The Dreaded Horsefly

Having spent most of my childhood outdoors, I've always been comfortable around wild creatures. Snakes, mice, bats, owls, bees and spiders evoke more curiosity than fear. But horseflies, those large, aggressive residents of open woods and wetlands, induce a flight reaction in my brain; likely imprinted by several painful bites during my youth, this visceral impulse is always triggered when one begins to buzz my head.

Represented by more than 200 species in North America, horseflies lay their eggs on moist vegetation. The larval worms feed throughout the remainder of the summer and early fall, wintering in ponds or within the soil. Emerging in spring, they pupate for a few weeks and then re-emerge in the adult form, ready to harass humans, horses, deer and cattle. Actually, as in mosquitoes, it is only the female that feeds on mammalian blood, a painful event for her victims; the male, though just as annoying in other ways, feeds on nectar, carrion and small insects.

While all life forms play a unique and vital role in nature's web of life, some are hard to appreciate. For me, the death of adult horseflies with the first hard freeze is nothing to mourn.