Florida Flies, Part 2 – Biting Flies

Florida Flies, Part 2 – Biting Flies

Yes, it’s amazing that Florida has such a variety of insects that we can actually do a two-part article just on flies.

Last week, we spent most of the article talking about filth breeding (and eating) flies. This week we’re targeting the flies that target us – flies that bite and feed on blood. Of course, the most famous blood sucking insect on the Gulf Coast of Florida isn’t a fly at all, but our unofficial state bird, the mosquito. We’ll come back to them after Easter. For now, we’re going to look at flies that bite.

Dietary Restrictions

One thing that both filth breeding flies and biting flies have in common is that they can spread diseases to humans and livestock. Sometimes they even carry a disease from livestock to humans.

These flies live and breed in water near woods, swamps, and coastal areas – all of which make up the majority of the land around these parts. They all feed on blood and their bites usually leave the host with painful, itchy red patches.

Horse Flies

You’ll be forgiven for thinking these are less prevalent in our area than they are in more central parts of Florida. After all, we don’t have a lot of horses and cattle, at least not compared to Okeechobee, Highlands, and Osceola counties. But the entire southern half of the state is a continuous ecosystem – and the flies don’t respect man-made county boundaries.

Like mosquitoes, it is only the female horsefly that bites – but boy do they! The bite of a female horse fly is super painful. As you can see from the detail on our above graphic, their mouthparts don’t just snap or poke into you – they literally tear chunks of your skin apart. Some people also have an allergic reaction to a horse fly bite, making things worse.

Thankfully, horse flies don’t transmit any diseases to humans but can pass equine infectious anemia onto horses, which can sometimes be fatal.

Yellow Flies

Diachlorus ferrugatus are close cousins to horseflies, as well as deer flies, which we’ll talk about in a moment. Yellow flies stand out from their fellow biting flies because of their coloration, but also by the ferocity of the bite and the distances the females will travel for their meals.

While they prefer to feed close to their larval development area – in this case, underwater root masses of cypress and mangrove trees – they will go as far as necessary to get a good helping of blood for reproduction purposes.

We’re not big fans of insecticides anyway, but for yellow flies they are only moderately effective and pose more danger to you than the biting flies themselves. Although it doesn’t sound pleasant during the hottest months of the year, wearing pants and long sleeve shirts from May to September is the best way to mask your body heat and avoid getting bitten.

Deer Flies

Deer flies are even more resistant to insecticides than yellow flies. They, even more than their cousins, prefer the marshes, ponds, streams, and wooded areas where standing water lingers. June and July are their peak season, and thankfully, the adult flies only live 30-60 days.

That doesn’t stop them from laying 100-1000 egg masses on or near aquatic vegetation. Interestingly, the thicker the vegetation, the less likely they’ll lay eggs, so there’s something to be said for letting your bushes grow out near your seawalls.

Buffalo Gnats

These are also referred to as black flies or turkey gnats. There are some 18 species buzzing around Florida, although the most common variety is the Simulium slossonae. These bugs get their name from their humpbacked look, similar to the buffaloes of the old west.

We don’t hear a lot about these particular flies, even though their favorite place to harass humans is around the ears, eyes, and hair. They tend to show up in large numbers following heavy rains and hang out between times in slow moving water – like a stream or creek.


Often shortened to just the one word, noseeum, these tiny insects are probably not the first thing you picture – no pun intended – when you think of flies. Also sometimes called sand fleas or biting midges, there are 47 species known in Florida alone.

Noseeums don’t live long but each female that bites your ankles can produce between 25 and 110 eggs. When biting humans, the varieties we see in Florida and the Caribbean are vectors for filarial worms – nasty threadlike parasites similar to roundworms.

Among livestock, they are much worse – spreading bluetongue, African Horsesickness, and Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease. Plus, they can also cause allergic reactions for cattle, horses, and humans.

The best prevention against all of the flies we covered today is to wear clothing that covers and protects your skin. While they don’t usually make a beeline for the inside of your home, some of these flies will enter if given the opportunity. Installing 16-mesh or tighter screens (Florida building code standard is 18-mesh) will help keep them out.

Of course, the best defense is a good offense. So, in addition to checking your screens and wearing long sleeves, you probably also want to check out our Go Green Perimeter Plus solution. After more than 30 years protecting homes on the Gulf Coast, we know what to look out for and how to keep our clients homes safe from the most common insects you’ll encounter. For more details, why not give us a call?


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