If you are outdoors near a horse or a swimming pool during summer’s hot, steamy days in the Northeast you can bet your bottom dollar you will get breezed, buzzed and maybe even bitten by one of the most fearless foes of horses and humans: the dreaded horse fly.
Simple horse fly facts
Horse flies can range in size from just under an inch to up to an inch-and-a-half. While the proper Latin name for this family of pests is “Tabanidae,” in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania they are commonly referred to as BOMBERS, B-52s and BIG BOMBERS.
Black or mottled brown in color, bombers are most feared by horse and human because they are huge and relentlessly pursue their victims. Bombers seem to know exactly where to land so that the victim cannot swat it away. On a horse, this location is on the top of the rump where the tail is unlikely to make direct contact. On a person, anyplace on the body is pretty much fair game.
Horses know that when a bomber is in town it’s time to skedaddle. Initially, one may notice a sense of concern in the eyes of the equine as the bomber approaches. The ears twitch back and forth in anticipation of what’s next. The tail swishes. There may be a buck or two. And then whoosh. The equine retreats hastily to the nearest shady area or low-hanging branch.
Tales of woe
Nancy, an equestrian in central Jersey, recently recalled watching a horse fly buzz around her trusty steed and then suddenly disappear. A few seconds later she looked down and witnessed the beast biting right through her right sock. Blood oozed. To put it mildly: Nancy was not pleased.
There are other annoying flies that hang out around horses. These seem to be slightly smaller and resemble little triangles. These are called “deer flies.” Evidently, they don’t know they are deer flies because they will bite a horse just as readily as a deer. Horses hate deer flies, too.
Moose have it even worse. They don’t just harbor one or two flies — they usually have an entourage. Barbara, a New Jerseyan who frequents her residence in Maine, witnessed a moose crossing the logging road while she was driving to her home. As the moose approached the center of the roadway she braked. In amazement, she watched her windshield slowly turn from clear to gray to black as thousands of flies landed on the glass. As the moose hastened into the woods the entourage lifted and followed. Now THAT must be annoying.
Oh, one more fact about horse flies. The ones that bite are always female. The males fly around all day searching for nectar. Hmmm… go figure.