It’s not a love bite! Horse-flies: What they are, why they bite and what to do once bitten

Horse-flies are part of the insect order Diptera. Diptera is the order for all true flies. True flies are defined as flying insects that only use one pair of wings. They are also referred to as clegs. They belong to the family Tabanidae which is a family comprised of a lot of biting insects that have been known to be vectors of disease transmission. In more developed countries that risk of transmission is relatively low however.

The species this article will focus on is large and an agile flying insect and has become a stir recently following the boom of glorious weather, soaring temperatures, spikes of rare rainfall for summer season.

To look into why they have been talked about a lot recently, in newspapers such as the sun and Manchester evening news and even being talked about on BBC news due to the increase in insect bite calls, we must digest what they are doing and why. Only the females have the strong mouth parts to pierce human skin, and its quite incredible how they do this. They have very well evolved mouth parts to do this, firstly they use razor like mandibles to slice open the skin and what has been described by a friend of mine as a stick with a sponge on the end of it. This spongey stick is used to absorb all the blood that comes from the incision.

The reason behind the female doing this to animals and people is because they need the protein from the blood to aid in egg production, without this it can inflict a lot of issues in breeding. In some species, males will fly 90mph towards a female once they sense she is ready to produce eggs, that’s faster than a cheetah! They are found all over the world apart from arctic regions. – This link is to the story featured regarding the increase in bite calls.


Now yes, some people may thing, ‘’it’s just a insect bite, it can’t be that bad’’ which in the most part is correct however speaking from experience this can often not be the case. They are unlike other biting insects where recovery can be quite lengthy. Irritation can be much more notable, and the bite site is a lot of prominent compared to other bites. As with all bites, allergic reactions can occur of course. In some cases after 3-4 days, the bite can become infected where you will require species specific treatments from your pharmacist and possibly antibiotics. The bite itself has been said to be very painful.


After being bitten, you should cool the area with something cold, disinfect it with saline packs from a first aid kit or anything you can use to clean it, soap ect, then keep an eye on the bite for 3-4 days after and if it persists, seek medical advice. For more information please consult the below NHS link.


This is what a bite will look like:

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// Insect bites and stings – Symptoms – NHS.UK <!–

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Horsefly bite


Image taken from – On the left is a female and on the right is a male.


Some of the information was taken from the below sources and I suggest giving them a read for more information.

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Josh Brierley

Josh Brierley

Loves wildlife and has a vast hands on experience in wildlife conservation. Currently working with honey bees!

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