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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Horse and Deer Flies on the attack

Horse and deer flies are now patrolling the trace. They have staked out several areas between stations and are laying in wait. They are ambush predators that notice movement. I witnessed the pests this past weekend while doing several group rides. The horse flies will actually join the pace line and draft. You can see them between you and the next rider. This is simply amazing. At some points during the ride we are cruising at 23+ MPH and the horse flies were taking it in stride. Some of the buggers were actually large enough for me to draft off of them. However, they are selfish and never actually take a full pull.

On Tuesday morning I went on a 10 mile run from my house along the trace. This is the first time that I have ran ‘out in the woods’ in a while. I have been running during lunch at work which is more populated. This turned into the hardest / worst run that I have ever done. I had wanted to maintain a challenging pace for the entire run and I was successful for the most part. But, there were several stretches of the trace were I would get a dozen deer flies pursuing me. They were tenacious. I knew that I could not out run them. All of the swatting and arm flailing actually raised my heart rate a good 5 beats. This put me over the edge for the LT run that I was attempting. I had remembered that Jen over at The Running Artist had encountered the devils and had come up with a solution. She would grab a small branch from a pine tree (a switch if you will) and run with it. She said that the swishing motion would keep the flies at bay.

I jumped off of the trace and grabbed a limb off of a small pine tree. I started to run with the branch oscillating in a circular motion. Occasionally I would have to swat my back because I was being bitten. This was terribly frustrating. I actually had to stop twice and fist fight the creatures. They won. One time I broke the switch as I was trying to knock one of them off of my back.  The swtich helped but was not a complete solution.

I finished up my 10 miles strong and started my cool down. The damn things were still on me and I had to pick up the pace. One of the horse flies even followed me home like a puppy dog. As I got near my house I started to sprint to lose the girl. She still snuck into the house. I later got her with a dish towel near the back door.

Horse Fly - That'll teach him!

With a little research I have found that these biting flies are in the horse-fly family (Tabanidae). According to Wikipedia:

While female deer flies feed on blood, males instead collect pollen. When feeding, females use knife-like mandibles and maxillae to make a cross-shaped incision and then lap up the blood. Their bite can be extremely painful, and resulting allergic reaction from the saliva of the fly can result in further discomfort and health concerns.
Wikipedia led me to here:
Tabanids lie in wait in shady areas under bushes and trees for a host to happen by. Sight is the main host finding mechanism, but carbon dioxide and odor also play a role. Moving objects, especially if dark colored, are most prone to attack. Attacks occur during daylight hours with a peak beginning at sunrise and lasting three hours. A second peak is two hours before sunset and commences shortly after.
I do not like to use insect repellent – it repels me as well. I have found a couple of ‘traps’ that I will be experimenting with in the coming weeks. I will keep you posted of the results.


  1. I HATE THEM! Their bites hurt. I will try running with a switch next time. I spend more time looking like a bafoon smacking myself than running.

    Great advice, keep us posted on any other methods!

  2. I hate when that happens. Even for me the switch idea is hardly working and I do use repellent! For the most part all my runs are now around town and is has been such a relief. I'll go back on the Trace when they are gone. Cheers!

  3. that is kind of speed training we do not get here in NV. Funny post. Keep fightin em!

  4. We get March flies here at home and they look very much like your Horse Fly.At home I could be hanging out clothes on the line and they will attack your legs - little buggers. Must admit I had a chuckle when you said you got into a "fist fight". The visuals I was getting where hilarious.

  5. Ha ha..I love the opening paragraph of your post! :)
    Ugh...those bugs and flies are the worst! I did a long bike ride this weekend and was covered with the little black bugs all over my arms and legs. And, I'm pretty sure I swallowed some too...yuck!

  6. James - Try doing your LT runs at 24+ MPH. You'll find the flies tire rather quickly and soon follow slower runners. That's what I do.

  7. Ah yes, been bit by them many times, especially when on the mountain bike in the trails. They bite you even when you are moving and they itch for weeks. I haven't found any kind of repellant that repels them either.

  8. mmm bugs. maybe if they were capable of pulling their weight on those rides they'd be ok!

    coulda done without the photo :) i'm a squeamish female you know! luckily i was able to shield the screen with my hand as i scrolled down.