicomorpha infraorder. They are related to the Ceratopogonidae, Chironomidae, and Thaumaleidae. Over 1,800 species of black flies are known (of which 11 are extinct). Most species belong to the immense genus Simulium. Most black flies gain nourishment by feeding on the blood of mammals, including humans, although the males feed mainly on nectar. They are usually small, black or gray, with short legs, and antennae. They are a common nuisance for humans, and many US states have programs to suppress the black fly population. They spread several diseases, including river blindness in Africa.

black fly

Black Fly. Image from Wikimedia Commons. Author: United States Department of Agriculture

Mature adults can disperse tens or hundreds of kilometers from their breeding grounds in fresh flowing water, under their own power and assisted by prevailing winds, complicating control efforts. Swarming behavior can make outdoor activities unpleasant or intolerable, and can affect livestock production. During the 18th century, the “Golubatz fly” (Simulium colombaschense) was a notorious pest in central Europe. Even non-biting clouds of black flies, whether composed of males or of species that do not feed on humans or do not require a blood meal before egg laying, can form a nuisance by swarming into orifices.

Bites are shallow and accomplished by first stretching the skin using teeth on the labrum and then abrading it with the maxillae and mandibles, cutting the skin and rupturing its fine capillaries. Feeding is facilitated by a powerful anticoagulant in the flies’ saliva. Biting flies feed during daylight hours only and tend to zero in on areas of thinner skin, such as the nape of the neck or ears and ankles.
Itching and localized swelling and inflammation sometimes occurs at the site of a bite. Swelling can be quite pronounced depending on the species and the individual’s immune response, and irritation may persist for weeks. Intense feeding can cause “black fly fever”, with headache, nausea, fever, swollen lymph nodes, and aching joints; these symptoms are probably a reaction to a compound from the flies’ salivary glands. Less common severe allergic reactions may require hospitalization.

Repellents provide some protection against biting flies. Products containing the active ingredient DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) or picaridin are most effective. However, given the limited effectiveness of repellents, protecting oneself against biting flies requires taking additional measures, such as avoiding areas inhabited by the flies, avoiding peak biting times, and wearing heavy-duty, light-colored clothing, including long-sleeve shirts, long pants and hats. When black flies, for example, are numerous and unavoidable, netting that covers the head, like the “bee bonnets” used by beekeepers, can provide protection.

This information is from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Read more about the Black Fly here.