What’s a horse fly?

Chances are, you’ve been bitten by a horse fly on more than one occasion. In some regions, horse flies are pretty much unavoidable, especially in the summer months.

If you’re unfamiliar with this pesky insect, these are large, dark flies. They’re most active during the daylight hours, particularly in the summer. You can generally recognize a horse fly by its size. These flies are about an inch long, making them much larger than an average fly.

Horse flies can also be distinguished by their color. The upper part of a horse fly is white in color, typically marked by a few vertical black lines. The lower segment of the fly is solid black.

Horse flies are found throughout North America and are highly concentrated in hot, humid states, such as Florida.

Will a horse fly bite me?

Horse flies attack large mammals, such as humans, dogs, and, of course, horses.

They’re most attracted to moving objects and dark objects. They’re also attracted to carbon dioxide. This may explain why all of those outdoor summer activities that get you breathing heavy and sweating seem to bring out the horse flies.

If you’ve ever thought that a horse fly was out for vengeance, you may be right. Pest World explains that female horse flies in particular are very persistent. They’ve been known to chase their victims for a short time if their first bite doesn’t get them the satisfying meal they were hoping for.

What does a horse fly bite feel like?

If you’ve ever been bit by a horse fly, you know that it hurts. The fly’s mandible is what makes these bites so painful. The mandible is essentially the insect’s jaw. It’s shaped like scissors and can cut right into the skin.

The mandible is also equipped with small hooks to help the horse fly lock in to feed better. Once the horse fly is locked in, it eats the blood from the skin. This bite can cause a sharp, burning sensation. It’s common to experience itchiness, inflammation, and swelling around the bite area. You may even develop a bruise.

Are horse fly bites dangerous?

Aside from the momentary pain, horse fly bites generally aren’t harmful to humans.

These bites are usually only a problem for horses. This is because horse flies carry equine infectious anemia, also known as swamp fever. When they bite an equine animal, they can transmit this life-threatening disease.

If infected, a horse may experience a fever, hemorrhaging, and general illness. Some horses don’t experience any symptoms, but may still transmit the disease to other equine animals.

What should I do if a horse fly bites me?

You should cleanse the bite and apply over-the-counter antiseptic spray or ointment to help keep the wound clean and decrease irritation and itchiness. In most cases, a horse fly bite can heal on its own in a few days.

Be sure to watch the area for signs of an infection, such as excessive pus or a foul odor. If you have any unusual symptoms, you should consult your doctor.

Certain insect bites can cause more serious reactions. If you have difficulty breathing, a rash that spreads, or worsening pain, you should seek medical attention.

Outlook

If you’ve been bitten by a horse fly, the bite will generally heal in a matter of days. You typically won’t experience any adverse side effects. If your bite hasn’t healed within a week, or if you’re experiencing unusual symptoms such as dizziness or worsening pain, you should consult your doctor. They can assess your bite and determine any next steps.

How can I prevent horse fly bites?

To prevent future horse fly bites, apply insect repellent before going outdoors. If possible, stick to light-colored clothing. Horse flies are attracted to darker colors, so this may help keep them away.

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