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Black Fly Bites

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Black Fly Bites

Black Fly Bites Common names for this pest include black flies and turkey gnats, Because of the hump visible behind their head when viewed in profile, black flies are also called buffalo gnats. Like eye gnats, they fly around people's heads, occasionally getting into eyes and ears as well as crawling in the hair. Because most of the specimens collected to date have been identified as Simulium slossonae Dyar & Shannon, biological information given below will generally be for this species.


Black Fly Bites

Black Fly Bites

Black flies are found in many parts of the US and Newjersey, including Connecticut. In some areas it is present all year long. , but large numbers have been found in Newjersey between April and November. Overall, Newyork has 18 different black fly species, the most common with populations present from August through July. Only female black flies feed on blood. Males feed mainly on nectar.


Adults are small (1/16 inch), stout, dark colored insects with a humpbacked appearance. They also have broad wings, short legs, and are relatively hairless. The larvae are legless and worm-like. The posterior third of the larva is noticeably swollen. Larvae possess a pair of fan-like structures near their head to help collect food particles in the water.


Life Cycle: Adult black flies are small insects that measure 1 to 5 mm in length, and possess a shiny thorax (middle of the fly) that ranges in color from black to various shades of gray or yellow. Females deposit eggs, 200 to 800 per female, on vegetation just below the water surface. Larvae emerge from eggs and attach themselves to aquatic or emergent vegetation as well as rocks. They will be particularly abundant near culverts under roads, attached to plants trailing in the water. Most black fly larvae are filter feeders, with the larvae feeding on nutrients in the water as it flows by.


Larvae pass through six stages before reaching the pupal stage. Pupae are encased in a silken cocoon attached to vegetation or other objects in the stream. Adults emerge from the pupal case through a slit and float to the surface on a bubble of air. Some species mate as soon as adults emerge. The length of the cycle from egg to adult is variable, depending on the black fly species and water temperature. The time interval for S. slossonae is estimated to be from three to four weeks. Large populations in April, 1998, continued as long as the high water caused streams to flow. Emerging adults live from two to three weeks, to as long as 85 days.


Damage: Black flies are persistent and irritating pests which swarm around humans and other animals. Black flies get into the nose, eyes, ears, and mouth and crawl into clothing when abundant. On cattle and horses, the ears seem to be the favorite feeding location. Flies lacerate the skin and suck blood. A strong anticoagulant in the saliva facilitates bleeding of the host. A lesion may form at the bite and the bitten area itches. Black flies serve as vectors of human and animal diseases in some areas of the world. An important protozoan parasite of poultry, Leucocytozoon simondi, is transmitted by black flies in the United States.


Black Fly Bites

Black Fly Bites

Controls: A variety of chemical control techniques are available to the horse owner. Generally, control of adult flies using residual insecticides as surface treatments and knock-down sprays to kill existing adult flies are the most effective techniques. In most barnyard situations, a combination of residual and space sprays is used, often on an alternating schedule. Treatments applied directly to horses are not as effective for control of stable or house flies as residual surface treatments.


Knock-down sprays are effective in killing adult flies present at the time of application. The chemicals used for these applications are usually short residual insecticides having a quick knock-down and high contact toxicity. Several types of spray or fogging apparatus may be used for these applications.


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