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This Texas fly can bite, leaving irritated skin. It loves the heat and moving water

Black flies, also called buffalo gnats or turkey gnats, are known to bite people during the day — particularly around the neck and head, leaving skin itchy and swollen. Black fly season lasts from April to July.

Black flies are small flies up to 5 mm that are active during the day, fast and strong fliers. They have a characteristic “hump-back” and can be black, gray, light tan or yellow in color. Black fly species can commonly be found along fast-moving rivers, particularly in northeast Texas.

Female black flies have mouth parts to bite and feed on blood of people, domestic animals, poultry and wildlife. The painful bite can cause localized swelling, and in extreme cases anaphylactic shock.

The larvae can be found just beneath the surface of rapidly flowing fresh water, according to Texas A&M. Most species develop while attached to submerged rocks or logs in shallow moving waters of streams and rivers, while some do well in sandy-bottomed streams and slow, muddy water. Development can take anywhere from two weeks to more than two months.

Adult black flies spread a long ways from their breeding habitats to feed, having been found far from streams and rivers in urbanized areas of Texas. Outbreaks are likely to occur whenever conditions for them to successfully breed in high numbers are present, most notably warmer temperatures and high amounts of rainfall that contribute to aquatic habitats needed for their development.

During periods of adult activity, the biting flies can become a nuisance. If not staying indoors, experts at Texas A&M say those working outdoors should dress in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, wearing a cap and a mesh veil to protect themselves. While insect repellents can be used, particularly to the neck and head, they may not be very effective against the strong, fast flies.

Read Dalia Faheid's short list of best repellents here.

LAST UPDATED

October 20, 2023

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Dalia Faheid

Fort Worth Star Telegram

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This repellent is easy to apply and effective without staining clothes.

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Sawyer Picaridin Insect Repellent uses 20 percent picaridin to protect against ticks, mosquitoes, black flies, gnats, and other biting insects. It provides up to 12 hours of protection, so a little bit goes a long way.

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Sawyer’s 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent delivers long-lasting protection against pesky insects like mosquitoes, ticks, flies, and gnats. Formulated with 20% picaridin — an odorless, non-greasy alternative to DEET — you can count on this spray to provide up to 12 hours of protection against mosquitos and eight hours against other bugs.

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