Horseflies are found in many areas of the world, and horsefly bites are not uncommon. There are more than 3000 individual varieties of the insects we call horseflies. The most common types include the striped horsefly, black horsefly and green-head horsefly.
Horseflies live and breed mainly in wet or marshy areas, near bodies of water. They are quite active during the warm summer months. Female horseflies will feed on blood from mammals, but males feed on pollen and nectar. Horsefly bites on humans and mammals are caused by females, and they may be very painful. They can also cause infections. Horsefly bites as a whole are very curable, though.
What are Horseflies?
Horseflies are known by different names in different areas. Some of the most common include breeze flies, gadflies, clags or deer flies. They are most well-known for attacking animals – horses are favorite targets, hence their name. But they will happily bite people, too.
The danger in horsefly bites is in the diseases and parasites the flies can transmit to their victims. Female horseflies, like mosquitos, ingest blood in order to reproduce. Some horsefly varieties are very large, while others are closer in size to houseflies. These flies are usually seen only as pests, but they also pollinate flowers.
Horseflies have long mandibles that they use for ripping open mammal skin, to gain easy access to blood. They can more easily ingest larger quantities of blood than mosquitoes, since mosquitoes only have needle-like pincers. Mosquitoes cannot bite through clothing or fur as easily as horseflies.
Horseflies have an evolutionary advantage, too, since the bite is more painful. For this reason, your first thought will be treating the wound, rather than attacking the fly and killing it. Horseflies often escape after they have bitten people or animals, and then may return for more blood.
What are the Symptoms of Horsefly Bites?
The area where horseflies bite is torn, and will be sore. Red bumps commonly develop around the bite area, as your body undergoes a histamine reaction. That may cause the bite areas to become itchy or inflamed, as your body tries to remove infectious material from your body.
If the horsefly that bit you was carrying bacteria or parasites that cause infection, the bite will be even more painful. You may experience pain radiating from the bite area and pus may ooze from your wound. This reaction is serious, and you need to attend to it properly, in order to avoid medical complications.
- Allergic reactions
People who have allergic reactions to horsefly bites may soon develop a red rash after they are bitten. They may experience wheezing or hives as their body reacts to infection from the bite. Their skin may swell or become pink. Their lip and eye areas may start swelling, and they could become weak or dizzy.
Treating Horsefly Bites
Bites from horseflies can take longer to heal than bites from other insects, which usually take a few days. Here are some helpful treatment tips:
- Use your Saliva
Once you have realized that a horsefly has bitten you, cover your wound with saliva. Your saliva contains histamine, a protein that has healing properties. This allows you to effectively limit negative effects from the bite. It will also protect the wound site until you can treat it properly.
- Don’t Scratch the Wound
Don’t scratch horsefly bites, even when they start itching. Scratching makes the healing time longer, and increases the risk that you could get infectious organisms on your hands, and then they could be spread.
- Clean your Wound Well
Mild bites from horseflies may heal in several days without any medical treatment. Just clean the bite wound well with soap and water. Pat the wound to dry the area (don’t rub it) and to keep it from getting infected. Antiseptics can also be used for sterilizing and cleaning the bite.
- Use a Hot Compress
Hot compresses provide ready relief for horsefly bites. Soak a towel in hot water with salt added, and apply it to your wound. Do not scald the skin or use too much pressure. That might increase the discomfort you’re already feeling.
- Apply Medication to the Wound
If your bite is especially swollen or itchy, use hydrocortisone or Benadryl cream on the affected area. This helps to eliminate swelling and itchiness. Oral antihistamines are also helpful in controlling or avoiding allergic reaction.
- Other Remedies
Many people who live in areas prone to horseflies have developed various remedies that will help ease the pain of horsefly bites. Using ice on the bite will dull the pain and reduce the swelling.
You may also apply honey, mud, raw onion, Epsom salts, vinegar, aloe Vera or paste made with vinegar and baking soda for relief. Then cover the wound loosely with a bandage, to protect it and to keep the paste or aloe, etc., over the bite.
When to See a Physician
If you experience an allergic reaction to a horsefly bite, or if it appears infected or becomes more painful, consult your physician. Some horsefly bites may cause severe reactions in the body, and they can even be life-threatening, if you have a severe histamine reaction. They may also contain parasites or bacteria that could spread dangerous infection through your body. Your physician can evaluate your bite symptoms and give you the proper treatment to eliminate them.
Preventing Horsefly Bites
You can purchase horsefly traps and place them in areas where you have seen swarms of the insects. This allows to you catch them, so they can’t bite your animals or you. If you are going to be working in an area where there are horseflies, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, for protection. This doesn’t eliminate your chance of being bitten, but it lessens the bites’ severity.
If you wear insect repellent, most horseflies will avoid you. Use it on yourself and around the area where you’ll be working, to ward off the horseflies. Choose a repellent with DEET, which works quite well to repel horseflies. You may also take a garlic supplement, which causes a natural odor in your sweat, and this wards off the horseflies in the area.