Small flies that bite

Updated July 20, 2017

With warm weather comes insects. Mosquitoes are usually the insects we think of when we refer to bites. But, small, biting flies can also be painful and spread disease. Small, biting flies can be found in warm, moist areas, such as the beach or near streams. It's important to know what insects to look for, as well as how to control their presence.

Black fly

The black fly is only 3 mm (1/8 inch) long and has a hump back. It usually is found near creeks and rivers in spring and early summer. These black flies will travel up to 10 miles looking for a good meal. They do not transmit disease to humans, but injury can occur to livestock and people if the flies are present in large numbers. Deaths can occur from allergic reactions. Black fly bites can cause swelling and bleeding, and the areas that they bite can be slow to heal. They prefer to bite the head.

Biting midges

Also known as "gnats," these biting flies are only 0.8 mm (1/32 inch) long. Their very tiny size allow them to penetrate window and door screens. They live in moist areas, such as lakes and ponds and near oceans and rivers. They are primarily a nuisance, but people can have allergic reactions to their bites.

Sand flies

Sand flies are 3 mm (1/8 inch) in length with long, hairy, brown to grey wings that form a 'V' shape when at rest. Most sand flies are blood suckers, feeding on mammals and reptiles at night. In many areas -- from Northern Africa to the tropics, to southern Texas -- sand flies are thought to be responsible for transmitting Leishmaniasis, a disfiguring protozoan disease, to humans. When a sand fly bites, it can inject a parasite under the skin, where it multiplies and an ulcer or "boil" develops. The ulcer spreads, causing skin breakdown over a wider area and eventual disintegration of tissue and disfigurement on the face or body.

Managing biting flies

Sanitation is an important element to controlling and preventing biting flies. Eliminate areas where flies will leave their larvae: moist decaying leaves and plants, decaying manure and straw. Install fine wire mesh screens on doors and windows. Burn candles and use fans; doing so will defer them by affecting flight. Avoid areas that flies inhabit. Wear heavy, light-coloured clothing.

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About the Author

A Chicago resident, Nita Martinez began writing professionally in 2004 when she developed Patient Education Materials for dental offices. Her FENG SHUi guide for singles has appeared in "Being Single" magazine with a coveted cover lead-in. Martinez holds a Bachelor of Science in dental hygiene from Loyola University Chicago.