Deer louse fly: what to do when the “flying tick” bites?

Deer louse fly: what to do when the "flying tick" bites?

Late summer and autumn are the high season for deer lice, also known as “flying ticks”. The insect, which is relatively unknown to most people, sometimes buzzes around in flocks in the forest and on the edge of the forest and is primarily interested in the blood of deer, roe deer or wild boar. But dogs, horses and humans are not safe from the bloodsucker either. The bite of the deer fly can cause a rash and inflammation. Here, you can discover what you should know about the parasites and their dangers.

What does a deer louse fly look like?

At first glance, the deer louse fly (Latin: Lipoptena cervi) looks like a tick with wings, hence the name “flying tick”. Its body is five to seven millimetres long, so its size makes it easy to see with the naked eye. The body is reddish brown and slightly flattened. The legs are robust, well suited for nimble crawling and equipped with hooks to hold onto the fur.

It can fly around quickly and target its prey from the air. After landing in the fur or the hair, the females throw off their transparent wings because they remain attached to their host until the end of their lives. Even without wings, deer flies are very agile and agile. They prefer to stay in the hair, where they can hide well.

 

Is the deer fly a tick?

Although the deer louse fly is also known as a “flying tick” or “deer louse” for short, it is neither a tick nor a louse, but a fly, specifically a louse fly. In contrast to ticks, which have eight legs and are spiders, ticks have six legs and are insects. In particular, a deer fly without wings can quickly be mistaken for a tick. Both animals have something in common: Both ticks and deer flies bite to suck blood, causing their abdomen to swell visibly.

Where is the deer louse fly?

The habitat of the deer louse fly in Germany is forests and forest edges – their occurrence is highest in mixed pine and oak forests. They can often be found in swarms searching for a host animal such as deer, roe deer, wild boar, foxes or badgers. Once it has found a host, it remains there for its entire lifespan. This can be many months. During this time, the louse fly bites again and again. Humans are not the preferred target of animals.

Usually, the larvae die off in cold temperatures. However, with increasingly higher temperatures and milder winters, the deer aphid fly can multiply more and more and spread more widely. Therefore, the pests are more and more often found near the forest, where they also attack people on walks. The flies swarm mainly between September and November but earlier in hot summers.

 

Deer Fly – Bite or Sting?

There are stinging and biting insects. Mosquitoes, for example, have a beak to tap directly into blood vessels. Black flies, on the other hand, use saw-like mouthparts to create a small wound from which they then suck the blood with their proboscis.

The deer mouse has teeth and a beak; strictly speaking, it doesn’t sting; it bites. Colloquially, however, there is talk of both a bite and a sting. Sucking out the blood can take up to 20 minutes.

Deer louse fly: what happens when it bites?

The bite of the deer fly can be excruciating for animals, which is why dogs and horses, for example, often react in panic. On the other hand, people often do not notice that they have been bitten because the bite is often almost painless. The bite wound in humans is preferably located in the neck at the hairline or on the head. The bite site is often almost invisible.

However, this can lead to a rash or other skin reactions. The following symptoms are then possible:

  • severe itching
  • formation of wheals
  • swelling
  • inflammation

The itching can last about two to three weeks. It is suspected that allergic reactions could be behind these symptoms.

Bite of the deer fly in humans – what helps?

You should disinfect and cool the bite site if the deer louse fly bites. As with all bites and stings, it is important not to scratch to prevent bacteria from entering the wound and causing infection. Keep a close eye on the area over the next few days because if you have (purulent) inflammation or symptoms such as fever, you should see a doctor for further treatment.

It’s also essential to find and remove the fly. Otherwise, it will hide in your hair, waiting for another chance to bite.

 

Flying ticks – dangerous for humans?

Like most insect bites, deer louse bites are primarily annoying but harmless. However, most deer aphid flies carry the pathogen Bartonella schoenbuchensis, a bacterium mainly found in red deer and cattle.

If the tiny parasites bite, these bacteria could be transmitted to humans (zoonosis). However, they do not trigger dangerous diseases, but the deer cause dermatitis. Deer louse dermatitis is associated with a rash, redness, itching, and bumps on the skin. In one case, after transmission of the pathogen by a tick, there was also fever, chronic exhaustion and muscle pain. In addition, one repeatedly hears that Bartonella schoenbuchensis can cause human heart inflammation. However, experts do not see sufficient scientific evidence for this assumption.

However, insects do not play an essential role as transmitters of other pathogens, such as the Borrelia bacteria found in many ticks, which cause Lyme disease. Whether deer louse flies can transmit other diseases is currently the subject of research.

Attack of the deer louse fly: what to do?

If you notice a deer fly that has just landed and hasn’t bitten yet, you can easily remove it:

  • You can do this, for example, by gripping them with two fingers. Since the flies can crawl very quickly, it takes a bit of skill.
  • Deer flies that have not yet bitten dogs or horses can be brushed out with a fine-meshed comb (flea comb).
  • Sticky tape for the bugs to cling to can also work well, even if it gets stuck easily in fur or hair.
  • A thorough shower can also help get rid of the flies.

How do you protect yourself from deer lice flies?

To protect against deer louse flies, avoiding wooded areas where the parasites are found is advisable. While no proven anti-deer aphid remedies exist, anti-tick and anti-mosquito sprays may help repel the insects. Essential oils such as citronella, rosemary, cloves, and lavender are also used as home remedies.

Deer louse flies often attack in small swarms but can only fly short distances, so a quick run away can usually shake them off. Since the swarms typically remain in one place, you can avoid the corresponding place in the future to protect yourself from the deer aphid flies.

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