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Overview

Brief Summary

Few insects are hated as much as the horse-fly. There are various species: the photo above is a deer-fly. The common horse-fly (photo below) is slimmer, gray with greenish eyes. Female horse-flies are blood-thirsty and suck blood from large mammals including people. The protein in the blood is necessary for the eggs to ripe. To get to the blood, the flies have a small sharp knife attached to their mouth. The male horse flies eat nectar. The larvae live in damp soil. Some consume meat; others live off of rotting plants. In moist dunes and salt marshes, such as the Boschplaat on Terschelling, horse-flies can be found in massive amounts, particularly during warm humid summer days.
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Unplaced species of Tabanidae

These species do not currently belong to a generic classification, and are considered incertae sedis, Latin for "of uncertain placement."

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Description

Apart from entomologists, there are probably few people who would actively look for horse-flies. For their size, they have one of the most painful bites of any insect and the bite can result in a painful swelling. The genus Tabanidae is called deer-flies in the USA and horse-flies in Great Britain. They can cause problems in grazing animals by transmitting various diseases, including anthrax, and reducing milk output in dairy cattle. Blood-sucking is carried out only by the females and their mouth-parts have blade-like appendages that can cut through tough animal skin with ease. However, the flies themselves are not unattractive in appearance. Chrysops relictus is a stoutly-built insect, mostly shiny black but with variable yellow-orange bands around the upper part of the abdomen.
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Biology

Female horse-flies require blood to help produce eggs whereas males feed on nectar from flowers. Horse-flies lay their eggs in the mud of river banks or in damp earth. The larvae hatch and some are predatory, feeding on the grubs of other mud-dwelling insects. They can paralyse their prey by injecting them with venom, which also pre-digests the grub allowing the horse-fly larva to suck their victim dry. The larvae pupate just below the surface, and over-winter in this state. The adult flies emerge through small holes in the mud in May, and are on the wing until September.
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Summary

There are about 4,500 species of horse fly. These flies are known for the painful bite that many have. Horse flies mostly eat nectar, but females must eat blood before laying eggs. The black horse fly lives mostly in the eastern US. It often attacks farm animals, causing serious blood loss. It can also carry diseases that harm animals and people.

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Comprehensive Description

Tabanidae (Horseflies, Deer Flies)
The Chrysops spp. (Deer flies) are fairly large and often brightly patterned in yellow and black. They favor open woodlands and bite deer and other warm-blooded animals. The larvae feed on decaying vegetable matter in shallow water. The adults may obtain nectar from flowers, but they are not important pollinators. Horseflies are even larger, and found in pastures or prairies where there are large hoofed animals. They bite these animals to lap their blood. Their larvae occur in muddy areas and are carnivorous. The adult Horseflies are more likely to use flowers as a place to perch, than anything else.

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Excerpt from "A phylogeny of long-tongued horse flies (Diptera:Tabanidae:Philoliche) with the first cladistic review of higher relationships within the family"

The earliest classifications of the Tabanidae divided the family into two subfamilies based on the presence or absence of hind tibial spurs (Loew 1860; Lutz 1905, 1909, 1913; Surcouf 1921). This organisation underwent several changes based on single characters (Enderlein 1922, 1925b). By ~1950, most workers had reverted back to Loew’s concept and settled on two subfamilies, the Pangoniinae (with tribes Pangoniini, Scepsidini, Chrysopini. Note: early workers, including Mackerras, used the spelling stem ‘Chrysop-’, which is an objective junior homonym to a group of neuropterans (ICZN 1968). The stem ‘Chrysops-’ is now used) and the Tabaninae (with tribes Haematopotini, Tabanini, Diachlorini and variously five others) (Bequaert 1930; Fairchild 1942; Philip 1947, 1950; see Fig. 2a).

Unfortunately, the presence of the hind tibial spurs is variable within the Pangoniinae, adding uncertainty to an already taxonomically challenging group. Mackerras (1954) attempted to single-handedly solve this issue by exploring genital characters in Tabanidae. His work came shortly after Hennig (1950) published his first version of Phylogenetic Systematics in German and before Hennig’s concepts of cladistics began to take hold among the scientific community following the English translation (Hennig 1966). Mackerras (1954: p. 431) felt that division by the presence of hind tibial spurs placed the ‘chrysopines unhappily with the pangoniines, and separated them from the tabanines, to which they seemed to me to be much more closely related’. Examination of genitalia convinced him that the Chrysopsini was indeed more closely related to the Tabanini than to the presumably more ancient and plesiomorphic Pangoniini. As such, he proposed the first phylogenetic hypothesis for the Tabanidae based on what he believed to be shared, derived characters (synapomorphies). In this scheme, the Tabanidae contained the Pangoniinae, Scepsidinae, Chrysopsinae and Tabaninae, with the latter two as sister taxa (see Fig. 2b). In the words of Philip (1957: p. 550) this began ‘a new era’ in Tabanidae systematics. Mackerras also suggested that the Chrysopsinae was intermediate, with the Tabaninae evolving from it as a more recent group. This can only be shown if reciprocal monophyly by extinction has failed to occur leaving the Chrysopsinae paraphyletic.

Currently, most authors accept a classification based on Mackerras’ hypothesis and adopt the following subfamilies and tribes: Chrysopsinae (Bouvieromyiini, Chrysopsini, Rhinomyzini), Tabaninae (Diachlorini, Haematopotini, Tabanini), and Pangoniinae (Pangoniini, Philolichini, Scionini) (Chainey 1993). Scepsidinae is a controversial subfamily of four monotypic genera that share a lack of functional mouthparts in adults (Oldroyd 1957; Fairchild 1969; McAlpine 1981; Fairchild and Burger 1994). They only occur in the coastal sands of south-east Africa and Brazil and are considered by most authors to be grouped based on convergent morphology. Some authors also support the Mycertomyiini as a fourth tribe under Pangoniinae based on its bizarre genital structure (Coscarón and Philip 1979; Fairchild and Burger 1994).

  • Morita, S. I. (2008) A phylogeny of long-tongued horse flies (Diptera:Tabanidae:Philoliche) with the first cladistic review of higher relationships within the family. Invertebrate Systematics, 22, 311–327
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Distribution

Range

Horse-flies have an extensive world range and are only absent from some isolated island groups such as Hawaii and the colder Arctic regions. They can turn up almost anywhere in Britain, especially in place where there is wet ground and grazing animals.
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Ecology

Associations

Known prey organisms

Tabanidae (Tabanid sp.) preys on:
detritus
Sephanodiscus
Aulacoseira
Nitzschia
Synedra ulna
Tabellaria flocculosa

Based on studies in:
New Zealand: Otago, German, Kye Burn catchment (River)

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
  • Townsend, CR, Thompson, RM, McIntosh, AR, Kilroy, C, Edwards, ED, Scarsbrook, MR. 1998. Disturbance, resource supply and food-web architecture in streams. Ecology Letters 1:200-209.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD) Stats
                                        
Specimen Records:5,492Public Records:363
Specimens with Sequences:5,013Public Species:53
Specimens with Barcodes:4,731Public BINs:120
Species:324         
Species With Barcodes:278         
          
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Barcode data

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Locations of barcode samples

Collection Sites: world map showing specimen collection locations for Tabanidae

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Wikipedia

Horse-fly

Horse fly is the most widely used English common name for members of the family Tabanidae. Apart from the common name "horse-flies", broad categories of biting, bloodsucking Tabanidae are variously known as breeze flies,[1] clegs, klegs, or clags, deer flies, gadflies, or zimbs. In some areas of Canada, they also are known as Bull Dog Flies, in Newfoundland and Labrador they're known as Stouts. In Australia some species are known as "March flies", a name that in other English-speaking countries refers to the non-bloodsucking Bibionidae.

Overview[edit]

The Tabanidae are true flies and members of the insect order Diptera. Species of Tabanidae that habitually attack humans and livestock are widely regarded as pests because of the bites that females of most species inflict, and the diseases and parasites that some species transmit. The various species of Tabanidae range from medium-sized to very large in size. Some species, such as deer flies and the Australian March flies, are known for being extremely noisy during flight, though clegs, for example, fly quietly and bite with little warning. Tabanids are extremely fast and agile fliers. They have been observed to perform aerial maneuvers otherwise performed by fighter jets, such as the Immelman turn.[2]

In spite of their roles as pests, Tabanidae also are important pollinators of some flowers. In particular, several South African species have spectacularly long proboscides adapted to the extraction of nectar from flowers with long, narrow corolla tubes, such as Lapeirousia[3] and some Pelargonium.[4] Tabanidae occur worldwide, being absent only on some remote oceanic islands and at extreme northern and southern latitudes.

Taxonomy and description[edit]

Worldwide about 4,500 species of Tabanidae have been described, over 1,300 of them in the genus Tabanus. Three subfamilies are widely recognised:

The genus Zophina is of uncertain placement, though it has been classified among the Pangoniinae. Two well-known genera are the common horse flies, genus Tabanus Linnaeus, 1758 and the deer flies, genus Chrysops Meigen, 1802 are also known as banded horse flies because of their coloring. Both genera give their names to subfamilies. The "Blue Tail Fly" in the eponymous song was probably a tabanid common to the southeastern United States.

Diet[edit]

Adult horse flies feed on nectar and sometimes pollen. Females of most species are anautogenous, meaning they require a blood meal before they are able to reproduce effectively, if at all. Much like male mosquitoes, male Tabanidae are not ectoparasitic and lack the mouth parts (mandibles) that the females use in drawing the blood on which they feed. Most female horse flies feed on mammalian blood, but some species are known to feed on birds or reptiles. Some are said to attack amphibians as well.

Larval horse flies are predators of small invertebrates in moist environments, such as in mud on the edges of bodies of water, in damp soil, under stones, or in rotting logs.

Biting behaviour[edit]

Tabanid fly showing the mouth parts (cf. Haematopota pseudolusitanica)

Horse fly bites are painful, the bites of large specimens especially so. Most short tongued (short proboscid) species of horse flies use their knife-like mandibles to rip and/or slice flesh apart.

Horse fly bites are more immediately painful than that of its mosquito counterparts, although it still aims to escape before its victim responds. The flies are very agile and adept at flying. Their bites may become itchy, sometimes causing a large swelling afterward if not treated quickly.

They are often not deterred by attempts at swatting them away, and will persist in attacking, or even chase their intended target for a short time.

Predators[edit]

Aside from generalized predators such as birds, specialist predators, such as the horse guard wasp, a type of sand wasp also preferentially attack horse flies.

Reproduction[edit]

Mating is done in swarms, generally at landmarks such as hilltops. The season and time of day, and type of landmark, used for mating swarms is specific to particular species.[5] Eggs are laid on stones or vegetation usually close to water. On hatching, the larvae fall into water or moist earth, feeding voraciously on invertebrates, such as snails, earthworms and other insects.

Diseases[edit]

A bite of horse-fly on a human.

Tabanidae are known vectors for some blood-borne diseases of animals and humans, such as the equine infectious anaemia virus and some Trypanosoma species. Species of the genus Chrysops transmit the parasitic filarial worm Loa loa between humans and are known to transmit anthrax among cattle and sheep and tularemia between rabbits and humans.

Blood loss is a common problem in some animals when large flies are abundant. Some animals have been known to lose up to 300 millilitres of blood in a single day to tabanid flies, a loss which can weaken or even kill them. There are anecdotal reports of horse-fly bites leading to fatal anaphylaxis in humans, an extremely rare occurrence.[6]

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913), p. 707.
  2. ^ Wilkerson, R.C., J.F. Butler. 1984. The Immelman turn, a pursuit maneuver used by hovering male Hybomitra hinei wrighti (Diptera: Tabanidae). Annals of the Entomological Society of America 77: 293-295. 
  3. ^ Goldblatt, Peter, John C. Manning, and Peter Bernhardt. "Pollination biology of Lapeirousia subgenus Lapeirousia (Iridaceae) in southern Africa; floral divergence and adaptation for long-tongued fly pollination." Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden (1995): 517-534.
  4. ^ Combs, J. K., and A. Pauw. "Preliminary evidence that the long-proboscid fly, Philoliche gulosa, pollinates Disa karooica and its proposed Batesian model Pelargonium stipulaceum." South African Journal of Botany 75.4 (2009): 757-761.
  5. ^ Wilkerson, R.C., J.F. Butler, L.L. Pechuman. 1985. Swarming, hovering and mating behavior of male horse flies and deer flies (Diptera: Tabanidae). Myia 3: 515-546. 
  6. ^ Williams, R. Allergic reaction to horsefly bite kills father of four in seconds after anaphylactic shock. The Independent 26 July 2013.
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