Louse Fly: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

Louse flies, also known as keds or hippoboscid flies, are a family of insects that have long been overlooked in the scientific community. These parasites primarily target birds and mammals, and in some cases, have been known to transmit infectious agents to humans and domestic animals. However, much about their biology and behavior remains unknown, making them an enigma in the world of entomology.

One common species of louse fly is the pigeon louse fly (Pseudolychia canariensis), found on pigeons and doves. These dorso-ventrally flattened flies live among their host’s body feathers and are slow fliers. They possess a tough exoskeleton that protects them from being crushed by their host as they maneuver through the plumage or pelage while searching for blood.

Louse Fly Basics

Understanding Louse Flies

Louse flies, also known as keds, belong to the family Hippoboscidae. They are commonly referred to as pupipara. These insects do not hop or fly but are known for their ability to crawl swiftly. They infest various animals, including birds, domestic animals, and even humans.

Louse flies are winged and flat-bodied. Their mouthparts are adapted for piercing and sucking blood from the host. These parasites can transmit disease-causing pathogens to both animals and humans.

Hippoboscidae Family

The Hippoboscidae family contains more than 200 species of louse flies. They share some common features:

  • Winged or wingless
  • Well-adapted for clinging onto host’s fur or feathers
  • Blood-sucking mouthparts
  • Pupiparous (give birth to live offspring)

Comparison Table

Louse Flies Lice
Belong to family Hippoboscidae Belong to order Phthiraptera
Can be winged or wingless Always wingless
Infest various animals including humans Usually infest specific host species
More agile crawlers Less agile crawlers
Larger in size (2-6 mm) Smaller in size (1-3 mm)

Understanding the basics of louse flies and their differences from lice can help in managing their infestations and preventing the spread of diseases they may carry.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Larvae and Pupation

The life cycle of a louse fly begins with a female louse laying a single larva, known as a first instar larva. Within minutes, this larva undergoes rapid development and turns into a second instar larva. This process is unique compared to other insects’ laying of multiple eggs. After a few more molts, the larva reaches its final instar before pupation.

The prepuparium stage comes next, where the larva finds a suitable spot to pupate. Here, it forms a protective casing called a puparium, within which metamorphosis occurs, giving rise to an adult louse fly.

Adult Lice Lifecycle

Adult lice exhibit the following characteristics:

  • Feeding habits: They feed on the blood of their hosts several times daily.
  • Habitat: Adult lice reside close to the host’s skin to maintain their body temperature.

The adult lice life cycle can be divided into three stages:

  1. Egg: Female adults lay a single larva, which develops into a mature larva after several molts.
  2. Nymph: The larva turns into a nymph after pupation occurs within the puparium.
  3. Adult: The nymph emerges as a mature louse fly, ready to find a host and reproduce.

Here’s a comparison table of Larvae and Pupation vs. Adult Lice Lifecycle:

Larvae and Pupation Adult Lice Lifecycle
Single larva birth Lays a single larva
Rapid development Feeds on blood
Prepuparium stage Resides close to skin
Metamorphosis Three life stages

Hosts and Infestations

Human Infestations

Louse flies, also known as keds, are parasites that can infest various hosts, including humans. They usually feed on blood and can cause itching and discomfort.

  • Scalp: Although not the primary target, human scalps can occasionally be infested by some species of louse flies.

Animal Infestations

Louse flies are more commonly associated with animals. They infest various animal species, causing different levels of discomfort and health issues.

  • Birds: Some louse fly species, such as Lipoptena, preferentially target birds as their hosts, feeding on their blood.

  • Deer: Deer keds, which belong to the Lipoptena genus, are known to infest deer and can cause irritation and hair loss.

  • Horses: Louse flies may infest horses, leading to skin irritation, hair loss, and potential transmission of bloodborne diseases.

  • Dogs: Dogs can also be infested by louse flies, causing discomfort, restlessness, and skin irritation.

Host Louse Fly Effects Example Species
Humans Itching, scalp discomfort Keds
Birds Blood feeding, general discomfort Lipoptena
Deer Hair loss, irritation Lipoptena
Horses Skin irritation, hair loss Hippobosca
Dogs Discomfort, restlessness Melophagus

Diseases and Transmission

Transmission Pathways

Louse flies, also known as keds or hippoboscid flies, are small, winged insects that have adapted to living on various animals. They primarily transmit diseases through:

  • Blood: Keds feed on the blood of their host, which can potentially transfer pathogens.
  • Air: Although less common, airborne transmission of diseases could occur in some cases.

Vectors and Related Diseases

  • Advantages:
    • Flexible: many species of louse flies can feed on multiple host species.
    • Wide distribution: these flies have a very diverse global presence.
  • Disadvantages:
    • Potential disease vectors: can spread diseases between animals and humans.
    • Host irritation: may cause skin inflammation or irritation in their hosts.

Louse flies are known to be vectors of various diseases, mainly in birds and mammals:

  1. Avian malaria: Keds can transmit avian malaria, which affects birds, through blood exchanges while feeding.
  2. Bat flies: These are a subgroup of louse flies that can carry certain pathogens specific to bats.
Disease Animal Group Transmission Example Hosts
Avian malaria Birds Blood Pigeons, songbirds
Bat fly-related Bats Blood Fruit bats, insectivorous bats

In conclusion, louse flies may not be as well-known as other disease vectors, but they still pose a risk for transmitting diseases to both animals and humans.

Identification and Symptoms

Causes and Effects

The Louse Fly is an ectoparasite that feeds on the blood of its host, such as pigeons and doves 1. When these flies infest humans, they can cause:

  • Itching: The louse fly’s bite can lead to itching and discomfort for the affected person.
  • Allergic reactions: Some people may experience allergic reactions to the louse fly’s saliva.

Louse flies primarily infest birds, so infestations in humans are quite rare compared to head lice, which commonly affect children 2.

Distinguishing from Dandruff

Distinguishing between louse fly nits (eggs) and dandruff can be challenging. However, there are some key differences:

Feature Louse Fly Nits Dandruff
Appearance Oval and yellowish White and flaky
Location Attached to hair shaft On the scalp
Movement Fixed in place Easily dislodged

In conclusion, proper identification of louse fly infestations is crucial for appropriate treatment. Being aware of the signs and symptoms and distinguishing them from dandruff can help in effective and timely resolution of the issue.

Prevention and Treatment

Personal Items and Hygiene

  • Keep personal items separate: Avoid sharing clothing, combs, brushes, hats, and hair accessories.
  • Launder items regularly: Wash clothing, bedding, and towels in hot water.
  • Store unworn items: Seal items that are not in use in plastic bags for two weeks.

Examples of good personal hygiene practices include:

  • Shampooing hair regularly
  • Brushing and combing hair daily

Remedies and Medications

Consult a healthcare provider for appropriate treatment options, which may include medications such as:

  • Over-the-counter treatments: Products like shampoos and creams containing permethrin or pyrethrins.
  • Prescription treatments: Oral medication such as Ivermectin or topical treatments like Malathion lotion.

Natural remedies are also an option but must be used with caution. Examples include:

  • Tea tree oil
  • Neem oil

The table below compares the two most common treatment methods:

Treatment Method Pros Cons
Medications Effective, fast-acting, proven results Risk of side effects, possible resistance
Natural Remedies Fewer side effects, safer Might be less effective, limited research

Remember, always consult a healthcare provider before trying any home remedies or treatments to ensure their effectiveness and safety.

Special Cases

Ectoparasites on Livestock

Louse flies are ectoparasites that can cause discomfort to livestock, especially during summer months. They have adapted to mainly staying on their host, with reduced wings for easier movement through the host’s hair or fur.

Example:

  • In cattle, louse flies can lead to significant discomfort, causing the animals to scratch and rub against objects in efforts to alleviate itching.

A suitable repellent for livestock is essential to control louse fly infestations:

Pros:

  • Reduces discomfort for animals
  • Minimizes risk of secondary infections and skin damage caused by scratching

Cons:

  • Some repellents may not be suitable for all livestock
  • Frequent reapplication may be required

Deer Louse Fly

Deer louse flies are another type of louse fly that can cause issues for their hosts. These flies are ectoparasites that specifically target deer populations.

Characteristics of deer louse flies:

  • Wingless, adapted for life on the host
  • Small and flat-bodied, allowing for movement through dense fur

Example of differences between livestock louse flies and deer louse flies:

Feature Livestock Louse Fly Deer Louse Fly
Wings Reduced Absent
Preferred Host Livestock Deer
Size Small Small
Body Shape Flat Even Flatter
Methods of Repellent Chemical repellent Chemical repellent
Frequency of Repellent Application Periodic Periodic

Using appropriate repellents for deer can help control infestations of deer louse flies and reduce their negative impact on deer populations.

Specific Louse Fly Species

Crataerina Pallida

Crataerina pallida is an obligate parasite that is commonly found on swift birds. It is a flightless fly, which means it cannot fly and relies on its host for survival.

  • Obligate parasites: depend on their host for survival
  • Flightless: lacks the ability to fly

Hippobosca Equina

Hippobosca equina, also known as the sheep ked, is a louse fly species that mainly targets horses, deer, and cattle. It feeds on the blood of its host, causing discomfort and potential health issues.

  • Sheep ked: another name for Hippobosca equina
  • Main hosts: horses, deer, and cattle

Pseudolynchia Canariensis

Pseudolynchia canariensis, or the pigeon louse fly, is a common ectoparasite of pigeons and doves. Both adult males and females feed on the blood of their host, affecting the health and well-being of the birds.

  • Main hosts: pigeons and doves
  • Ectoparasite: lives on the external part of the host
Species Hosts Feeding Habits
Crataerina Pallida Swift birds Flightless, obligate parasite
Hippobosca Equina Horses, deer, cattle Blood-feeding, also known as sheep ked
Pseudolynchia Canariensis Pigeons, doves Blood-feeding ectoparasite

Miscellaneous Facts

Natural History of Louse Flies

Louse flies are dorso-ventrally flattened flies that live among the body feathers of various hosts, such as pigeons and doves, and feed on their blood. For example, the Pigeon Louse Fly (Pseudolychia canariensis) is around the same size as a housefly. These flies are slow fliers and have a tough exoskeleton that protects them from being crushed by their grooming host.

There are several genera of louse flies, including Crataerina, Ornithomya, Ornithoica, Olfersia, and Pseudolynchia. Different genera have specific host preferences, such as the Crataerina species, which are specific to swifts.

Some interesting facts about louse flies include:

  • They have unique milk glands that nourish their larvae.
  • Larvae develop within the female’s body.
  • They transmit pathogens to their hosts.

Entomological Dictionary

When exploring the world of louse flies, one might come across some unique and specific terms. Here are a few of the key terms related to louse flies and their characteristics:

Hippobosca: A genus of louse flies known for their flattened bodies and preference for mammal hosts rather than birds.

Neolipoptena: A genus of louse flies featuring members that parasitize deer.

Milk glands: Specialized organs found in louse flies that secrete essential nutrients to sustain developing larvae.

Crataerina: A genus of louse flies that specifically parasitize swifts.

Olfersia: A genus in the louse fly family featuring species that mainly infest seabirds.

Pseudolynchia: A genus of louse flies whose members primarily infest pigeons and doves. Examples include the Pigeon Louse Fly mentioned earlier.

To help better distinguish between a few selected genera, here’s a comparison table:

Genus Host Preference Example Species
Crataerina Swifts Crataerina pallida
Olfersia Seabirds Olfersia fumipennis
Pseudolynchia Pigeons & Doves Pseudolychia canariensis (Pigeon Louse Fly)

Footnotes

  1. Pigeon Louse Fly or Pigeon Fly – Pseudolychia Canariensis (Macquart)

  2. CDC – Lice – Body Lice – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Reader Emails

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 – Louse, Thrips or other Head Bug???

 

Subject: It’s not all in my head!
Location: Scalp
March 27, 2013 6:05 am
These insects came from my scalp. Two years ago I started with a small area on my scalp that felt like a bite. The area is now the crown of my head, made worse by using a duo derm patch, not knowing I had a sensitivity to adhesive. My hair grew under the scalp, and that is where these bugs came from.
Signature: Elaine

Possible Louse
Thrips perhaps

Dear Elaine,
We sympathize with your situation.  We hope you sought professional medical assistance and we would urge you to seek out a definitive identification from your local entomology department.  While this creature looks vaguely louselike, it doesn’t seem to match images of Parasitic Lice on BugGuide.  Perhaps one of our readers will be able to provide something more conclusive.

Update:  March 27, 2013
Tenodera, one of our readers, submitted a comment indicating this resembles a Thrips, and we agree.  See BugGuide for a description of Thrips.  The mystery is why are Thrips livng on Elaine’s scalp.

Letter 2 – Pigeon Louse Fly, we believe

 

Louse Fly! Self defense or carnage?
August 13, 2009
This handsom fellow decided to scuttle off a patient I was holding and onto my shirt. While I’m very bug friendly, something about a tick with wings was scary. The patient I was holding was a red tail hawk, so needless to say I couldn’t let him go as I was more concerned about raptor claws than the ugly flat bug. After searching it looks like this is some kind of louse fly, you only seem to have one from England on your web page so here is another. I hmm impaled it on a very small 25 g needle, though it looks like a railroad spike in the pics. I didn’t want it jumping ship and visiting some of our more domestic patients avian or otherwise. From your one post it looks like they are species specific like lice. I still call it defense, at least of the patients in the animal hospital, but maybe it’s carnage? Oh he’s 1 cm long and flat as a tick, flies at a moderate pace, and scuttles sideways when walking.
Jess
Rhode Island, USA

Pigeon Louse Fly
Pigeon Louse Fly

Hi Jess,
Extenuating circumstances are always considered when we try to decide if a posting with a dead insect should be tagged as Unnecessary Carnage.  You are off the hook on this one in our mind, but another jury may decide differently.  We believe this is a Pigeon Louse Fly, Pseudolynchia canariensis, an introduced species from Europe.  BugGuide has the following information on the Pigeon Louse Fly:  “Range  Found wherever pigeons are encountered in tropical, subtropical, and temperate areas with mild winters worldwide. It occurs throughout the Southeastern United States. Imported from Europe.
Food  A common ectoparasite of pigeons and doves
Life Cycle  Louse flies have a very interesting reproductive strategy. The female produces one larva at a time and retains the developing larva in her body until it is ready to pupate. The larva feeds on the secretions of a “milk gland” in the uterus of its mother. After three larval instars, the larva has reached its maximum size, the mother gives birth to the white pre-pupa which immediately begins to darken and form the puparium or pupal shell. The pupa of the pigeon louse fly looks like a dark brown, egg-shaped seed. The pupa is found in the nest of the host or on ledges where the birds roost. When the fly has completed its metamorphosis, the winged adult emerges from the puparium and flies in search of a host.
Remarks  Both adult males and females feed on the blood of their host. They are adapted for clinging to and moving through the plumage and pelage of their hosts. Strongly specialized claws help them cling to the hair or feathers of their particular host species. Pigeon flies retain their wings for their entire adult life.  This fly is a carrier of a protozoan disease, pigeon malaria.
”  Since hawks prey upon pigeons, we suspect this Pigeon Louse Fly may have “jumped ship” when its intended host was snatched by the hawk.

Pigeon Louse Fly
Pigeon Louse Fly

We do have additional images of Louse Flies on our site, but when we migrated last year, we did not sub-classify the flies.  Our archive is so extensive.  We are trying to create subcategories for new postings, and the old ones may have to wait for a paid intern.  That sounds like an excellent opportunity for a grant for a graduate student.

Pigeon Louse Fly
Pigeon Louse Fly

Letter 3 – Louse Fly from Croatia

 

HELP hippobosca equina, Lipoptena cervi
Location: Croatia
July 22, 2011 3:20 am
I need help with hippobosca equina bug. I live in Croatia and I have big problems with that bug. When I go to the nature many of this bugs attacked me. Once I have 30-40 bugs in the same time on my body. They are very agressive and it is very big problem for me because I must spend a lots of times in areas where they live. I contacted the local veterinary college but they only defined that is hippobosca equina. They can not help me. Im sending one picture but I think that there are some little differences between the sempels, depending in which part of the Croatian was. How can I protect against this insect? Please help.
Signature: Ana

Louse Fly

Hi Ana,
Louse Flies are ectoparasites of large mammals like deer and sheep.  Those that parasitize sheep are sometimes called Sheep Keds.  If they cannot find their preferred host, the will bite humans, as you have experienced.  Alas, we don’t have advise regarding how to keep them from landing on you and biting, but we would guess that insect repellant might be a good place to start.

Daniel,
thank you for your response. Unfortunately I’ve tried with most standard insect repellants that I found but nothing is effective : (.
Br,

Letter 4 – Louse Fly from England

 

Whats that bug on my wall?
June 10, 2009
Its about 1cm including legs, my girlfriend thought it was a spider till I looked closer at it, just curious what it was.
Gav, UK
exeter uk

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Hi Gav,
We apologize for the delay.  This is a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae but we are uncertain what species.  They are sometimes called Keds.  There is a close matching photo on BugGuide of Lipoptena mazamae, the Deer Ked, but we could not be certain of the species you have discovered.  In addition to deer, Louse Flies are also often associated with sheep and horses, and they are generally host specific.  Here is what BugGuide has to say about the Deer Ked: “Deer keds have a very interesting reproductive strategy. The female produces one larva at a time and retains the developing larva in her body until it is ready to pupate. The larva feeds on the secretions of a “milk gland” in the uterus of its mother. After three larval instars, the larva has reached its maximum size, the mother gives birth to the white pre-pupa which immediately begins to darken and form the puparium or pupal shell. The pupa falls from the deer and is usually deposited where the deer bedded. When the fly has completed its metamorphosis, the winged adult emerges from the puparium and flies in search of a host. After finding a host the adult fly breaks off its wings and is now permanently associated with that one deer. Both sexes feed on the blood of the host deer. They can live on a deer for up to 6 months.” Here is a link to a Sheep Ked (Melophagus ovinus) website.

Letter 5 – Louse Fly from Estonia

 

Subject: Flying spider
Location: Estonia
May 30, 2014 11:08 am
Hi!
I found this insect yesterday (May 30th, 2014) from a sink. From afar it looked like a spider, because it has long legs. It is not a spider though, because it has only six legs and also two wings. The interesting thing about this insect is that it does not use its wings at all, no matter how much you poke it. It only runs really quickly, like a spider, seems like it is meant to live on the ground and not fly. The wings also seem too small to support its size in the air. I have never seen anything like it. I live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in town, so my questions are: What is it and how did it get here?
Here are some features I noticed about this insect: It likes to crawl into narrow dark places. Its body ends with a thick and short tube-like part. The mouthparts look like the closed mouthparts of a horsefly. It rubs its front legs like a housefly (as seen on the third picture). The top of its head is dark-red.
First picture: in the sink beside my finger.
Second picture: on glass, picture taken through the glass (bottom view).
Third picture: same as the second picture.
Thank you!
Signature: Andero

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear Andero,
This is a Louse Fly in the family
Hippoboscidae and it is a true Fly, hence the similarities you observed to a House Fly.  Louse Flies are blood sucking insects and those that have wings can only fly feebly.  Generally Louse Flies are very specific regarding the host, which might be livestock and in some species pigeons and other birds, but when the choice host is not available, they have been known to feed from humans.

Letter 6 – Louse Fly in Lithuania

 

Subject: Strange and a rare bug starts appearing more and more often
Location: East Europe, Lithuania, Kaunas
May 20, 2016 2:29 pm
Good evening.
In the past 11 days I managed to find 6 of these bugs at my flat. From what I noticed, it can climb on the walls, is highly resistant to pressure – I can’t crush it if it’s in my fist. I saw them both at day and night.
I asked my mother and she hadn’t seen anything like this before. Could you help me?
Signature: Deivydas

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear Deivydas,
This is a blood-sucking Louse Fly.  They generally feed off the blood of livestock, especially sheep, and there are species that feed off the blood of deer.  Do you live in an area where there are either livestock or woodlands with deer?  Some species feed off the blood of birds and there are frequently pigeons and other host species found near homes.  Perhaps there are nesting birds in your immediate vicinity.  If their preferred host is not available, they are opportunistic, and they will also feed off the blood of other large animals, including pets and humans.

I live in bedroom districts and there aren’t any deers or other animals as we are still further from the forests. There are some swallow nests in the holes of the roof, maybe it could be the cause? We have been living in this flat for over 12 years and we have never seen any bugs like this.
I’m pretty scared now, as I have two cats. Is there any way to terminate Louse flies?

The bird nests seem like the likely source.  Though we do not provide extermination advice, there is not much chance that the Louse Flies will proliferate much with these BugGuide reproductive statistics:  “Females rear one offspring at a time, the larva feeding in utero from special ‘milk’ glands. The mature larva is ‘born alive’ and immediately pupates in the soil (or on the host in some cases). Most are host specific on bird species, with a few occurring on mammals.”

Good news. Anyways, thank your help. It is really amazing that there are some nice people who are willing to help in identifying some unknown animals like in my case, Louse fly, which both me nor my family have not seen all their life before. I am happy to know that they are not dangerous to people and can not proliferate much.

Letter 7 – Louse Fly in Jordan

 

Subject: fly insect
Location: jordan_irbed
February 11, 2014 1:54 am
Dear sir,
This is Dr.Motasem from Jordan, recently we have found this insect (attached) in our home (about 5 in number),we live in modern town, not a village, no trees, no animals or pets in around.
3 days ago i got an insect bite which was severly swollen,itchy and tender relieved by local and oral anti-histamine( u can identify the sting head (double head) in the attached file).
Looking forward to hearing from u soon. Any suggestions is much appreciated.
Thanks in advance
Yours
Motasem
Signature: Motasembella

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear Dr. Motasem,
You are being visited by Louse Flies in the family Hippoboscidae.  Louse Flies feed on the blood of animals, and though they have preferred hosts depending upon the species, they will feed opportunistically from humans if there is no other prey available.  You have indicated that there are no animals near you, which would explain why you are being bitten, but it does not explain why the Louse Flies are there if there is no food source.  Some Louse Flies feed on the blood of sheep, and others prey upon birds like pigeons.

Bite of a Louse Fly
Bite of a Louse Fly

Dear Daniel,
Ur reply and cooperation is much appreciated.
This explanation makes sense as we were invaded by Pigeons in the last 6 months in the roof of our building ( we live in the  last floor).
We are trying to get rid of them, but not yet.
So do u think we should use now any type of insect killer or should we bring a specialised company for that, or just leave it.
Thanks
Motasem

Hi again Motasem,
In our opinion, if you get rid of the pigeons, you won’t have to worry about the Louse Flies.  They are not interested in human blood unless they can’t get pigeon blood.  We believe they will die out on their own if there are no longer any pigeons to drop new flies on a regular basis.

Letter 8 – Louse Flies

 

I live in Los Angeles in a lower apartment.
These thing look like “Flying Spiders”? They are hard to kill, and appear to be able to produce web? Whatchya think? Thanks
Chris

Hi Chris,
These are Louse Flies in the family Hippoboscidae. According to Charles Hogue in the wonderful book Insects of the Los Angeles Basin: “Occasionally, a person hiking or working in mountainous areas wilolo notice a small (1/8,. or 3 mm, long) flattened brown fly that has landed on his skin or clothing. Looking much like a winged tick, the fly clings tenaciously or crawls sluggishly for a moment before flying away. This is one of the two common local species of Deer Louse Flies (Neolipoptena ferrisi or Lipoptena depressa), which normally live as ectoparasited on deer. … Upon successfully finding a deer, it immediately crawls through the hair to the skin and begins to suck blood. Here it remains as a permanent parasite, soon losing its wings through wear. … All Louse Flies are blood suckers, although none feeds regularly on humans. They may transmit disease between wild animals but do not to and between people.” You did not provide us with any specific information regarding where in Los Angeles you live. If near Griffith Park or some other deer habitat, it will strongly support this identification. There are also other Louse Flies that are bird parasites. We cannot locate any information regarding the possible web building you mentioned, and suspect that the Louse Flies were found in the proximity of legitimate spider webs. Eric Eaton wrote in: “Hi, Daniel: You are correct about the louse flies. What a cool find! We’d love to have more images at Bugguide (hint, hint, Santa).”

Thanks Guys
I live in a large apartment building in Cerritos Ca, Now that I may have identifiied my pest, now what? Thanks again Cheers!
Chris

Letter 9 – Louse Fly

 

These were all over me. Is this a parasite?
My last two weeks in the woods backpacking, I have been finding these bugs all over me and in my gear. Some of them have wings so I didn’t think they were ticks, but I have no idea if they are another type of parasite or just looking for warm moist places to hang out. Another intersting thing is that something about their legs allows them to grip clothing, so they do not fall off of anyhting. Maybe some kind of hair or barb? Any help?
Patrick

Hi Patrick,
This is a Louse Fly in the Family Hippoboscidae. They are winged but have feeble wings that drop off after they land on a host, usually a deer, where they suck blood and live as ectoparasites.

Letter 10 – Louse Fly

 

Unknown Bug Bit Me!
Fri, Nov 7, 2008 at 1:54 PM
Hi there!
I was out enjoying an unusually mild day here in the Catskills and some time later after I got home and sat down at the computer, I felt a bite on the small of my back. I pulled this bug off me (and it really held on, too) and squished it in retalliation. Now I’m looking at this strange critter and I have no idea what the heck it is. When I described it to my girlfriend she thought it sounded like some large variety of tick, but the leg segments look more like those of a spider. When she saw it in person, she was just as dumbstruck as I was. Attached are some close-up photos of the little biter, but I am thinking there is a possibility that a body segment is missing from when I killed it. I hope you can help us identify this weird thing (and tell me if I should be going to the doctor or not). Thanks a million.
Casey & Sara
Pine Hill, NY – Catskill Mtns

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Hi Casey and Sara,
Your photo makes it a bit difficult to identify your biter, but we suspect this is a Louse Fly.  Louse Flies are blood sucking ectoparasites whose usual hosts are deer.  The Louse Fly has very feeble wings, and generally loses the wings once it finds a host.  Your specimen was acting opportunistically and when it did not locate a deer, it went for the next best warm blooded host.

Letter 11 – Louse Fly

 

Whats this bug?
April 5, 2010
Hello, the other day whilst inside at home my mum pointed out that I had a bug on my sweatshirt. I picked it off and put it on the table and took a picture of it as non of us could identify it (sorry for the distance from it, it was only taken on my phone which wouldnt focus any closer). My dad thought it was a mite but on googling them it doesn’t look to be one of those. Can you identify it as we are all a bit worried! its okay if you can’t as its not the best picture
R.Mackie
Scotland

Sheep Ked

Dear R.Mackie,
Your photo is lacking in critical detail that will make identification easy, but we suspect we know the identity of your critter.  Do you live near a farm, especially one with sheep?  This looks like a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae, a true fly that begins its adult life with wings, which are shed when a mammalian host is found.  Louse Flies are common ectoparasites on sheep, hence the common name Sheep Ked.  You may read more about Louse Flies on BugGuide.

Letter 12 – Louse Fly

 

Maybe a louse fly?
Location:  North Idaho, USA
October 7, 2010 12:31 pm
Hi! Last night this strange little bug was crawling around in my hair. Kind of freaked me out. I crushed it while getting it out, but I could see what it looked like. Couldn’t identify it. This morning a similar one was crawling on my brother. He flicked it off into the kitchen sink and it drowned, but we fished it out and took pictures. I’m thinking maybe it’s a louse fly. THe whole creature is about 1/8” long. If I look VERY close I see tiny, tiny wings- no way they’d show up in pictures. Can you tell us about it and what we can do to keep them from crawling around on us?? Thanks!
Signature:  Hannah

Louse Fly

Hello Hannah,
Your suspicion that this is a Louse Fly is absolutely correct.  Considering that you are in northern Idaho, we suspect you might live near either a wooded area where there are deer or an agricultural area where there are sheep herds, two situations that would be conducive to supporting a large population of Louse Flies or Keds in the family Hippoboscidae.  According to BugGuide:  “Most are found on birds
” including the Pigeon Louse Fly.  The University of Florida website has an excellent web page on the Pigeon Louse Fly, and the Neotropical Deer Ked is also featured on a web page on the University of Florida Entomology website.

Letter 13 – Louse Fly

 

Bit My Daughter
Location: Upstate New york, Queensbury
November 15, 2010 9:17 am
This little fella bit my daughter this morning. It has 6 legs and almost looks ike a tiny brown cricket. Would love to know what this is.
Signature: Darryl

Louse Fly

Hi Darryl,
Your daughter was bitten by a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.  You may reference additional information on these biting, blood-sucking flies on BugGuide.  The various species of Louse Flies are often quite host specific, and the hosts include deer, sheep and pigeons, but opportunistic individuals are known to feed off of humans if the primary host is not available.

Thank you so much. We have an abundance of Deer on our property and are in constant battle with their ticks. This is certainly a new one!!

Letter 14 – Louse Fly

 

Subject: Flat shaped black colored flying insect
Location: living room, bedroom
May 21, 2013 5:37 pm
Flat shaped black colored flying insect, very irritating and stubborn.
Signature: .

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear .,
This is a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.  Adults feed on blood.  According to BugGuide:  “Most are host specific on bird species, with a few occurring on mammals.”  One species feeds on the blood of sheep and is known as the Sheep Ked.  Perhaps you live near an area where sheep are raised, but since we don’t know where you are located, we cannot say for certain.  If their preferred host is not available, opportunistic Louse Flies may bite humans.

Your concern was appreciated, keep it going!
As for my location, my locality homes quite many pigeons and cats, if that’s what these Louse Flies are feeding on.

Letter 15 – Louse Fly

 

Subject: Fly, beetle or spider hybrid
Location: baldwin park, ca
September 15, 2013 4:17 am
I have found three of these guys in my house. One just flew away with his life never to be heard from again, one my daughter accidently squashed and then this guy seemed to take a liking to my room, bunked who knows where & occasionally made either a strutting appearance on my wall or did a fly by. I didn’t see him again for a few days (definitely male, sheesh!) only to have the misfortune of walking on the nape of my neck whilst laying in my bed engrossed in a book & I slapped the back of my neck, jumped up and found him clinging to the back of my pj’s via one leg, taking a few last breaths. Anywho, I am curious to know what type of fly/beetle/spider this is as I have never seen this before I moved here. He was the size of a house fly but the body is flat and and diamond shaped and appeared to have a hard shelled body opposed to a fly.
Signature: mr serojo

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear mr serojo,
This is a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.  Louse Flies feed on the blood of mammals or birds, and some species are very particular about the host animal.  Hosts include pigeons, deer and sheep.  If you live near an agricultural community, it might explain the number of recent sightings.  Some species of Louse Flies attach to a host animal and then lose their wings, continuing to feed and no longer needing any mobility.  Without a preferred host, the individual you swatted on your neck might have been preparing to take a bite out of you.  Louse Flies are also called Keds.

Thank you kindly for the reply. I so seldom receive an answer from sites.  We just moved to a condo and a whole family of pigeons live in the central a/c unit that’s atop our roof. We have been pestering our landlord to properly cover the unit as they bunker inside, come out mornings and leave their gifts on our windows and patio. I have to admit I was more comfortable with my hybrid super bug; hearing the word louse is never pleasant, especially knowing you may have been the subpar – you will have to do” meal.
Again, thanks for the reply!

While we cannot speak for other websites, we do try our best to respond to as many requests as possible, but the fact of the matter is that we receive more mail than our tiny staff can handle.

Letter 16 – Louse Fly

 

Subject: Ticky looking bug but not a tick I’m told.
Location: BIrch Bay, Wa (State Park)
October 16, 2013 4:31 pm
Do ALL ticks have 8 legs? Here’s a pic of a bug that I swore was a tic but was told it’s not ~ It acted like tick if you watch it. No one can tell me what it is.
Most say we don’t even have ticks here but I’ve got the vet bill to prove we do ~ Found one on our dog last year.
These are photos I took of this thing.
I would SO appreciate it if you could tell me what this is. We haven’t been walking in the park since because I’m afraid of these things. My friend and I found several on us and it was like they were trying to burrow into our jeans. It creeps me out to think of them in my hair or getting in my shirt.
Signature: Not sure what this means.

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Adult Ticks have eight legs, but it is our understanding that larval Ticks have six legs.  This is not a Tick.  It is a Louse Fly and they are blood suckers.  Female Louse Flies must have a blood meal prior to reproducing.  According to BugGuide:  “Females rear one offspring at a time, the larva feeding in utero from special ‘milk’ glands. The mature larva is ‘born alive’ and immediately pupates in the soil (or on the host in some cases). Most are host specific on bird species, with a few occurring on mammals.”  We suppose they might bite humans if no other host is available.

Letter 17 – Louse Fly from Oman

 

Subject: screwworm?
Location: Oman
March 28, 2014 12:29 pm
Hi. I’m on the Arabian coast (Muscat, Oman) and recently found some feral dogs infected with this fly. It was curious to me because it was crawling underneath the coat, down at the skin level, and crawled on the dog as much as flew around him. Kinda hopeful that this is NOT screwworm, because… poor dogs!
Photos taken today (sorry — the fly’s a bit smooshed).
Signature: Char

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Hi Char,
This looks like a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.  Louse Flies feed on the blood of birds and mammals.  According to BugGuide “Most are host specific on bird species, with a few occurring on mammals.”  There are species that feed on sheep and deer, but we believe if they do not find a preferred host, they may feed off other species.

Letter 18 – Louse Fly

 

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Subject: Unidentified hitchhiker found in arm hair
Location: Newbury, VT
October 18, 2014 7:50 pm
I returned from a walk in the woods and felt a crawler under my shirt sleeve. I pulled my sleeve back expecting a tick and found this tiny critter instead. He was hanging on for dear life and could not be extracted by hand. We used my “mustache comb” to disentangle it and then snapped some pictures . The last picture shows how small it is compared to a tweezer. It seemed rather soft-bodied…
Signature: Dan in the NEK, VT

Hi Dan,
This is a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.  According to BugGuide:  “This group includes wingless and winged forms. Most winged ones are dark brownish and smaller than house flies. Flat shape and leathery appearance.”
  Winged species have feeble flight and often loose their wings upon landing on a host animal where they can suck blood.  BugGuide also notes:  “Most are found on birds, others on mammals” and we have discovered that some species are found on livestock and others on deer.  Louse Flies can be opportunistic, and if they cannot locate their typical prey, some will feed on human blood.

Letter 19 – Louse Fly

 

Subject: Need help identifying this bug
Location: Vermont
October 22, 2014 3:44 am
We are trying to figure out what type of bug this is. My son felt something on the back of his neck yesterday and took this bug off the back of his neck. He first thought it was a tick but looking at it, it does not appear to be a tick. It has six legs, with hair that you can see on them. It is kind of flat. It was walking sideways (like a crab) on the napkin after taking it of his neck. Any help identifying this would be appreciated.
Signature: Megan

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear Megan,
This is a blood sucking Louse Fly, and we just posted another image of a Louse Fly from Vermont a few days ago.

Letter 20 – Louse Fly

 

Subject: Please Help ID this Insect
Location: Catskill Mountains, NY
November 9, 2015 6:14 pm
Dear Bugman,
I live just outside the Catskill Mountains in southern New York. While on a recent hiking trip (October 2015) I came across a small bug I had never seen before. Can you tell me what it is?
Thank you,
Signature: Cole Hamling

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear Cole,
This is a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae, a blood-sucking ectoparasite that frequently loses its wings after landing upon a warm blooded host.  Considering your location, this is probably a species that feeds primarily on the blood of deer, though other species of Louse Flies are known to feed on birds or livestock.  Louse Flies can be opportunistic, feeding on the blood of humans if no other host is available.

Letter 21 – Louse Fly

 

Subject: Never seen one before in my life
Location: England
November 29, 2015 10:05 pm
This bug was on my leg and I took it off my leg and put it on some drawers and it only moved once and stood still for at least 10 minutes while I was looking at it.
Do you know what bug it is?
Thanks!
Signature: Josh

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear Josh,
This is a blood-sucking Louse Fly or Ked, and they are frequently found near livestock, but they are opportunistic, and they will feed off humans if no livestock is available.

Letter 22 – Louse Fly

 

Subject: Can you please tell me what this is?
Location: Austin TX
April 7, 2016 8:13 pm
For the second time now, I have found a singular small critter in my hair. My husband found one on his leg. They bite/sting/pinch. I’m not sure which. They are sort of the color of a cockroach, maybe a tinge lighter in color. I’ve never encountered this creature before. We have a large dog who goes out to the backyard frequently. There is a greenbelt behind our house. We also have an indoor cat and guinea pig. It seems like they crop up after we’ve been on the bed (which the animals get on) or the couch (which the animals aren’t allowed). Sorry it is partially smooshed. It was in my hair 🙁 Thank you for your expertise.
Signature: Dayna

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear Dayna,
This is a Louse Fly, a winged blood-sucker in the family Hippoboscidae.  Some species lose their wings upon landing on a host.

Letter 23 – Louse Fly

 

Subject: Fly??
Location: Darlington
June 28, 2016 7:05 am
Can you tell me what this is please? I had one in my bathroom which I flushed down plug hole then just found this one 2 days later crawling up door frame on the landing. It looks like it has wings but I didn’t see it fly, it was crawling both times. Not sure if it’s the same one which survived plug hole or of its another?? Don’t even know if it’s a fly but it only has 6 legs
Signature: Sandra

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear Sandra,
Please confirm that your location is Darlington, South Carolina.  We needed to do a web search to determine the location of the city Darlington, but we cannot say for certain that there is no city by that name in England.  This is a blood sucking Louse Fly.  They have warm blooded hosts.  Some feed on the blood of livestock, some on the blood of deer and some on the blood of birds.  They are opportunistic and they will feed off of human blood if there is no animal host available.

Hi thanks for your reply. I am in Darlington County Durham, U.K.  Is it likely that I will have more in my house?
Regards
Sandra

Thanks for the clarification Sandra.  If this is a species that preys on livestock and you are near livestock, you may get more.  If it is a species that preys upon deer and you are near a woods with deer, you may get more.  If this is a species that preys upon birds and you have a bird nest in your eaves, you may get more.

Letter 24 – 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!!

Letter 25 – Louse Fly, AKA Ked

 

What’s this bug?
I found this crawling on my goats and wondering what it is. I am in Vermont. Thanks
Chas

Ed. Note: After a very embarassing misidentification that we thankfully did not post, Chas sent us the following response. While researching, we found his images posted to BugGuide with a dialog series of responses debating Sheep Ked, Melophagus ovinus, versus Deer Ked, Lipoptena cervi.

Daniel,
Thanks for your help. … One of the other suggestions I have had is a Ked in the Family Hippoboscidae, Lipoptena cervi or Melophagus ovinus. If it is one of these keds, it’s important for me to find out wich one to decide if it is a real problem to my goats…. No apologies necessary. I really appreciate you lending your knowledge and experience on the topic. So you agree with the deer ked ID? I am trying to figure out if they are something to worry about. From what I understand the deer ked can only reproduce on deer, but not other mammals. I do wonder if my goats are close enough to deer to be a suitable host, though. There is also a similar bug, the sheep ked, that might be more of a problem for my goats. But I checked the goats closely today and I didn’t find any more keds and no sign of sheep ked (pupa or the blood waste from adults), so I think we are probably all right. Thanks for your help.
Chas

Hi Again Chas,
We don’t possess the necessary skill to identify this Louse Fly to the species level. Louse Flies are true flies that resemble ticks. We do have some information from Hogue’s book, Insects of the Los Angeles Basis, that in a general way, might be helpful. There are many species of Louse Flies, and some are even parasitic on birds. They are ectoparasites, and feed on blood. Here is some of Hogue’s information: “Upon emerging from the pupa, this fly – which possesses wings that are fully developed although fragile – flies among the trees or shrubs in search of the host (it can survive at this stage for only a few days in the absence of the normal host). Upon successfully finding a deer, it immediately crawls through the hair to the skin and begins to suck blood. Here it remains as a permanent parasite, soon losing its wings through wear. … All Louse Flies are blood suckers, although none feeds regularly on humans. They may transmit disease between wild animals but not to and between people. Development of these flies is of a special type: the larva is not free-living but matures within the body of the female parent. When the puparium is formed, the female deposits it on the host whence it soon falls off onto the ground.” So, chances are very good that whatever the species, your Louse Fly will not become an infestation.

Letter 26 – Louse Fly, we believe

 

Subject: Tick-like Insect?
Location: Becket, MA
November 17, 2013 10:34 am
11/17/2013
Dear Bugman,
What is this?? I found it crawling on my neck yesterday . I felt a tickle and pinch, just like a tick feels as it is trying to attach. When I handled it, the body was much softer than a ticks and it appears to have three body segments rather than two (like a tick). It’s six legs looked much like those of a wood tick.
Signature: Jenna

Louse Fly, we believe
Louse Fly, we believe

Dear Jenna,
This appears to be a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.  They normally prey upon warm blooded mammals like deer or sheep, and some species feed prey upon birds.  In they absence of their normal prey, they have been known to bite humans.  Many species of Louse Flies do have wings and they are capable of feeble flight, but they lose the wings when they find a host to feed upon, sucking blood for nourishment.  See BugGuide for additional information.

Letter 27 – Louse Fly from Dubai

 

Subject: dark room bug
Location: Dubai
May 25, 2017 3:26 am
Dear Bugman,
Please help me identify this bug
I work in a dark laboratory and almost every week this bug attacks my face or hides on my head scarf (black).
I attached a picture of the bug
Signature: Shaima Askar

Louse Fly

Dear Shaima,
This sure looks to us like a Louse Fly, but finding it in a dark laboratory is a mystery.  Louse Flies are blood suckers that are often found near livestock, especially sheep.  Is there any livestock near your Dubai laboratory?  Some Louse Flies prey upon birds like nesting pigeons.  If the nestlings have flown, remaining Louse Flies might be bothering you for a meal.

Dear Mr.Daniel,
Thank you very much for the fast reply. You are 100% right ..the bug in the Picture looks exactly like the louse fly  ..I’m amaized how fast you recognized it . I think the reason behind the fly is probably in pigeons because the lab is on the top floor and near the door leading to the roof I’ll have to inform someone to check if there are any nest there or something.
Thank you again

Letter 28 – Louse Fly in England

 

Subject: Brown bug
Location: Newcastle upon Tyne
May 25, 2017 5:44 am
Hi wondering if u could tell me what type of bug this is as I keep getting them in my bathroom
Thanks Angela Williams
Signature: Angela Williams

Louse Fly

Dear Angela,
This is a blood-sucking Louse Fly, and depending upon the species, they normally prey upon deer, livestock especially sheep, or nesting birds like pigeons.  If you live near woodlands with deer or farms with sheep, you might not be able to control their presence.  If pigeons were nesting in your eaves, and the yong have flown, you might want to try removing old nests to see if that helps to control their presence in your home.  If Louse Flies cannot feed on their prey of choice, they might try taking human blood.

Letter 29 – Louse Fly found on Head

 

Subject:  Bug found in hair
Geographic location of the bug:  My head
August 28, 2017 4:02 AM
Hi, I found this single bug in my hair. It is about 2mm in size, and was a honey brown color. My husband checked my head pretty thoroughly and doesn’t see anything else. It doesn’t look exactly like a louse but I can’t tell what else it might be. Help!
How you want your letter signed:  Scared

Louse Fly

Dear Scared,
Knowing the geographic location of your head at the time this sighting was made would be very helpful.  We don’t know if you found this Louse Fly in Lithuania, in Oman or in New York.  Louse Flies are blood-suckers that generally feed on livestock like sheep, or on large mammals like deer, but they are opportunistic and they will bite and feed off humans if other prey is not available.  The good news is that they will most likely not reproduce and infest your head, wherever it is located. 

Hi Daniel – sorry about that. I am in Connecticut. So are you saying it’s a louse fly and not headlice?

That is exactly correct.  Louse Flies often lose their wings when they find prey.

Letter 30 – Louse Fly from England

 

Subject: Some sort of louse fly?
Location: Burntwood, England
June 12, 2015 3:32 am
I recently found to of these bugs in my flat. I thought they were spiders at first as they crawled around like them, but then I noticed they had small wings and only 6 legs. However, they will not fly at all so I’m guessing the wings are useless for them.
I’ve tried looking up what they are but all I could gather is that they are some sort of louse fly.
Would you be able to tell me exactly what they are? Maybe what their hosts are so I can prevent them from getting into my home?
I live in the West Midlands, the nearest woods/forest is Cannock Chase which is about 1 mile away from me.
It is rather warm at the moment, going into summer.
The photo is the best I could get of it as it kept scuttling around. It is of brown colour and measured about 1cm long (leg to leg).
Signature: Natalie

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Hi Natalie,
You are correct that this is a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.  The fact that you are not near woods would not be limitation to the presence of Louse Flies, though we generally think of them as being blood sucking parasites that feed on the blood of deer, sheep or other large animals.  According to BugGuide, they feed on the “blood of birds/mammals” which means they might have a flying host in your home and BugGuide also notes the common name Bird Ticks for Louse Flies.  Pigeons would be a likely host bird, so you might have encountered Pigeon Louse Flies,
Pseudolychia canariensis, that are profiled on Featured Creatures where it states:  “This fly is an obligate parasite of birds, especially feral and domestic pigeons and doves (Columbiformes). It is found wherever pigeons are encountered in tropical, subtropical, and temperate areas with mild winters worldwide.”  Additional information on Featured Creatures regarding the life cycle of the Pigeon Louse Fly states:  “Louse flies have a very interesting reproductive strategy. The female produces one larva at a time and retains the developing larva in her body until it is ready to pupate. The larva feeds on the secretions of a “milk gland” in the uterus of its mother. After three larval instars, the larva has reached its maximum size, the mother gives birth to the white pre-pupa which immediately begins to darken and form the puparium or pupal shell. The pupa of the pigeon louse fly looks like a dark brown, egg-shaped seed. The pupa is found in the nest of the host or on ledges where the birds roost. When the fly has completed its metamorphosis, the winged adult emerges from the puparium and flies in search of a host.”

Letter 31 – Louse Fly from Israel

 

WTB?
Location:  israel
August 23, 2010 7:25 am
hi in need help this bug to sting me
and send me to the hospital
Signature:  email

Louse Fly

Dear email,
This is a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.  Louse Flies usually prey upon birds.  They land on a host and shed their wings after which thy look similar to a louse.

Letter 32 – Louse Fly from Poland

 

Subject: Blood sucker in Poland
Location: Poland
June 3, 2015 1:52 pm
This bug sucked blood from my face after a short hike around a small town Poland. It was about the size of a dime I think. The bite left a small raised bump that went away after a couple hours. Please help!
Signature: Shaun

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Hi Shaun,
This is a blood-sucking Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscoidea whose members fly feebly and often lose their wings when they land on a warm blooded host.  Louse Flies are often associated with sheep and those species are known as Sheep Keds.
  We are post-dating your submission so that it goes live in mid June.

Thank you so much Daniel for your quick reply! I feel much better knowing
exactly what it is. The no
wings threw me off. Great job, and thanks again.
-Shaun

Letter 33 – Louse Fly from Sweden

 

Subject:  What is this flying insect
Geographic location of the bug:  Uppsala Sweden
Date: 07/01/2018
Time: 08:26 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hi, I found this bug on my arm when I got back from a forest hike. It was tricky to get off and even trickier to kill. It’s body was very flat and it survived three squashes (finally killed it the fourth time). What is it?!
How you want your letter signed:  Nicely?

Louse Fly

You were wise to swat this blood-sucking Louse Fly.  Though Louse Flies typically feed off wild animals like deer and domestic animals like sheep, they are opportunistic and will attack humans if there is no other prey.  To the best of our knowledge, they do not spread diseases.

Letter 34 – Louse Fly from Northern Ireland

 

Subject: Louse type fly ????
Location: Armagh Northern Ireland
July 2, 2017 4:29 am
Hi I woke up last night with something clinging to my neck swiped it off and in the morning kept getting bothered by this tenacious beast it had a very solid hold on my skin and clothing (so assume it has claw like feet) and was not overly excited until I took it out into the light in the glass then it seemed to go berserk to get out of the light. There is a green tinge to the legs, and wings fold flush to the body like an insect that would shed the wings ? Pictures are ‘lousy’ I know but any help would be great. There are sheep in the nearby fields.
Signature: Scott

Louse Fly

Dear Scott,
Your images are not ideal, but we believe you are correct that this is a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.

Hi Daniel many thanks my first encounter with one but no bites I think.
All the very best Scott

Letter 35 – Louse Fly, possibly Neotropical Deer Ked

 

Help! WTF is this bug, and why did I find it on my HEAD!
Location:  Connecticut
September 27, 2010 10:22 am
Hello, for the past 2 days I’ve been paranoid about ticks. I shot my first deer on Thursday, and while skinning it a tick jumped off and landed in my hair. I felt it moving and had a friend pull it off. Today is Monday morning, and after 3 sleepless nights, i come into work on Monday Morning and feel a little itch on the back of my neck. I scratch, but feel the itch a little to the left a few minutes later. I feel something moving between my back hair line and the backside of my ear! I pull off this little guy. I have no idea what it is. I’ve look at all the tick, spider, mite, and bedbug charts but cant seem to find anything that matches. As you can see in the picture it appears to have 4 legs in the rear, and 2 forward legs with a semi-pointed abdomen. It’s about 1/2 a CM in width & Length. Can you please help me identify this thing? I HOPE TO GOD this is just just a normal bug that found it’s way into my clothes last night (Laid them over a travel bag on the floor last night) or my car, etc. THANKS!!!
Signature:  Andrew

Louse Fly

Hi Andrew,
This is a Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.  Louse Flies are true flies that are capable of flying feebly.  They feed on blood of warm blooded animals, and many are relatively host specific, but they are opportunistic and will feed upon a substitute species if the primary host is unavailable.  Louse Flies that feed on sheep are known as Sheep Keds and there is a species found in North America,
Lipoptena mazamae, that is commonly called the Neotropical Deer Ked.  According to BugGuide:  “This fly is a common obligate ectoparasite of New World deer. It has been collected on white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) from the southeastern United States to Brazil (Bequaert 1942) and other deer species in the tropics.”  BugGuide indicates the range to be:  “Southeastern United States north at least to Virginia and west to Oklahoma and Texas. South to northern Argentina.”  Just because there are no reports on BugGuide of Neotropical Deer Keds from Connecticut does not mean the Louse Fly you found is a different species.  BugGuide also has this fascinating information on the life cycle of the Neotropical Deer Ked:  “Deer keds have a very interesting reproductive strategy. The female produces one larva at a time and retains the developing larva in her body until it is ready to pupate. The larva feeds on the secretions of a “milk gland” in the uterus of its mother. After three larval instars, the larva has reached its maximum size, the mother gives birth to the white pre-pupa which immediately begins to darken and form the puparium or pupal shell. The pupa falls from the deer and is usually deposited where the deer bedded. When the fly has completed its metamorphosis, the winged adult emerges from the puparium and flies in search of a host. After finding a host the adult fly breaks off its wings and is now permanently associated with that one deer. Both sexes feed on the blood of the host deer. They can live on a deer for up to 6 months.

Wow thanks for the quick response. So it is deer related, and it has been in my hair… oh boy. Do you know if should I used some sort of special shampoo to ensure there are no more, or to kill any of that interesting larvae you mentioned?  Since this appears to be in the early – non reproductive stages, do I even need to worry about larva being in my hair?

Since we are not experts, we generally refrain from giving health advice and we suggest that concerned individuals visit a doctor or clinic.

Letter 36 – Louse Fly from South Africa

 

Subject: REDISH FLYING BUG
Location: Bellville, South Africa
January 21, 2014 6:52 am
Dear Bugman
We found this bug in our office.
It is very quiet and rather fast. One of the ladies that works with me said that it stung her.
What would it be?
Kind regards
Signature: JG

Louse Fly
Louse Fly

Dear JG,
Your coworker had an encounter with a blood-sucking Louse Fly in the family Hippoboscidae.  They are generally found near wildlife or livestock.  Your individual looks very much like an image tentatively identified as
Hippobosca rufipes on ISpot.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

53 thoughts on “Louse Fly: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell”

  1. hi, Sir

    i have watched this fly in my house also, this fly had taken byte to my spouse, after byte that bitten space is looking too reddish & with full of swelling, after that i am confused, thanks to http://www.whatsthatbug.com i had identified on this website….. & thanks for you also…. for informing me about this fly…….

    Anuj Gulati

    Reply
    • We are happy we were helpful. These Louse Flies or Keds seem to be most common where there are flocks of sheep or a healthy deer population.

      Reply
  2. I been finding these deer fly louse in long Island, N.Y. too. Do they die in the winter months and or what pesticides can use them? I have to check my dog and me every time me or dog goes out.

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  3. I have seen these insects in N Idaho for many years, but it was especially bad this year. On a warm late October day, right after it rained, the air was thick with them. Almost like mosquitoes swarming around my head. The area had lots of deer around, but I never associated them with deer although I have seen them on the hide of deer I harvested in the past. Pesky little bugs, took several home unsuspectingly in my hair and clothes.

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  4. Omg, this is the same exact insect I found in my hair, I was also told it’s all in my head and I have delusional parasintosis. I had been complaining for 6 months something is living in my hair I been to several doc who just said no lice, I was complaining to Docs my hair was moving and wah-lah this little speck came on my comb, I had been seeing specks but never took the time to look at them. I took the speck went to my daughters room put it under her microscope when it focused I almost fainted. I took it to my doc which said it was a louse. But the more I looked at it I can see it is not bcuz I see wings, then a second was on my neck I looked at it under the scope and
    there it was, now Elaine or anyone out there, How in God’s name do I get rid of hair thrips. I have been going through HELL..

    Reply
    • Please let me know I found them in my hair too went to one Dermatologist thought I was a nut case. Trying dog shampoo citronella clove oil in my hair nothing works

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    • Hi! I’ve had these a couple times as I’m a plant freak and have loads in my house, which makes them pretty common. I also have long hair that I bunch up so they can hide really well. There’s an easy solution you can try out: find some high quality tea tree oil (Australian if you can). Mix a few drops with a carrier oil (olive is amazing as I believe it has insecticidal properties), or you can just use Argan oil which is also great for hair. Get the mix in your hair and scalp and leave it for a few hours. Before washing it out, spray a little vinegar in hair and comb, they’ll all come right out. Don’t freak out when they fall on your shoulders, they seem totally harmless. Hope this helps!

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  5. Omg, this is the same exact insect I found in my hair, I was also told it’s all in my head and I have delusional parasintosis. I had been complaining for 6 months something is living in my hair I been to several doc who just said no lice, I was complaining to Docs my hair was moving and wah-lah this little speck came on my comb, I had been seeing specks but never took the time to look at them. I took the speck went to my daughters room put it under her microscope when it focused I almost fainted. I took it to my doc which said it was a louse. But the more I looked at it I can see it is not bcuz I see wings, then a second was on my neck I looked at it under the scope and
    there it was, now Elaine or anyone out there, How in God’s name do I get rid of hair thrips. I have been going through HELL..

    Reply
  6. I had one of these in my van yesterday in Harrisburg, Pa. It was originally crawling up my leg, under my shorts, and I slapped it and it flew out up to the top of my van ceiling. It was walking sideways, and that’s what freaked me out. I hit it with my phone, flat side onto flat ceiling. It wasn’t fazed and walked sideways again. Now I hit it 4 more times, and it starts flying around. Caught it in an empty water bottle, and it got thrown out with the recycle today. Strangest insect experience of my life.

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  7. I returned home from work after a few months and found a huge pigeon nest outside my window. The eggs had already hatched so I didn’t have the heart to throw the nest. After a few.days I noticed this weird black flying tick. It wasn’t from my dog and it was super creepy. It always jumped on my face when I tried to kill it. Then I noticed that late night it would bite me and once it was feasting on my scalp. I was freaked out. I have sprayed HIT insect repellent but am not sure if it will work.

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  8. My best solution has been mousse as it seems to remove eggs as well as other stages. Say ain’t daily is helpful too . Maui make a coconut hair oil that can be sprayed in the It is very helpful. Leave in 100% of the time. Vegetable oil is helpful too. Pray tell, did these seem to go dormant in the winter and return in the spring? Hi

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  9. I have a few ideas for you that will help. One is that these need air – drown them. Lie back in the bathtub with your hair under the water and count to 100. Within 6 hours they will have fallen out. I think they get into the pores, maybe lay their eggs in them so they return. There are shampoos that help, one is millcreek botanicals tea tree oil. The conditioner is very good as well. Start out putting whichever on dry hair. I often just use the conditioner in the morning and leave it on for 3 – 4 minutes. Putting it on dry makes a huge difference. Get a hair brush with the old style bristles, goodie make one that Walmart carry. As you brush you loosen what is on the hair . Good luck

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  10. Take Apple cider vinegar with the mother. Vitality Health carry the best brand in a brown jug. It seems to get rid of the ones under the skin. It takes a long time, maybe 3 months to get rid of them.

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  11. Try apple cider vinegar with the mother from a health food store. a tsp 3 times a day well diluted in water or a juice or smoothies. On hot water with honey and caysnne pepper and lemon is a great way. Millcreek botanicals rea tree oil shampoois good. soak your hair daily in creme rinse, put on dry. sauna. you are not crazy.

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  12. Has anybody got any other symptoms with these things other than their scalp? Such as white little egg looking granules coming out of the skin?

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  13. Sad to report about 5 months after thinking i got rid of them I am finding them again. Any other suggestions would be great

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  14. I reallllly need help. I started getting bitten by bugs. Then I realized that I had eggs in my hair and then checked my kids. They had eggs too. I spent HOURS online looking up what it could be. My son had a bright green bug jump out of his hair and I didn’t think it coo related. I have been collected like 5 different stages of this bug. Some are just small black specks, then there are long skinny white ones that come out of your skin, eggs that come out of your skin, then larger bugs. I FINALLY realized they are this thrip bug.
    This is embarrassing but they have even got my private parts. My husband doesn’t believe me and thinks I’m nuts but the kids were in the pool/hot tub for hours and then clusters of eggs and the long white body things started coming out of their skin the next day- which was yesterday. I want to put me and my young kids in a plastic bubble and run away. I’m afraid to sit on my couch, sleep, etc.
    PLEASE HELP- M.E.D.

    Reply
  15. I reallllly need help. I started getting bitten by bugs. Then I realized that I had eggs in my hair and then checked my kids. They had eggs too. I spent HOURS online looking up what it could be. My son had a bright green bug jump out of his hair and I didn’t think it coo related. I have been collected like 5 different stages of this bug. Some are just small black specks, then there are long skinny white ones that come out of your skin, eggs that come out of your skin, then larger bugs. I FINALLY realized they are this thrip bug.
    This is embarrassing but they have even got my private parts. My husband doesn’t believe me and thinks I’m nuts but the kids were in the pool/hot tub for hours and then clusters of eggs and the long white body things started coming out of their skin the next day- which was yesterday. I want to put me and my young kids in a plastic bubble and run away. I’m afraid to sit on my couch, sleep, etc.
    PLEASE HELP- M.E.D.

    Reply
    • Hi Molly,
      I hope your nightmare has ended. Can you please share how did you treat it? I am having same issue and going through the same nightmare you have been through. Thanks

      Reply
  16. I have experienced all of this and I have almost goyyen rid of them. First to get rid of most coat ypur hair and scalp with oil. I used crisco. Have a bath in epsom salts. Get Apple cider vinegar capsules, Organika are best and take a few times daily, even up to 6 per day. Very helpful. Also get as much garlic into your system as possible. You can roast it in foil in the oven for 45 mins. youtube will show you to drizzle oil on it but I found the oil upset my stomach. thee is a secret detox drink online, avc, honey or maplexsyrup, ginger etc. Add garlic to it and GET GARLIC Shampoo In Canada there is a Vatika brand for under &6.00. Very helpful. every day should get better but it takes weeks. good luck.

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  17. I came across this page, because I have same issue. I found this bug in my hair with long antenna for few months now and tried lice treatments, olive oil and Cedar oil..but they don’t go away. I didn’t see them on my body, but i feel like a sting and something crawling but can’t see anything. You are saying it can be under the skin? does it really go away in winter and comes back again in spring?
    what otehr oil to use to get rid of them in my hair and how to know if they are under my skin?
    thank you

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  18. This is crazy. My dog is almost bald from these. They’re all over me. There’s not one place on my body that it doesn’t effect. They’re orange, glittery, black, white egg looking thing. I’m miserable and no one can help. They’re finally sending me to a infectious disease doctor. Also I find rubbing alcohol helps. Also Selsun blue.

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    • Brittany, please keep us updated! Many of us are in the same boat, with nowhere to turn. If your infectious diesease doctor is good and you are in the United States, please share the info. Or share it anyway. I’ll travel. I would like to know more about what you’re experiencing. I’ve read so many different things from people here. . . eggs in the skin, long white body-looking things coming out in the sauna, eggs in the hair. I would like to know what the eggs look like, whether you’ve had things in your skin, what all the phases of the life cycle are. Perhaps those of us affected should start a yahoo group or some such and share photos to inform ourselves.

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  19. Just found this site. Thank you everyone! Over twelve years ago my pre-k kids brought home lice. I’ve been battling it (I thought) all this time. Last month I went to a freeze lice clinic and they told me I didn’t have lice and was delusional. (The freezing $209 stopped the itching for one week) I purchased a microscope to prove I wasn’t crazy and found a bug I couldn’t identify. Yes, it fits with thrips.
    Thanks for the advice above.
    Today 1 tsp pure neem, 1 tsp dawn in 24 oz spray bottle left on with a plastic bag on my head. They say topical neem can affect the kidneys if used for more than 2 weeks? So I’m doing all you say at the same time. ACV drink throughout the day, just had my first ACV with honey. Garlic pills have been ordered.
    FYI I discovered peppermint essential oil put in the hair stops them biting so I’m putting a splash of that on before the neem mix.

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  20. So everyone who has this problem, I also have this problem and it’s going on my second year. Doctors will say your delusional because they can’t see them, but we know our bodies and we know there is something wrong. The problem is these doctors now days are not smart there all nurse practitioners and anyone can be a doctor, they all look towards the internet to cure people now day watch them when you go to your next visit. Anyway I think I have a cure and I now what it is look closer with a scope and see if they have wings if they do I know the cure just email me and I’ll tell you because I just ordered mine

    Reply
    • I am having the same issues and yes some of the ones I have do have wings. I would greatly appreciate any information that you may have regarding these things. Body bugs is one of my biggest phobias that I have and this is driving me crazy. Thank you for your help.

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  21. I have had these thrips for years now. I thought they were bedbugs but I was told I didn’t have those.I am told I have prurigo nodularis. Bugs make prurigo nodularis worse. All I know is that I am in pain and I have tried mint oil, Neem oil,tea tree oil, lavender oil, olive oil, African oil, (it’s a blend of oils)and also many other oils. Neem oil and tea tree oil and olive oil are helpful. Petroleum jelly smothers them some. Alochol 91 kills them on contact. I bathe in ebsom salt,and tea tree oil it helps to Sulfur shampos and soaps help kill them off too. My dermatologist told me to use the sulfur.I hope this helps someone.Pest control is needed too, I’m told. So I will do it too

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  22. I CANNOT BELIEVE IT! Stumbled on to this site & am SHOCKED at what I have read! EXACT SAME situation! Symptoms, Diagnoses & ACCUSATIONS by “Dr’s” & Family: DELUSIONAL, SPUN-OUT, Etc. If this post works, will give more details. But Head/Body Lice symptoms, many sores on scalp NOT from picking or scratching! OTC lice treatment give temporary relief anywhere from 2-36 hrs. These things are even IN MY NOSE/SINUSES! Nose bleeds, tickling feelings DIFFERENT from allergies or hairs, weird headaches, shortness of breath with little exhertion, like when I had COVID Pneumonia! Forced to buy microscope to prove bug is REAL! Still no convincing! Had emergency appt with ANOTHER Dermatologist 1 1/2 wks ago. Couldn’t ID critter or see on me, but prescribed me something noone else would. Oral IVERMECTIN. Took 2nd round today. STILL been needing to treat scalp every other day. Hopefully I can attach my pics? Look forward to your replies & comments! & MAYBE, if we all ban together, can get these self-righteous Dr’s to open their minds & admit they’re WRONG! (won’t hold breath)

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    • Wow what a relief to find this out. Been throw it all as well. Thought I was crazy myself. I’m a hairy guy as it is and thought I had body lice I’m a plumber nothing would surprise me but yea found these thrips instead thanks for the info Rob…..

      Reply

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