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Lipoptena cervi

Lipoptena cervi, the deer ked or deer fly, is a species of biting fly in the family of louse flies, Hippoboscidae. These flies are commonly encountered in temperate areas of Europe, Siberia and Northern China. It has been introduced to North America.[2] They are parasites of elk, deer and other bovine animals, burrowing through the fur and sucking the blood of the host animals. L. cervi is relatively small, adults usually being 5–7 millimetres (0.20–0.28 in) in length and are brownish in colour. Their body is flat and elastic, making their removal difficult. L. cervi is a poor flier and can only fly for short distances. Once the insect reaches its target, it sheds its wings and starts burrowing through the fur.


Lipoptena cervi without wings.

L. cervi can be a nuisance, but are generally harmless.[citation needed] They will not reproduce on any other host than deer. They will however bite humans, and the bites are said to be painful and may cause an allergic skin reaction. Initially the bite may be barely noticeable and leaves little or no trace. Within 3 days, the site develops into a hard, reddened welt. The accompanying itch is intense and typically lasts 14 to 20 days. Occasionally, an itch papule may persist for a year.[3] The main annoyance in humans is the inconvenience and unpleasantness of removing keds from hair and clothes.

Horses have been attacked, with severe symptoms of colic as a result.[4] Dogs that are bitten may develop a moderate to severe dermatitis.[4] German researchers have found that L. cervi can carry and spread the Bartonella bacterium Bartonella schoenbuchensis in deer.[3]

Remains of Lipoptena cervi have been found on Ötzi, the Stone Age mummy from the Schnalstal glacier in South Tyrol.[5]

Life history[edit]

Both males and females of Lipoptena cervi consume blood from their hosts, feeding lasts 15 to 25 minutes.[3] The female produces one larva at a time and retains the developing larva in her body until it is ready to pupate. The larva feeds on the secretions of a "milk gland" in the uterus of its mother. The female will give birth to one fully mature white pre-pupa. She may produce larvae for as long as 10 months. A newborn pre-pupa will immediately darken, form the puparium and begin to pupate pupae on the forest floor, or where the deer bedded. After pupation, the winged adult emerges from the puparium and flies in search of a host. Upon finding a host the adult fly wings breaks off and it is permanently associated with its host.[6]


Most of Europe including Great Britain (but absent from Ireland), Algeria, Eastern Siberia and Northern China. Introduced and established in the Eastern United States (New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York).[7] It has also recently spread to Finland from Russia in the early 1960s where it primarily feeds on moose; though it is spreading to reindeer.[6][8][9]


Red deer, moose, roe deer, fallow deer and Siberian musk deer. In the United States it has acquired hosts such as elk, white-tailed deer and reindeer.[6][7] There are stray records of bites on humans, dogs[10] and badger, and will occasionally commit to the wrong host.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Dick, C. W. (2006). Checklist of World Hippoboscidae (Diptera: Hippoboscoidea). Chicago: Department of Zoology, Field Museum of Natural History. pp. 1–7. 
  2. ^ Entomological Notes. Deer-keds. Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved 16 October 2007.
  3. ^ a b c Christoph Dehio, Ursula Sauder, and Rosemarie Hiestand (2004). "Isolation of Bartonella schoenbuchensis from Lipoptena cervi, a Blood-Sucking Arthropod Causing Deer Ked Dermatitis". Journal of Clinical Microbiology (US: American Society for Microbiology) 42 (11): 5320–5323. doi:10.1128/JCM.42.11.5320-5323.2004. ISSN 0095-1137. PMC 525279. PMID 15528732. 
  4. ^ a b Jonas Malmsten in Sauli Härkönen (Editor) (2007). "The Scandinavian deer ked situation from a veterinary medical perspective". 1st Nordic Workshop on Biology, Applied Importance and Current Research on the Deer Ked, Workshop Schedule and Abstracts. Finland: Finnish Forest Research Institute. p. 22. 
  5. ^ Gothe R; Schöl H. (1996). "Stone age deerfly (Lipoptena cervi) found with a mummy in a glacier". Tierärztliche Praxis (in German) 24 (6): 549–551. 
  6. ^ a b c Arja Kaitala; Sauli Härkönen; Sauli Laaksonen; Pekka Niemelä; Petteri Nieminen; Hannu Ylönen (2007). Sauli Härkönen, ed. "Deer Ked Project – a broadly-based interdisciplinary research project in Finland". 1st Nordic Workshop on Biology, Applied Importance and Current Research on the Deer Ked, Workshop Schedule and Abstracts. Finland: Finnish Forest Research Institute. p. 22. 
  7. ^ a b Maa, T. C. (1969). "A Revised Checklist and Concise Host Index of Hippoboscidae (Diptera)". Pacific Insects Monograph (Honolulu: Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii) 20: 261–299. 
  8. ^ Sauli Laaksonen; Tommi Paakkonen, Raine Kortet, Anne-Mari Mustonen, Petteri Nieminen, Laura Härkönen, Milla Solismaa, Arja Kaitala, Hannu Ylönen, Jari Aho, and Sauli Härkönen (2007). Sauli Härkönen, ed. "Deer ked – a threat to reindeer welfare?". 1st Nordic Workshop on Biology, Applied Importance and Current Research on the Deer Ked, Workshop Schedule and Abstracts. Finland: Finnish Forest Research Institute. p. 22. 
  9. ^ a b Hutson, A.M (1984). Diptera: Keds, flat-flies & bat-flies (Hippoboscidae & Nycteribiidae). Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects 10 (7). Royal Entomological Society of London. pp. 84 pp. 
  10. ^ Hermosilla, C.; Pantchev, N; Bachmann, R; Bauer, C (2006). "Lipoptena cervi (deer ked) in two naturally infested dogs". Veterinary Record (Great Britain: British Veterinary Association) 159 (9): 286–287. doi:10.1136/vr.159.9.286. ISSN 0042-4900. PMID 16946313. 

11. Egri,B., Rigó,E.(2014): A Hanság gímszarvasainak Lipoptena cervi (Linnaeus, 1758) fertőzöttségéről (Irodalmi összefoglaló és saját megfigyelések)(About the deer ked ((Lipoptena cervi, 1758))infestation on the red deer in Hanság Region. Literature review and own examinations. Magyar Állatorvosok Lapja, 136.2.: 115-122.


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