Florida Insects - Been Bitten Lately?
Click the speaker to hear the Yellow Fly
WHAT IS A YELLOW FLY? (Family Tabanidae) In Florida, about twelve different flies are all called "yellow flies" or "deer flies." They are all about 1/2" long with black and yellow bodies and 2 pairs of wings. The males [boys] do not bite. Instead, they eat nectar, the sweet juice inside flowers. Only the females (girls) bite and suck blood. She needs the protein in blood to make her babies. The female usually lays 50-300 eggs on the grasses above a marsh or pond. After about a week, the eggs hatch and the baby yellow flies, called larvae, drop into the water. They stay in the water eating dead plants or tiny animals all winter long. When the larvae get to be 1/2" long, they crawl out of the water and become a pupa. Inside the pupa they dont eat. Instead they grow and change into an adult yellow fly. They are born sometime between March and August. Most yellow flies like to be in the shade, and they stay away from bright sunlight. Also, most are afraid of small spaces, so they wont follow you inside a car or building. But in the shade, twenty or thirty can swarm around your head and shoulders at the same time. When they bite, it hurts! At a fast jog, you can outrun most of them. However, once these flies find you, it is hard to make them go away. In addition to biting people, yellow flies bite wild and domestic animals, reptiles, and amphibians. Insect repellents that you can spray on your skin dont help much when it comes to yellow flies. The best ways to deal with them are to stay inside, stay in the sunlight, or run!
Click the speaker to hear the Mosquito!
WHAT IS A MOSQUITO? (Family Culicidae) The mosquito is a type of biting fly. The females are blood-suckers and use the blood proteins to make their babies. The males are nectar-feeders and do not bite. Two or three days after she has eaten, the mother mosquito can lay about 200 eggs on the surface of the water. This water can be in a puddle, a pond, or even a salt marsh. The eggs float around until they stick to some grasses. It usually takes 2-3 days for the babies (wrigglers) to hatch. They eat very tiny plants and animals in the water. After they have eaten enough, they become a pupa. Inside the pupa, they change from a wriggler into an adult mosquito in less than a week. Female mosquitoes may survive the winter, but many live only 25 days. Often, the males only live for a week. The main times mosquitoes eat is at dawn and dusk. During the day, they just rest on hollow trees, stumps, or ditches. They dont usually fly more than 1 mile from their resting spot. The females usually suck the blood of mammals, including people. Mosquitoes can transmit some diseases like malaria, encephalitis, and heartworms (to dogs). They can NOT transmit AIDS because their stomachs digest the AIDS virus as food. By digesting it, the mosquito kills the virus, so it cant be passed on to anyone else. The best way to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes is to wear insect repellent when you are outside in the spring, summer, and fall.
WHAT IS A NO-SEE-UM or BITING MIDGE? (Family Ceratopogonidae) No-see-ums are tiny biting flies that often live near water. They never fly more than 350 feet from their breeding area, so if theyre bothering you, you might be able to get away from them by moving a few yards. Theyre called no-see-ums because it is hard to see um. (Theyre less than 1/4 inch long.) Only the females are blood-suckers. They swarm around their prey in clouds of tiny no-see-ums. They take blood from mammals, reptiles, and other insects. Male no-see-ums are nectar feeders. The larvae (babies) can be found in water, mud, or moist dead leaves. They especially like to live in the dying plants along the edge of a salt marsh. The larvae eat dead plant and animal matter. The bites from female no-see-ums hurt and itch. The best way to keep from getting bitten is to spray a lot of insect repellent on yourself and try to move away from areas where they swarm.
Check out the Insects coloring page by clicking on the Animal Coloring Page box below!
Cilek, James E. Ph.D. and Mulrennan, John A. "The Yellow-Biting Flies of Florida." Entguide: EG#1. Florida A & M University.
Lyon, William F. Midges and Crane Flies. Ohio State University Extension Factsheet.
O"Malley, Claudia M. "The Biology of Anopheles quadrimaculatus say" The Proceedings of the Seventy-Ninth Annual Meeting of the New Jersey Mosquito Control Association, Inc., 1992 pp. 136-144.
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St. Johns River Power Park, Jacksonville Electric Authority, Florida Power and Light
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