Yes. Horseflies do in fact bite humans.

Horseflies are small insects that have wings and the ability to fly. Entomology is the study of insects, including horseflies. They are in the Tabanidae family. They are larger than the common housefly and peskier as they can have a painful bite. They are attracted to wet, moist areas. These insects are particularly common in the southeast US given the temperature and climate. Farms may attract horseflies due to the presence of livestock and water sources for the animals. Swamps and ponds can become breeding grounds for horseflies to lay eggs that hatch into new horseflies. The southern states in the US are often hot in the summer, creating habitable conditions for horseflies to prosper.

What are Horseflies?

They are named due to their nature of preying on horses in pastoral areas. They emerge from freshwater habitats where females can lay eggs that hatch into larvae before emerging and undergoing the process of metamorphosis that allows the larvae to develop wings and the ability to fly. When the larva emerges from the pupa, it develops into a winged creature. They are more noticeable in the summertime when it is hot and humid. Humid conditions are perfect habitats for horseflies. They are not active in winter or cold climate locations such as the arctic. They look like traditional flies but are larger, approximately 1 inch long. They have green heads and transparent wings, depending upon the species of a horsefly. Their bodies may have stripes akin to a bee. There are over 100 different horsefly species in the United States alone.  

Their lifespan is approximately 1 to 2 months, or 30 to 60 days, in total. Their life cycle includes egg stage, larva stage, pupa stage, and adult stage. Female horseflies bite humans as adults when they are trying to reproduce more eggs. Horseflies may swarm a person or animal before biting. They may act like they are circling or chasing a person as they can be rather hostile and predatory. Their bites are dangerous to horses, given their name. While some insects carry diseases, horseflies do not transfer disease to humans. They can carry and transmit a lethal disease to horses called equine infectious anemia. Horseflies may be confused with deer flies, which are smaller.

Do Horsefly Bites Hurt?

A horsefly bite is an irritant to the skin, specifically if a person has a preexisting skin condition. They typically resolve in a few days, similar to mosquito bites. The females need to obtain proteins found in mammalian bloodstreams in order to lay eggs to propagate their species.

Their bites are particularly painful since they have mandibles that allow the horsefly to cut into the skin like saws, blades, or scissor shears. The horsefly is after blood similar to mosquitos but bites a human differently to access the human bloodstream. This action causes irritation, swelling, and redness to the bite site. Bites may have discharges at the wound site that can become infected if a person consistently scratches their horsefly bite.

Treating a Bite

Treating a horsefly bite is necessary to reduce irritation and swelling. If a person has a severe allergic reaction, medical intervention may be necessary rather than traditional first aid. Horsefly bites can be treated by clearing the area with alcohol or other antiseptics to reduce infection. Antibiotic ointments can be applied to the site. There may be more swelling if the horsefly bite occurs on a more sensitive area of the body, such as the face, hands, or fingers and toes. Antihistamine medications and ointments are used to reduce discomfort. Hydrocortisone creams reduce itchiness in the event of an insect bite that causes inflammation to the horsefly bite.

Treatment entails:

• Sanitizing and disinfecting the horsefly bite with alcohol or soap and water.

• Appling antibiotic ointment to the horsefly bite.

• Bandaging the horsefly bite to avoid scratching and further irritation.

• Relieving pain with over-the-counter pain medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications to ease pain that is throbbing and persistent.

• Relieving discomfort with antihistamine ointments, creams, sprays, or oral drugs.

• Lukewarm showers or baths to reduce inflammation to the horsefly bite.

• Doctors’ offices can provide medical resources and advice.

Insect bites traditionally are mostly irritating and can be treated at home. Anaphylaxis occurs in extreme and rare cases but can be life-threatening if medical intervention is not immediately accessed. In the event of a medical emergency, a patient should call 911.

Avoiding Bites

To avoid a horsefly bite, a person should wear clothing that covers their skin and head. Horseflies can bite through clothing, so the clothes should be thicker or not skintight to avoid bites.

Prevention entails:

• Wearing proper clothing. The skin should be dry as horseflies are attracted to moist areas. Moisture-wicking clothes are suitable for outdoor activities such as hiking, walking, gardening, mowing, or performing other types of exercise.

• Closing house windows or car doors to prevent horseflies from getting into areas where they may be more likely to bite.

• Regular pesticide treatments through a company such as Pure Pest are trained professionals who know how to control pesky horsefly populations.

Controlling Horseflies for Good

Pure Pest offers protection plans and insect repellants to control the pesky horseflies found in your home and property. Pesticides and insecticides can be applied to reduce horsefly activity. Pure Pest can help offer support and advice in controlling swarms of horseflies. Treating water sources and spraying farm or home properties can help control the populations of horseflies.

Pure Pest will put your mind at ease. Our company will walk your property and provide information to help you understand how to control horseflies to increase your enjoyment of the summer and outdoor activities without fear of horseflies invading your plans.