Naturespeak A naturalist's view of the world

July 16, 2008

Shoo Fly Don’t …Ouch!

Filed under: Uncategorized — wykes @ 7:44 pm

  I’d like you to know that I took a hit for the team. Yes, when a Deer Fly landed on my hand I reached for the camera rather than swatting it away. I figured that I’d do a Naturespeak piece about them for the sake of my two readers out there – the team, as it were. Before I could finish the shot, the thing drove its saber-like beak home. I held on just long enough to make double sure that I’d gotten the shot and then creamed it.

  These troublesome flies are worse than mosquitoes when it comes to biting human flesh. Their bites elicit far more blood flow than their smaller brethren (mosquitoes are flies also) and they make a habit of sneaking down into your hair before biting.  They take up their biting gauntlet in open sunny places, where the ‘skeeters dare not tread, and they are not affected by the usual repellants. We “sapiens” are not alone, however, in suffering their assaults.  You will be satisfied in knowing that they make their main living off of livestock and other wild mammals such as deer. They aren’t called Deer flies for nothing.

 On that note, I was startled the other day by a bounding White-tail fawn that careened into a grassy clearing just ahead of me. The spotted beast was being harassed by some deer flies and made its entrance into the clearing at break neck speed. It slammed on the brakes momentarily – giving me just enough time to take a photo (see here). Note the wild look in her eyes. Right after I took this shot, she jumped straight up into the air, ran around in a tight circle, and then took off in another zig-zag sprint. It paused long enough to look in my direction and she then leapt back into the undergrowth from whence she came.  As you may know by now, I’m for anything that torments deer, but I felt a twinge of sympathy for the little gal.  I felt her pain, you could say.

  To put the record straight, male Deer Flies are not the ones to blame in this matter. The adult males do not share the sanguine needs of the female. They feed on pollen, as a matter of fact. It is the female half that requires a blood meal and therefore seeks warm-blooded donations. This is why they possess a set of knife blades for a mouth.  When a lady fly lands on the victim’s skin it employs these tools in the manner of an old-style lancet. One quick slice prompts a small pool of blood to form and the fly laps it up. She is then free to lay her fertilized eggs in the moist soil next to a marsh or pond where the hatchling larvae grow up eating dirt (actually, they eat the organic material in the dirt).

  Researchers aren’t sure how Deer flies find their victims, but they’ve “narrowed” it down to an attraction for movement, shiny surfaces, Carbon Dioxide and warmth.  That pretty well covers the whole picture doesn’t it? So, if you stop breathing and moving you’ve increased your chances by 50% that a hungry fly won’t find you. Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do about the warm-blooded thing. 

  By the way, next time you successfully swat a Deer Fly into the afterlife, stop a moment to admire her eyes before tossing her aside. These flies are characterized by wildly patterned green and gold eyes (see here). Those funkadelic shades give them a slightly crazed look that mimics the look of their tormented victims.

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for your bravery. I don’t say much, but I enjoy your posts. I’m a birder in the Chicago area and find all these nature connections really wonderful. Thanks!

    Comment by Marilyn — July 18, 2008 @ 12:51 pm

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