Types of Fly Bites
A Health Hazard?
Flies are an annoying yet inevitable part of life. One pesky fly buzzing around your head can throw off an otherwise lovely summer day. Most people been bitten by a fly at least once in their lifetime, and in most cases, it’s nothing more than irritating. According to the University of California Museum of Paleontology, there are about 120,000 species of fly throughout the world, and many of them bite animals and people for their blood. Some species carry disease, which they transmit to humans thorough their bite.
The Sand Fly
Sand flies are about 1/8 of an inch long, and have hairy, brownish-gray wings, which they hold above their bodies in a “V” shape. In the U.S., they are found primarily in the southern states. They breed in places with a lot of moisture, such as decaying plants, moss, and mud. The larvae look like worms. They are most active between dusk and dawn. Sand flies eat nectar and sap, but females also feed on the blood of animals and humans. They live mainly in tropical and subtropical climates.
Sand Fly Bites
Sand flies are tiny and quiet, so you may not notice them before they bite. The bite can be painful and may cause red bumps and blisters. Sand flies transmit diseases to animals and humans, including a parasitic disease called leishmaniasis. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), leishmaniasis is rare in the U.S., but you may contract it during travel to a foreign country. There are no vaccinations to prevent leishmaniasis. Symptoms include skin sores weeks or months after the bite. It often clears up without treatment, but can be serious in some cases.
The Tsetse Fly
The bloodsucking tsetse fly makes its home in the tropics of Africa. It is about 6 to 15 mm long and its mouth points forward. It prefers shady places in woody areas, and hides in tree trunk holes and in between tree roots. The females deposit the larvae under vegetation or other moist places. Both males and females need blood. They prefer animal blood to human blood, but will feed on whichever is available. Tsetse flies are drawn to large, moving objects, bright shades of blue, and carbon dioxide.
Tsetse Fly Bites
The tsetse fly bite is painful and can cause red bumps. It can also transmit sleeping sickness (trypanosomiasis) to animals and humans. Sleeping sickness is generally not found in the U.S. except in people who have traveled to Africa. Early symptoms include headache, fever, and inflammation. Later, you may experience mental confusion or coma. Sleeping sickness causes swelling in the brain and is fatal if untreated.
The Deer Fly
Deer flies are about 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch long, with brownish-black bands on their otherwise transparent wings. They may have gold or green eyes on their small, rounded heads. They like to hang out near lakes, swamps, or other bodies of water, and are most active during spring. The larvae resemble maggots. Deer flies tend to buzz around our heads on hot summer days, but they generally quiet down at night. Searching for blood to feed on, the female deer fly will lay in wait for animals or humans to pass by.
Deer Fly Bites
Deer flies have sharp mouthparts that easily cut into skin and can cause pain. The flies than suck up the blood that flows from the wound. In the U.S., there are only a few types of fly that transmit disease to humans, and deer flies are among them. They transmit a rare bacterial disease known as rabbit fever (tularemia). Symptoms include skin ulcers, fever, and headache. Tularemia can be successfully treated with antibiotics, but without treatment, it can be fatal.
Flies Are a Fact of Life
Besides areas of vegetation, flies also gather around animals, animal waste, food, and garbage. Flies are a fact of life on Earth. You can’t avoid them entirely, but you can make your yard less inviting by keeping grass and plants well trimmed. Don’t leave food or beverages outside, clean up after pets, and keep garbage cans and recycling bins tightly closed. When traveling to foreign countries, research native insects and what provisions are suggested. See your doctor if you experience fever, swelling, or increasing pain following an insect bite.
- Biting Flies. (n.d.). Illinois Department of Public Health Prevention & Control. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://www.idph.state.il.us/envhealth/pcbitingflies.htm
- Diptera. (n.d.). University of California Museum of Paleontology. Retrieved September 10, 2013, from http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/arthropoda/uniramia/diptera.html
- Leishmaniasis FAQs. (2013, January 10). U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/leishmaniasis/gen_info/faqs.html
- Mann, R.S., Kaufmann, P.E., & Butler, J.F. (2013, January). Featured Creatures. Sand Fly. University of Florida Entomology and Hematology. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/misc/flies/Lutzomyia_shannoni.htm
- Sand flies. Prevention and Control in Desert Environments. (2011). Navy Entomology Center of Excellence, Jacksonville, FL, Deployed War-fighter Protection Research Program, USDA/ARS Center for Medical, Agricultural and Veterinary Entomology. Retrieved September 4, 2013, from http://www.afpmb.org/sites/default/files/whatsnew/2012/Sandfly_PocketGuide_2012.pdf
- Sleeping sickness. (2012, November 10). National Institutes of Health. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001362.htm
- Symptoms of insect bites and stings. (2012, June 6). National Health Service U.K. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Bites-insect/Pages/Symptoms.aspx
- Tsetse ﬂies. (n.d.). World Health Organization. Retrieved September 3, 2013, from http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/resources/vector178to192.pdf
- Tularemia: Symptoms. (2012, August 30). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved September 4, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tularemia/DS00714/DSECTION=symptoms