Family Tabanidae - Horse and Deer Flies
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Diptera (Flies)
No Taxon (Orthorrhapha)
Family Tabanidae (Horse and Deer Flies)
Other Common Names
Bulldog Flies, Clegs, Yellow Flies of the Dismal Swamp, Greenheads, Gad Flies, Copper Heads
Explanation of Names
Tabanidae Latreille 1802
350 spp. in 31 genera in our area(1)(2)
, 145 spp. in Canada and Alaska; almost 4,500 in ~160 genera worldwide(3)
Regional keys: n. NA(3)
, e. Canada(4)(5)
, PNW (13)
Medium to large flies, females take blood, and some are pests. The notched posterior margin of tergite 1 on the abdomen is unique. Typical characteristics:
stoutly built flies with large squamae (scales above the halteres
, also called calypters
feet with 3 pads (as opposed to 2);
antennomere 3 elongated, made up of several fused parts, sometimes with a prominent tooth at base
veins R4 and R5 fork to form a large 'Y' across the wing tip.
Worldwide and throughout NA; detailed analysis of distribution in NA in(3)
Adults wide ranging
larvae mostly in wet soil in marshes/bogs and at margins of streams & ponds; a few spp. in sand/gravel in fast-flowing streams; others also in drier soils(14)
Year round in FL, summer further north
adult females feed on vertebrate blood, usually of warm-blooded animals; males (also females in a few spp. in all 3 subfamilies) visit flowers
larvae mainly carnivorous, a few eat detritus
larval stage up to 2 or more years, esp. in the north(14)
The bite is effected by stabbing with the mouthparts and slicing the skin with scissor-like movements of the finely serrate, knife-like mandibles and smaller maxillae. After capillaries are ruptured, anti-coagulant saliva is pumped out through the hypopharynx, and the blood is lapped up using the labella. See mouthparts images in Hine (1903)
and Thomas (2012)
Eyes may have striking color pattern; Knüttel & Lunau
(1995, 1997) suggest these colours filter light to improve contrast detected by the eye pigments themselves, and play a role in sexual signalling. --Francis Gilbert
|2.||Catalog of Tabanidae (Diptera) of North America north of Mexico|
Burger J.F. 1995. International Contributions on Entomology 1(1): 100pp.
|3.||The horse flies and deer flies of Canada and Alaska (Diptera: Tabanidae)|
Teskey H.J. 1990. The insects and arachnids of Canada, Pt. 16. Ottawa: Agriculture Canada. 381 pp.
|6.||Adult and immature Tabanidae (Diptera) of California|
Middlekauff, W. W. and R. S. Lane. 1980. University of California Press.
|7.||The horse flies and deer flies of Idaho|
Nowierski, R. M. and A. R. Gittins. 1976. Research Bulletin, Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Idaho College of-Agriculture. 96, 1-48.
|8.||The horse flies and deer flies of Maine (Diptera, Tabanidae)|
Pechuman L.L., Dearborn R. 1996. Maine Agric. & Forest Exp. Sta. Technical bulletin 160, iv+24 pp.
|9.||A synopsis of the Tabanidae (Diptera) of Michigan|
Hays, K.L. 1956. 1956. University of Michigan, Museum of Zoology.
|11.||The horse and deer flies (Diptera: Tabanidae) of Texas|
Goodwin and Drees. 1996. 1996. Southwestern Entomological Society.
|14.||Manual of Nearctic Diptera Volume 1|
Varies for each chapter; edited by J.F. McAlpine, B.V. Petersen, G.E. Shewell, H.J. Teskey, J.R. Vockeroth, D.M. Wood. 1981. Research Branch Agriculture Canada.