What is that Buzzing by the Beach?

What are Horse Flies? These Pests Can Ruin Even the Best Beach Days, Here is How to Avoid Them

While the warm sand between your toes and the melodic sound of the ocean waves can make you feel like you are in paradise, a bite from a horse fly can quickly bring you back to reality. Although they get their name from feeding on horses and other livestock, horse flies are just as notorious of a pest for beachgoers on every coast. Unlike house flies and fruit flies, horse flies are known for their painful and persistent biting. Commonly found in both suburban and rural areas near bodies of water, these ferocious flies can turn what was supposed to be a relaxing summer getaway into a painful nightmare.

What are Horse Flies?

Capable of traveling for more than 30 miles at a time, horse flies are fast and strong fliers. Most active in hot, humid conditions and attracted to bodies of water, horse flies look to the beach as the perfect place for respite. Male horse flies typically feed on nectar, but females require a blood meal in order to reproduce effectively (just like those other pesky summertime insects – mosquitoes). Known as visual hunters, horse flies often wait on paths and roads for potential hosts, attacking any dark moving objects that pass by. Typically feeding during the middle of the day, horse flies are most prevalent on windless, hot, sunny days.

Horse flies, also referred to as “greenheads,” are known as persistent attackers. As opposed to mosquitoes, which simply pierce the skin and suck blood, horse flies use their razor-like mouthparts to tear the skin and lap up blood. As a result, horse fly bites can be quite painful. These tireless pests will continue to bite a host until they either succeed in procuring their blood meal or are killed. In some instances, they may even chase their intended target for a short period of time.

Now that you know what horse flies are, read on to learn about horse fly control.

How to Deal with Horse Flies at the Beach

Horse flies enjoy the water and sun just as much as we do, making beach towns one of their preferred destinations. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from these pests and their painful bites. Horse flies tend to congregate in marshes and wooded areas along the beach so, if possible, avoid beaches backed by marshland and dune grass. If you do happen to end up at a beach with or near woodlands, be sure to stay as close to the water as possible while on the beach. Although it is not ideal when the sun is shining, if you are reading a book in a beach chair or laying out on the blanket, consider wrapping up in a towel or wearing long clothing. In addition to protective clothing, use an insect repellent containing an EPA-registered ingredient like DEET, picaridin or oil of lemon-eucalyptus. Watch: How to Apply Insect Repellent.

For the most part, horse flies are most active during the heart of summer in July, so opting for a trip to the beach bookending the season can help you avoid encountering these pests. Additionally, horse fly activity usually subsides on windy days, so take advantage of these horse fly-free moments, even if there is a little more wind at the beach than you might prefer.

How to Keep Your Property Safe from Biting Flies

Although horse flies are not known to transmit any diseases to humans, their presence and bites are enough to ruin any outdoor beach town activity. If you live in a beach town, ensuring that your property is unaccommodating to horse flies is essential to avoiding those painful bites at home. Drain any areas of standing water to get rid of potential horse fly breeding sites. Additionally, horse flies are attracted to light and will occasionally congregate near windows. To keep them out of your home, properly screen and caulk all doors and windows.

In addition to horse flies, there are a handful of other flies that can quickly become a nuisance on your property, too. House flies, for example, are the most common fly found in and around homes. They have relatively short lifespans but can quickly reproduce, resulting in a large fly infestation if left untreated. House flies are drawn into homes by the warm air currents coming from structures on cool days and vice versa. Fruit flies are also found in homes, often feasting on old fruit left on the kitchen counter, as their name implies.

If you suspect a fly problem in or around your home, contact a licensed pest control professional. A qualified professional will be able to conduct an inspection and recommend a proper course of treatment.

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