Driftless Prairies: Native Habitat Restoration

Nature inspires awe!

Tabanidae (Horse & Deer Flies)

AKA Taons, Bremse

This family has about 4,400 named species worldwide. Males are easily identified because their eyes nearly touch although many males are only found “hilltopping,” the practice of gathering at the tops of hills waiting for a female to find them to mate.

Most Tabanid flies are out during the day and as such, find their prey by sight. They are not deterred by insect repellants or by layers of clothing! The females of this family are the biters. Some are quite painful bites because they use their long mouthparts to search through the skin for blood. One would think this family would be disease carriers, but seldom are they associated with any major disease. As Marshall states in his book, we can think of them as “dirty needles.” They do carry pathogens but most of us have systems that can fight those off.  According to Oldroyd, a single grazing livestock can lose up to 100cc of blood in a day to these flies.

These flies have evolved along with the livestock they feed on, although, regardless of their common names, none are specific to a type of animal. Blood is not their only meals and both sexes of horse flies will visit flowers for their nectar.

University of Florida has an interesting fact sheet on this family

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