Face Fly

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Species Musca autumnalis. A sexually dimorphic species where the males have bright orange and black patterned abdomens and the females are light grey and black. These are obviously all males.

This species gets its common name from its habit of landing on the faces of cattle or horses where they feed on secretions of the facial orifices, around the eyes, mouth and nostrils. The adult flies will also feed on the hosts blood through wounds such as Horse-fly bites. The larvae develop in animal dung.

I came across these in a local horse pasture sunning on a fence post. There were several of them, all males, and they were quite approachable to photograph.

11 thoughts on “Face Fly

    1. I was lucky, Tony. There were quite a few of them about and they were quite accomodating so I could get fairly close to them … even when I put them in the shade 🙂

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  1. I have a friend who has horses in her pasture, and fly masks are a must-have during certain seasons. Even though these aren’t the biting flies that give so much trouble, I’m going to send this post to her, so she can see a closeup of another species that visits. I found this on a Texas agricultural site; it may be more than you want to know, but I thought it was interesting:

    “The face fly, Musca autumnalis, is a non-biting, veterinary livestock pest known to mechanically transmit Moraxella bovis, the causative agent of bovine pink eye. The face fly range in North America extends from Alberta, Canada to southern California, but they are absent from the southwestern United States. The successful reduction or elimination of these fly populations relies heavily on integrated pest management tactics, which includes feed-through additives and insecticide applications to control the immature stages and adult populations, respectively. The face fly is closely related to the house fly, Musca domestica, yet they more frequently associate with cattle and require freshly laid dung as a substrate for larval development, biological characteristics that are shared with related biting fly livestock pests such as the stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans) and horn fly (Haematobia irritans).”

    How about that?

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  2. As Linda mentioned, we also have a few pastures here where horses graze and have to mask up. They were doing that long before we were required to do so. 🙂 I don’t mind non-biting flies landing on me but I think the habit of carousing on my face would be just a little off-putting. Nice close work, Pete.

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    1. Thank you, Steve. Well, we I go in that field again I might put full head gear on – a helmt perhaps – as I don’t fancy these feeding from my facial orifices 😉

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      1. I’ve a fine mesh head cover I wear sometimes for mosquitoes. Also a combo head and vest cover for the northwoods in northern Maine when I go. Some are just unimpressed with repellant.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Geared up for battle, by the looks of it 🙂 I don’t blame you … I only have to show a bit of flesh on an evening in the garden and the mosquito dinner bell rings!

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