March flies are a common nuisance that can quickly ruin outdoor experiences and make indoor spaces less than pleasant. Found in various environments, these little pests can be tricky to get rid of due to their persistence and ability to reproduce. In this article, we’ll outline some effective methods to help you keep your surroundings March fly-free.
These small, gray flies are typically found in damp areas. They’re attracted to human and animal waste, garbage, and decaying organic matter, which can make them carriers of diseases such as diarrhea and dysentery. In response, it’s important to adopt a proactive approach to controlling their population and preventing their spread.
There are different ways to tackle a March fly infestation, like using traps and repellents, or making environmental changes to reduce breeding sites. We’ll discuss these methods in detail, helping you choose the right approach for your specific situation and guiding you towards a March fly-free environment.
Understanding March Flies
Species and Characteristics
March flies belong to the family Bibionidae and are typically found in damp environments. They are usually dark gray, but some may be brightly colored. Some examples of march fly species include:
- Bibio slossonae
- Dilophus febrilis
- Bibio marci
Their main characteristics include:
- Smaller eyes in females
- Around 1/4 to 1 inch body length
- Gray-colored maggots with projections on the rear end
Lifecycle and Breeding Areas
March flies have a four-stage lifecycle consisting of egg, larva, pupa, and adult. They lay eggs in damp soil or rotting vegetation where larvae, also known as maggots, can feed and grow. Pupae, which are slender and brownish, are also found in damp soil. Factors affecting their lifecycle include:
- Soil temperature
- Daylight hours
- Environmental conditions
In the tropics, march flies are more prevalent during drier winter months, whereas in Western Australia, they favor warmer climates.
Health Impacts and Dangers
March flies can pose health risks to humans and animals as well. They are known to:
- Transmit diseases
- Cause allergic reactions
- Lead to hospitalization for severe cases
- Induce severe blood loss
Their piercing mouthparts and persistent nature make them a nuisance to domestic animals and wildlife alike.
Pros and Cons of March Flies
|Play a role in the ecosystem as decomposers
|Annoyingly persistent when targeting animals or humans
|Help recycle nutrients by feeding on decaying plant material
|Can transmit diseases
|Serve as food for other wildlife species
|Cause allergic reactions and health issues
To manage and control march fly populations, it is essential to understand their species, lifecycle, breeding areas, and health impacts. With this knowledge in hand, appropriate measures can be taken to safeguard the environment and prevent potential dangers associated with these pests.
Preventing and Controlling Infestations
- Keep your yard clean: Remove any rotting organic matter, such as manure and dead animals. This will help reduce the areas where March flies breed *.
- Control standing water: Eliminate standing water in your outdoor spaces, as this is the breeding ground for mosquitoes and other fly species.
- Use screens: Install screens on windows and doors to prevent flies from entering your home.
Chemical Control Methods
There are various pesticide products available to control March fly infestations. Below are some examples:
- Effective in killing adult flies and maggots.
- Available in various forms, such as sprays and baits.
- May be harmful to children, pets, and other beneficial insects.
- Overuse can lead to pesticide resistance in March flies.
- Can be applied to clothing and skin to deter flies.
- Some natural repellents, like essential oils and herbs, are available.
- May not be as effective as insecticides.
- Reapplication may be necessary.
Alternative Pest Control Options
Plants and Essential Oils:
- Some plants and essential oils have been known to deter flies. Examples include basil, lavender, and lemongrass.
- Create a DIY fly repellent using a mix of water, essential oils (e.g. eucalyptus, citronella, or peppermint), and a bit of cayenne pepper.
- Light traps: Attract then trap flies using bright indoor lights.
- Sticky traps: Can be hung outdoors to capture multiple species of flies.
|Easy to set up
|Attracts multiple species
|May trap beneficial insects
Remember, prevention is better than cure. By maintaining cleanliness and taking proactive control measures, you can keep March flies at bay effectively.
DIY Traps and Repellents
Homemade Fly Traps
Apple Cider Vinegar Trap:
- Needs: a jar, apple cider vinegar, dish soap, a funnel or plastic wrap
- Fill jar with apple cider vinegar (about 1/2 inch)
- Add a few drops of dish soap
- Use funnel or make funnel using plastic wrap with small hole
- Place the funnel or cover jar with plastic wrap
- Poke small hole on top for flies to enter
- Easy to set up
- May require regular maintenance
- Might be less effective for houseflies
|Apple Cider Vinegar Trap
|Fly Paper Trap
|Non-toxic, safe for humans and pets
|Toxic chemicals present
|Can target fruit flies more effectively
|Targets various fly species
|Needs regular maintenance
|Can just be thrown away
Natural Repellents and Deterrents
- Citronella Candles: Common natural solution to repel flies, especially during outdoor gatherings in summer months
- Herbs and Essential Oils: Mix of herbs like basil, lemongrass, lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus can deter flies; also, these essential oils can be combined with water to create a spray
- Keep environment clean: Regularly empty and clean trash cans, avoid leaving food out, and clean up pet waste to limit fly breeding sites
Note: Natural repellents work best when combined with proper sanitation practices and insect-repellent measures, like regular inspections for potential breeding sites and cleaning of drains where larvae may be present.
In conclusion, dealing with flies, especially during the warmer months, can be a major annoyance. Utilizing these simple homemade traps and natural repellents can help you manage your fly problem without resorting to harsh chemicals or expensive solutions. Give these methods a try and perhaps you will find the perfect remedy for your particular fly issue at home or in your backyard.
Treating and Managing March Fly Bites
First Aid Measures
March flies can deliver a painful bite when they interact with humans. It is important to take immediate action to alleviate the pain and reduce the risk of infection. Some useful first aid measures include:
- Ice packs: Applying an ice pack on the bite area can help to numb the pain and reduce inflammation.
- Antihistamines: Taking an antihistamine can help manage itching and discomfort at the bite site.
- Antiseptic cream: Applying antiseptic cream on the wound can prevent infection and promote faster healing.
|Reduces pain and inflammation
|Keep cloth on skin to avoid direct contact
|Helps manage itching and discomfort
|Consult doctor before usage
|Prevents infection and promotes healing
|Test for allergies before using
When to Seek Medical Help
It’s important to recognize when a March fly bite becomes more serious and may require medical attention. Seek urgent medical assistance if any of the following signs appear:
- Developing a fever
- Break out in hives or wheezing
- Experiencing severe blood loss from the bite area
- Exhibiting signs of anaphylaxis (difficulty breathing, swollen face, dizziness, and rapid heart rate)
Individuals more vulnerable to March fly bites include babies, those with existing health impacts, or individuals prone to severe allergic reactions. In these cases, hospitalization may be required to treat the symptoms adequately.
Combating March flies can be done through various methods, such as using personal repellents, applying pesticide applications, or remaining cautious in areas with known March fly populations. Prevention is key to avoiding the need for medical intervention due to bite-related complications.
Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.
Letter 1 – Bug of the Month March 2020: Chinchemolle from Chile
Subject: What is this bug from Southern Chile
Geographic location of the bug: Chile, Region XI: Chile Chico: 46°43’31″S 71°43’31″W
Time: 09:02 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I found this big bug in harsh, semi-desert south of Chile Chico in Region XI in the far south of Chile.
The bug was in the margins of the Rio Jeinimeni but I am sure it is a terrestrial that has fallen in and is not an aquatic insect.
The antennae on this sample were obviously broken but they must have been long, perhaps as long as the body, before they were damaged.
The obvious features are the 3.5 inch (10cm) length and the orange band across the thorax.
How you want your letter signed: Jon
This is a Stick Insect or Phasmid in the insect order Phasmida. There is an image on Wikipedia of a mating pair that is identified as Agathemera crassa. It also resembles Agathemera claraziana, called Chinchemolles in Spanish, which is pictured on CalPhotos where it states: ” ‘Chinchemolles’ hide under rocks during the day, and forage on plants at night. Many individuals have a very unpleasant odor, and sometimes one can find the hiding spots simply from the location of the odor.” We believe we have the genus correct, but we will leave species identification to the experts. Though it is very belated, we are tagging your submission as our Bug of the Month for March 2020.
Thank you very much for identifying this bug, which is probably the largest insect I have ever come across.
I can testify to the smell…
Thank you and best regards,
Letter 2 – Male St. Marks Fly from Ireland
Subject: Please help identify this.
Location: North West Ireland
May 24, 2015 4:32 pm
This is a bug that has 6 legs. It looks like it has a very small abdomen. The bug has been seen in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Ireland, including my bedroom window. There is a photo of it I took. I have been mystified by this insect and can’t find it anywhere online.
Signature: Justin Doherty
We believe this is a male, because of his big eyes, March Fly in the family Bibionidae. Your individual looks similar to the image posted on the GoFlyFishingUK site. After visiting iSpotNature, we believe this is a St. Marks Fly, Bibio marci.
Letter 3 – Flower Feeding March Fly
Subject: A day of Freaky Flies
Location: Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
December 15, 2012 3:27 am
Hello Bugman, you’ve helped me before with a Bristle fly a couple of years ago. Today I’ve seen 3 strange flies on my cherry tree, which is currently being attacked by the cherry tree slug. I suspect they could be feeding on it, but I’m not sure.
It’s Summer here in Australia and today was a dull humid day.
Signature: Linda, Yarra Valley
Two of your images are of flies, and the third appears to be a Wasp. The first image we have identified on the Brisbane Insect website as Scaptia auriflua, the Flower Feeding March Fly. March Flies are commonly called Horse Flies in North America, and females feed on the blood of horses and other warm blooded creatures, including people, but the Brisbane Insect website indicates of Scaptia auriflua: “Most other female March Flies are blood sucker but this fly is flower feeder. Both male and female of this species feed on nectars only.” The Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust website has a much better photo of this species for identification purposes. Anthony Tancredi Photography has some beautiful photos of Scaptia auriflua. We will continue to work on your other identifications from your Freaky Flyday.
thanks Daniel for such a quick response. I can provide you with more photos if you need them. I thought the one you think might be a wasp could be some sort of fly that looks like a wasp. A friend has suggested a soldier fly but you are the expert and that’s why I’ve sent them to you. The very black spiky looking fly has a sort of creamy long moustache, I’ve never seen a fly like it before. Definitely creepy looking to a squealy girl like me anyway. If you need more photo to identify them please let me know.
Hi again Linda,
We would love additional photos of the second image. We are uncertain if it is a Soldier Fly or a Robber Fly, but those are our two first guesses.
Letter 4 – Fly from New Zealand more likely a March Fly than a Snipe Fly
Subject: Black Hoverfly?
Location: East Coast of South Island, New Zealand
December 8, 2012 5:02 pm
This morning I noticed a large number of these black flies on my brassicas, the way they fly reminds me of hoverflies but they are a bit bigger, completely black and had a strange behavior of twisting their abdomens around.. do you know what they are?
Signature: Thanks! Bruce
We do not believe this is a Hover Fly. We have not had any success finding any matching images online, but our best guess is that this might be a Snipe Fly in the family Rhagionidae. You can see some examples of North American species on BugGuide and compare the similarities.
I think you’re right, the picture of the Golden Backed Snipe Fly on your site (wp-content/uploads/2011/06/golden_backed_snipe_fly_randy.jpg) looks exactly the same apart from the color and is showing the same curving abdomen behavior.
I see that the larvae for the Australian version is thought to live in rotted wood which makes sense as a large pile of woodchips had rotted into the ground over several years right next to where I saw this “hatching”, we are starting to see more Australian insects here (eg cluster flies) perhaps due to climate change?
The good news for my vegetable garden is that they’re predators 🙂
We might eventually get a conclusive identification, and then we will update the posting.
Correction Courtesy of Karl
Hi Daniel and Bruce:
I think this actually may be a March Fly (Bibioniodae). The wing posture seems a little unusual, at least to me, as they are usually kept folded over the back when at rest, but with a little searching I was able to find some very similar photos. A paper by Hardy (1952; Bibionidae of New Zealand [Diptera]) listed seven species for New Zealand in two genera (Philia x 6 and Bibio x 1). I could find no photos of the species described, but these photos of the European species Bibio marci, B. lanigerus and B. hortulanus look quite similar. I will add one more link (species and location not given) just because the photos are so pretty. In a more recent paper titled “Fauna of New Zealand; Number 20: Bibionidae (Insecta: Diptera)”, by Roy A. Harrison (1990) the author presents a taxonomic revision in which eight species are described and all have been placed in the genus Dilophus (here’s a non-NZ species). I suspect the species identification may be D. nigrostigmata based on appearance and location, but unfortunately the species all look quite similar and the posted photo is a bit fuzzy. Bruce, you may want to check out the Harrison paper and have a go at the identification yourself, especially if you can capture a sharper image. At the very least you may be able to confirm if it is a March Fly or not. Regards. Karl
Thanks so much Karl. March Flies actually crossed our mind because of the head.
Thank you! I think you are probably quite right, the pictures look very similar..
The wing posture seems a little unusual, at least to me, as they are usually kept folded over the back when at rest,
Some had their wings closed, others open.. I just happened to photograph the individuals with the wings open. I haven’t seen them again but if I do I’ll try to get a sharper photo.
Letter 5 – Male Fall March Fly
Subject: Flying night bug
Location: Charlottesville, va
November 6, 2015 9:09 pm
This bug was a pest around the fire pit. Now they have come into the house. Any ideas?
Signature: Paula stith
This is a male Fall March Fly, probably Bibio longipes based on this description on BugGuide: “Males are all black with swollen hind tarsi and are hard to distinguish from Bibio slossonae, the other common fall-flying species.” BugGuide also notes: “Large swarms consisting of males are common in the fall.”
Letter 6 – Male March Fly
Subject: I can’t identify this bug!
Location: South central Pennsylvania
May 11, 2015 4:45 pm
I found this on top of a water bottle cap this morning and I can’t seem to identify this
Signature: Thank you!
Letter 7 – Male March Fly
Subject: Tiny Robber Fly?
Location: Andover, NJ
May 21, 2016 2:17 pm
I found several of these small (1/3 to 1/2 inch) flies which look like some sort of robber fly. I’ve just never seen a robber fly this small, so wondering if it is something else entirely. I’m in the far northern corner of NJ in a wooded area. These were found just at the edge of a shrubby area near the woods.
Any help you can give me will be much appreciated!
Signature: Deborah Bifulco
This is not a Robber Fly. It is a March Fly in the family Bibionidae, and it can be identified as a male because of its large eyes. The eyes of the females are much smaller as you can see in this image of a pair of mating March Flies. We believe your individual may be Bibio albipennis based on this BugGuide image.