black horse fly

(Tabanus atratus)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not listed

black horse fly

 

NatureServe

not listed

Minnesota

not listed

Occurrence

 

Flight/Season

Spring to late fall

Habitat

Agricultural and suburban areas; any moist habitat with livestock or other large mammals

Size

Total Length: ¾ to 1 (20 to X 25 mm)

Photo by Norm & Peg Dibble

Identification

Black horse fly occurs in the United States mostly east of the Great Plains and in adjacent Canadian provinces. At ¾ to 1 (20 to X 25 mm) in length, it is one of the largest horse flies in North America. Some sources, including National Audobon Society Field Guide to Insects & Spiders (1980) and some Websites, suggest that it can get up to 1 (28 mm) long, but this is not widely accepted.

There are two large compound eyes and three simple eyes (ocelli). On the male the compound eyes meet at the top of the head. On the female they do not. The third segment of each antenna has a prominent tooth-like process at the base.

The body is stout. The body and wings are black, purplish-black, or dark brown. The thorax is covered with short, fine, black, yellowish, or whitish hairs. The wings are entirely dark, not patterned. There is no spur at the tip of the fourth segment (tibia) of the hind leg.

 
Similar
Species

 


Larval Food

 

 
Adult Food

Females feed on mammalian blood. Males feed on nectar and plant juices.

 
Life Cycle

 

 
Behavior

 


Distribution Distribution Map  

Sources: 24, 27, 29, 30.


Comments

Ouch!
Black horse fly females prefer to bite cattle and other livestock. It is unusual for them to bite humans, but when they do the bite is memorable. Males do not bite.


Taxonomy

Order:

Diptera (gnats, mosquitoes, true flies)

 

Suborder:

Brachycera (circular-seamed flies, mouches muscoïdes, muscoid flies, short-horned flies)

 

Infraorder:

Tabanomorpha

 

Superfamily:

Tabanoidea

 

Family:

Tabanidae (horseflies and deerflies)

 

Subfamily:

Tabaninae

 

Tribe:

Tabanini

 

Subfamily:

Tabaninae (Horse Flies)

 

Tribe:

Tabanini

 
Subordinate Taxa

Two varieties have been described, but these are not widely recognized.

black horse fly (Tabanus atratus atratus)

black horse fly (Tabanus atratus fulvopilosus)

 
Synonyms

Tabanus fulvopilosus

Tabanus nantuckensis

Tabanus niger

Tabanus validus

 
Common
Names

black horse fly

mourning horse-fly

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Ocellus

Simple eye; an eye with a single lens. Plural: ocelli.

 

 

 

 

 

       
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Norm & Peg Dibble
       

Not sure what kind of fly this was (maybe you do), but Norm didn’t want to get too close! Darth Vader? It was on our patio umbrella post. Yikes

  black horse fly    
       
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Camera

     
Slideshows
   
  Black Horse Fly (Tabanus atratus)
Bill Keim
 
  Black Horse Fly (Tabanus atratus)  

 

slideshow

       
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Other Videos
 
  Black Horse Fly (Tabanus atratus)
Douglas Heusser
 
   
 
About

Published on May 25, 2017

Macro video of a Black Horse Fly (Tabanus atratus) filmed with a Tamron 90mm lens on a Canon T5

   
       
  Horse Fly (Tabanidae: Tabanus) Behavior
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Published on Jun 28, 2011

I observed two flies exhibiting this behavior (i.e., employing outstretched forelegs as either a funneling or gathering technique). I'm speculating that this may be a feeding behavior. Could this individual be gathering organic debris on foreleg tarsal setae. These large, biting flies are pollen-eaters, too. Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (27 June 2011).

   
       
  Black Horsefly (Tabanus atratus) - Laying Rows of Eggs
Nature's Wild Things
 
   
 
About

Published on May 28, 2017

Black Horsefly (Tabanus atratus)

Laying Rows of Eggs

Video 30 sec long 90% speed - Audio none

Cabarrus County, North Carolina, United States

Photo Walk - 05-26-2017

   
       

 

Camcorder

         
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Norm & Peg Dibble
7/5/2019

Location: Maple Grove, MN

Not sure what kind of fly this was (maybe you do), but Norm didn’t want to get too close! Darth Vader? It was on our patio umbrella post. Yikes

black horse fly


     
     
 
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Created: 7/7/2019

Last Updated:

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