Physical Appearance:

Horse flies are yellowish-brown or blackish in color. About 20 to 25 mm long with a huge head and hairs all over the body. They resemble to honey bees very much, except for having only one pair of wings. Wings are covered with faint smokey spots.

The eyes of a Horse fly are beautifully colored with lustrous metallic color shades. The eyes are compound, dichoptic (separated) in females and holloptic (continuous) in males. Their mouth is composed of six flesh piercing parts.

Behavior and Habitat:

Horse flies are mostly found in low lying pastures near creeks, streams or tanks. They love damp and warm climate as such climates are most preferable for the immature stages to develop. Female species feed on animal blood while male counterparts are pollen collectors.

Horse flies are attracted towards dark moving objects and carbon di-oxide, and this is how they locate a prey.

Feeding Habits:

The females feed on blood while the males feed on flower nectar, honeydew, plant juices, and other plant liquids. Female horse flies need a blood meal before they can lay eggs, as it provides them the adequate amounts of protein to reproduce effectively. In immature stages like larva or maggot they feed on small insects present near the breeding areas.

Life Cycle:

Eggs are laid on or under gravels or vegetation usually close to a water source. On hatching, the larvae move into water or moist soil. And during this time they feed on small insects or replies. Larvae are generally whitish and spindle-shaped. The larval stage is up to an year long, after this the larvae burrow into the soil, starts to pupate. The pupal period may range from 6 to 12 days. Adult flies emerge out of the puparium within 3-10 weeks.


  • The bite of a horse fly is very painful.
  • They are vectors of diseases such as leucocytozoan.
  • They cause livestock to lose weight.
  • Horse flies are also reported to transmit diseases like anaplasmosis, hog cholera, tularemia and anthrax.

Few Interesting Facts about Horse Flies:

  • Horse fly belongs to ‘tabanidae’ family, and these are one of the world’s largest flies.
  • Horse Flies are found throughout the world except extreme northern and southern latitudes.
  • There are approximately 3,000 species of horse flies in the world.
  • The mouth parts of a female horse fly look like saw blades. It cuts a hole into the skin in order to feed on the blood that comes out.
  • Male horse flies do not bite as they do not have biting mouth parts, hence they feed on flower nectar.
  • A horse fly larva takes a year to become an adult. And an adult horse fly lives for only few days.
  • Horseflies have different names – for example: in Canada people call them ‘bull dog flies’ and in Australia people call them ‘March flies’.
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