Can Flies Bite?

Can Flies Bite?

Every year when we start planning our outdoor vacations, we all expect a few things:

1. The days will be filled with heat and a lot of sunshine.

2. That our families will enjoy all the fresh air.

3. We expect (probably more hope) that the flies will leave us alone.

Today, we want to talk about all those buzzing insects that invade our space with their loud sounds and have us constantly fidgeting, trying to get them to stop landing on us. Believe it or not, quite a few of those flying creatures bite us! We think of flies as just a nuisance, but many of those flies can also harm us.

We will break down all the varieties that bite and what those wounds will look like. Then we will give you remedies for treating the affected areas and how to avoid them in the future.

What Are Flies?

In order to understand which flies bite, we need to understand what a fly technically is. Many insects are generalized as being flies, but only certain types of winged creatures are actually “Diptera,” the technical name for flies.

To be considered a real fly, insects must have only one pair of wings. There are over 11,000 species of flies and over a dozen subsets of flies. While we may not like them in our personal space, they do provide many benefits to the ecosystems around us.

What Types of Flies Bite?

Now that we understand flies, we will get into the different varieties of flies that bite, how to identify their bites and what to expect from them.

Deer Flies

Deer flies are a type of fly that is about the size of a standard house fly, but you will be able to see dark bands on their wings.

They are the most abundant in the spring months and carry the biggest risk for disease. Rabbit fever or “Tularemia” is a type of bacterial disease that deer flies pass onto us with their bites. Rabbit fever will include symptoms such as skin ulcers, fever, and headache.

Deer fly bites are red bumps or welts and are quite painful. If you are bit by a deer fly, monitor the bite and your symptoms for a more severe reaction.


Horseflies are closely related to deer flies and have a similar bite. However, this fly species uses scissor-like mouthparts to cut through our skin, causing a stream of blood they inevitably feed on.

Horseflies can vary in color, from entirely black to light brown. They are fast fliers and can live up to two years.

Like deer flies, horsefly bites are painful and leave behind a red bump or welt. They live primarily near open bodies of water, so be mindful of this on your next family outing.

Stable Fly

Stable flies resemble standard house flies almost exactly. The only real difference is the proboscis, similar to that of a mosquito, on their bodies they use to drink blood.

These guys are determined and will fly long distances to find an adequate food source.

These types of fly bites typically appear around the ankles, and the bite can be sharp and painful. Expect a red rash or a cluster of raised red bumps left behind.

Black Flies

Black flies are tiny creatures part of the family Simuliidae. Black flies can be identified by the humped shape of their bodies. They are also called buffalo gnats and, like other flies, enjoy moist environments.

These guys will also fly up to ten miles in search of a good victim and enjoy livestock to human feedings. Black flies are most active during early summer and late spring.

While they can spread disease, it is not a threat to us but can decimate livestock if given a chance.

Buffalo gnat bites or black fly bites will leave behind red raised bumps on the skin filled with fluids like a blister. These can be quite painful or very itchy, similar to a mosquito bite.

Biting Midge

Biting midges are tiny flies, sometimes referred to as “no see-ums,” “punkies,” or just “gnats.”

These guys pack a pretty mean punch and use their diminutive size to their advantage. They can fit through the smallest openings, so any tiny tears in screens or gaps indoors, and you’ve got yourself an uninvited house guest.

Biting midge bites are similar to those of a mosquito, itchy red and raised off the skin. They also appear similar to a blister, as they can also be filled with fluids.

Sand Flies

Sand flies are another species of flies that can transmit diseases (including a parasitic disease called leishmaniasis). These guys lay low in the sand and moist grasslands until the perfect prey comes along, and then they bite.

Their bites itch and can last up to a week before symptoms begin to fade. Like others, expect a red blister or bump that will be accompanied by pain and irritation.

Tsetse Fly

The tsetse fly lives in the tropical climates of Africa and makes a home in the holes of trees and wooded areas.

They prefer the shade, so be mindful of these blood-suckers if you are traveling in this region.

These bites are small red ulcers on the skin and tend to be very painful. So be warned of this tiny insect: their bites can lead to big complications.

If a tsetse fly bites you, be mindful of any symptoms that could suggest a further issue. These include fever, headache, and muscle aches. If you have been bitten by a tsetse fly and experience these issues, it’s vital to be seen by a medical professional right away.

You could be experiencing symptoms of trypanosomiasis, a brain swelling disease that could lead to death.

Why You Need To Be Cautious

While many of these bites are just irritating, some can lead to further complications. As we stated above, a few of these flies can carry and transmit serious diseases.

We also need to be mindful of heightened sensitivity to these bites. While it is less likely or prevalent in adults, small children can have more severe reactions to fly bites, as their bodies aren’t as used to dealing with issues like these.

Even if it doesn’t lead to a serious illness or complication, medical attention may still be necessary.

How To Treat Fly Bites

As parents, we know that things happen every minute of every day, so we need to be ready when they do. Having treatment plans in place before bites occur will help you treat them faster and provide the relief you and your kids need.

Clean the Area

First things first, you’ll want to clean the affected area. Washing away any residual saliva or protein from a fly bite is key.

Those residual salivas could penetrate the skin if left untreated, causing further itching and irritation. So, washing the area will ensure that relief is in sight. Once the skin is clean, you can start to treat the deeper issues.

Baking Soda

One of the easier remedies is making a paste out of baking soda and water. It’s easy because most of us keep this ingredient on hand for baking or keeping the pantry and other areas fresh.

So in a pinch, this can be done quickly.

The paste is applied directly to the affected area, and it helps reduce swelling and pain.

The downside? Kids don’t like pastes on their skin and are bound to wipe them away before pastes can be effective.

Try Something Better

Instead of messy calamine lotions or hydrocortisone creams that are greasy and only last a few hours, grab our MagicPatch for lasting relief.

Originally designed for mosquitoes, MagicPatch is designed to pull the saliva up out of the body and to the top of the skin, leaving no source of irritation behind.

The best part? These patches are waterproof, safe for kids, and lasts for up to seven days. So they’ll last through bathtime, playtime, and any time in between!

How To Prevent Fly Bites

Of course, our goal should always be preventing the bites instead of treating them. While we know it’s not always foolproof, we have some tips and tricks to help you stop bugs in their tracks.

Mind Your Attire

Dark colors instead of brights, long-sleeves instead of a tank top, and denim instead of spandex are just some of the ways to use your clothing as protection. Wearing the right attire to keep your skin protected is the surest and easiest way to keep yourself and your kids bite-free.

The Truth About Pesticides

Commercials and advertisements encourage the use of chemical insect repellants like DEET or Picaridin.

The truth? These chemicals aren’t safe, no matter the dosage. While the risks increase drastically with overuse, any use comes with risk.

Inhaling these chemicals can damage the lungs, and the spray itself is harmful to the air we breathe. In addition, they damage our immediate ecosystem, putting the entirety of public health at risk.

Nature Gave Us Something Better

Our BuzzPatch is a delightful blend of all-natural essential oils that are proven to help mask us from insects that want to bite.

Many of the insects that bite us find us through the air we exhale. These essential oils are the perfect combination to keep our scents camouflaged and keep the insects away.

What’s even better? These stickers are safe for kids of all ages and go on clothes, not on skin. Kids will be better protected all day from bug bites without even noticing.

Entomology Experts: Stay Safe and Have Fun

Now that you know how to prevent and treat bug bites, it’s time to have all the fun the world around you can offer.

Our kids deserve to get out and enjoy the fresh air as much as possible, so let’s enjoy it with them.


True Flies (Diptera) | Smithsonian Institution

Biting Flies | DPH of Illinois

Insect bites and stings - Prevention | NHS

Black Fly (Family Simuliidae) | University of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeField Station

Tularemia | CDC

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