Let’s Get Growing with Julie: Targeting Biting Flies


By Julie McConnell, UF/IFAS Extension Bay County

Other than moving to the Arctic, how can you minimize the risk of being attacked by blood feeding insects this summer? Understanding the habitat needs and behavior of mosquitoes, yellow files, deer flies, and horse flies is key. Mosquito control does a great job of educating the public with dump, drain, or treat standing water campaigns, but what about those other pesky biters?

Yellow, deer, and horse flies are in the Tabanidae family and are collectively referred to as Tabanids. Although they do have some differences, there are enough similarities that managing for one will help prevent the others, too.

Tabanids lay eggs on aquatic vegetation, saturated soils, or objects (plants or inanimate) overhanging water bodies or similar surfaces. Larvae (juvenile stage) of these flies feed on moist decaying organic matter, aquatic and semi-aquatic invertebrates, small crustaceans, or earthworms (species dependent) so you are very likely to find adult Tabanids in these environments.

Females are responsible for bites to humans and other animals because eggs require a blood meal to develop. Although they are strong fliers, they tend to congregate near larval habitat sites – typically shady areas near water bodies and forests or other areas with dense vegetation. They are active during the day, with the highest incidence of activity during late afternoon or on cloudy days, and are attracted to dark colors and movement.

To reduce the likelihood of bites avoid potential habitats at peak times, wear light colored clothing that covers skin and apply repellents containing DEET, citronella, or geraniol. Eliminating larval habitats near buildings or where people congregate and hanging black ball traps in shady areas can also be employed in management practices. Ball traps can be purchased as kits or you can make your own by following instructions found here https://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/media/sfylifasufledu/baker/docs/pdf/horticulture/ThePerfectYellowFlyTrap_000.pdf

To read more about the life cycle of Tabanids commonly found in Florida visit https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/publication/IN595.

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Andra Johnson, Dean. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.