Bloodsucking March flies are back
THE BUZZING, biting bloodsuckers with a prominent proboscis are here again.
Fired up by the wet followed by the warmth, female March flies, or horse flies as they are also known, attack humans, stock, birds, even reptiles and amphibians, with two large blade-like mouth parts that they use to slash and pierce our skin.
The fly’s sharp mouth parts saw through the skin of the victim, making a bleeding wound which allows the fly to suck blood for several minutes.
The problem is that even when they make a buzz as they approach; once they strike it’s as light as a silken thread so you can’t swat the little critters before they extract your blood.
Yesterday a Dundowran man was in his swimming pool when he saw “a dark swift shadow” aiming for his fairly hairless head.
“I felt nothing, thinking it had passed me by, and then suddenly saw it again so I caught it and drowned it. It was a March fly.”
Within five minutes the man’s head had a lump on it the size of an egg.
Dr Christine Lambkin, dipterist entomologist with the Queensland Museum, warns that the Fraser Coast will always play host to the flies in the warmer weather.
“They survive in the winter too and like moisture.”
Dr Lambkin said a PhD student, Bryan Lessard from ANIC in Canberra, had just completed a coastal Queensland two-week field trip looking for an “attractive” scaptia March fly.
“Bryan’s notes are going on to our museum website around about April.”
Bryan Lessard says that while the females of most horse flies require a blood meal for egg development and most feed on mammals, some species feed on birds and even amphibians and reptiles.
“In Australia horse flies are only known to transmit a nematode of kangaroos and wallabies. One Australian species is known to cause sensitisation, with severe reaction to subsequent bites in humans.
“There are approximately 3000 species of horse flies known worldwide, 200 of which are found in Australia.
“Adult horse flies feed on nectar and sometimes pollen and are good pollinators. In some Australian species, females only feed at flowers. Horse fly larvae are predators of other invertebrates, usually in the soil in wet areas.
“The adult flies measure 6-20mm. They are very robust with large eyes, segmented antennae and a strong proboscis.”
Some species can live up to two years.
To deter the blood suckers from targeting you, try a repellent that contains DEET.