Explanation of Names
Simuliidae Newman 1834
BUFFALO GNAT may refer to the hump-backed appearance or to feeding on buffalo
255 spp. in 13 genera in our area(1)
, >100 species in Canada; >2100 spp. in 35 genera total(2)
Adult: black to various shades of gray or yellow; thorax shiny, strongly convex, giving a humpbacked, gnat-like appearance; wings clear, broad, without hairs or scales; heavy veins near anterior wing margin, weak veins posteriorly; small head with large round eyes and short 11-segmented antennae; ocelli lacking
Larva: brown, gray, or black with light brown head; body cylindrical, somewhat club-shaped; head with prominent pair of mouth brushes used for filtering food from the water
Identification to genus is often difficult, except that clearly marked flies, with leg bands, scutal stripes, or abdominal spots, are typically in genus Simulium.
The family can be divided into three monophyletic groups based on wing veins. Parasimulium (endemic to Pacific Northwest) has R1 terminating near the midpoint of the wing. Tribe Prosimuliini has Rs forked with the fork at least as long as the stem. Tribe Simuliini has Rs unforked or with a very short fork at the end.
worldwide, most diverse in Eurasia and the Neotropics(4)
; in NA, widespread but more diverse and abundant in the north
larvae develop in running water of all types, from the smallest seepages and streams to the largest rivers and waterfalls; they attach themselves to underwater rocks and other objects by means of small hooklets in a sucker-like disc at the tip of the abdomen
Adults may be present spring through fall but usually for a shorter duration in a specific location, depending on species and latitude. A few southern species fly in winter.
larvae filter small aquatic organisms and detritus from flowing water; adults of many species feed on the blood of birds; a number of species do not take blood meals; only a few species attack humans, usually when a more suitable host is not available
most northern species have one generation per year; some species have multiple generations; overwinters as either an egg or a larva, depending on species and/or latitude
Black flies attack most severely about sunrise and at sunset -- either massively and viciously or in such small numbers that they are scarcely noticeable. They bite painlessly so that you may not be aware of having been attacked until small droplets of blood start oozing from your skin. Black flies often crawl into your hairline or through openings in your clothes before they bite you. Therefore, the bites are usually behind your ears, around your neck and beltline, and on the lower parts of your legs. A typical bite consists of a round, pink, itchy swollen area, with a droplet of fresh or dried blood at the center. When the blood is rubbed away, a minute subcutaneous hemorrhage is visible. This hemorrhage and the surrounding pink area become diffuse and larger, and then disappear within a few days. Itching may continue intermittently for weeks, whenever the bitten area is rubbed. Scratching may cause severe secondary skin infections. Toxins injected during an extended severe attack can cause a general illness sometimes called black-fly fever, characterized by headache, fever, nausea, and swollen, painful neck glands. Attacks occur throughout late spring and early summer (sometimes throughout the summer). (Fredeen 1973)(5)
often ranked third worldwide among arthropods in importance as disease vectors, but only ~10-20% of the world's spp. are pests of humans/livestock(4)