Louse Fly

Subject: Found Bug
Location: Wind Gap, PA
November 17, 2016 11:43 am
We found this on a student today. Any ideas?
Signature: Doug Bartek

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear Doug,
This is a blood-sucking Louse Fly or Ked in the family Hippoboscidae.  There are both winged and wingless species, and some winged species lose their wings once they find a host.  Hosts include deer, sheep or birds, depending upon the species of Louse Fly, but they are also opportunistic feeders that will bite humans if no preferred animal host is available. We found a marvelous article on Louse Flies by Meredith Swett Walker on the Entomology Today website where it states:  “Hippoboscid flies are fairly particular about their hosts. Sheep keds are not found on birds or vice versa. There are more than 200 species of Hippoboscidae, and 75 percent of these parasitize birds of various types ranging from tiny swifts to huge albatrosses. Some louse-flies even exhibit distinct preferences for a particular species of bird. One species of hippoboscid is found exclusively on frigate birds and another species parasitizes only boobies. This specificity is seen even when the two seabirds nest in densely-packed, mixed colonies where it would be easy for a hippoboscid to fly from one bird to another.
Thankfully, hippoboscids do not parasitize humans. In 1931, G. Robert Coatney conducted an experiment to determine if pigeon louse flies, Pseudolynchia canariensis, would bite humans and survive on human blood. He must have been very persuasive because he convinced two friends to join him in playing host to the flies. The answer is yes — hippoboscids will bite humans when given no other choice of host, and their bites are definitely itchy. But the flies did not survive long or reproduce when fed only human blood. Granted, Coatney’s experiment was limited in sample size and scope, but hopefully no one feels the need to repeat it.”

That is awesome!! Thank you so much for the info!!

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