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Black Horse Fly (Tabanus atratus)


Detailing the physical features, habits, territorial reach and other identifying qualities of the Black Horse Fly



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Large Black Horse Flies are notorious biters of horses and all things smaller, including humans, leaving behind painful sores on its victims.



Updated: 01/26/2021; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.InsectIdentification.org
Black Horse Flies are about an inch long, making them highly visible and somewhat intriguing to watch. They are fast fliers despite their hefty size. Females feed on blood, and they are not averse to taking it from anything that has it. Their mouth parts cut open flesh, allowing blood to ooze out. They use a proboscis to sponge up the blood, leaving behind an open wound. These wounds can become infected, which poses a threat to livestock health. They are also very painful bites for humans. Males do not bite and do not drink blood. Males actually drink flower nectar and spend their days looking for females to mate with.

Males and females are both completely black, but males have huge eyes that touch each other at the center of the face; the eyes of females are separated. It's the size of the eyes that strikes curiosity in most people that see them. The color of the eyes may vary depending on the lighting. Facets comprising each eye reflect light, so sometimes their eyes appear black, sometimes silver (see photo gallery) and sometimes shades of their surroundings.

This species is found in the eastern part of the continent. Females lay fertilized eggs on or near water sources. Maggots (larvae) feed on other aquatic insects and worms. Chemicals, home remedies, and special collars exist as methods used to deter the presence of Horse Flies, especially in stables.




General Characteristics
Capability, Shape, Texture/Pattern, Benefits, Dangers


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Taxonomic Hierarchy
Species Breakdown
Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Arthropoda
    Class: Insecta
      Order: Diptera
        Family: Tabanidae
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          Genus: Tabanus
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            Species: atratus
Identifying Information
Size, Colors, Features
Scientific Name: Tabanus atratus
Category: Fly or Mosquito
Size (Adult; Length): 20mm to 28mm (0.78" to 1.10")
Colorwheel Graphic Colors: black
Descriptors: huge, plump, eyes, large,
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Relative Size Comparison
Typical Size Between 20mm (0.8in) and 28mm (1.1in)
Lo: 20mm
Md: 24mm
Hi: 28mm
Territorial Map*
U.S., Canada, and Mexico
State of Alabama graphic
State of Arizona graphic
State of Arkansas graphic
State of California graphic
State of Colorado graphic
State of Delware graphic
State of Florida graphic
State of Georgia graphic
State of Idaho graphic
State of Illinois graphic
State of Indiana graphic
State of Iowa graphic
State of Kansas graphic
State of Kentucky graphic
State of Louisiana graphic
State of Maine graphic
State of Maryland graphic
State of Michigan graphic
State of Minnesota graphic
State of Mississippi graphic
State of Missouri graphic
State of Montana graphic
State of Nebraska graphic
State of Nevada graphic
State of New England graphic
State of New Jersey graphic
State of New Mexico graphic
State of New York graphic
State of North Carolina graphic
State of North Dakota graphic
State of Ohio graphic
State of Oklahoma graphic
State of Oregon graphic
State of Pennsylvania graphic
State of South Carolina graphic
State of South Dakota graphic
State of Tennessee graphic
State of Texas graphic
State of Utah graphic
State of Virginia graphic
State of Washington graphic
State of West Virginia graphic
State of Wisconsin graphic
State of Wyoming graphic
Canadian territory of Alberta graphic
Canadian territory of British Columbia graphic
Canadian territory of Manitoba graphic
Canadian territory of New Brunswick graphic
Canadian territory of Newfoundland and Labrador graphic
Canadian territory of Ontario graphic
Canadian territory of Quebec graphic
Canadian territory of Saskatchewan graphic
Territory map graphic of the country of Mexico
Contiguous United States shape map layer graphic
Alaska  
Hawaii  
Prince Edward Is.  
* MAP NOTES: The territorial heat map above showcases (in red) the states and territories of North America where the Black Horse Fly may be found (but is not limited to). This sort of data is useful when attempting to see concentrations of particular species across the continent as well as revealing possible migratory patterns over a species' given lifespan. Some insects are naturally confined by environment, weather, mating habits, food resources and the like while others see widespread expansion across most, or all, of North America. States/Territories shown above are a general indicator of areas inhabited by the Black Horse Fly. Insects generally go where they please, typically driven by diet, environmental changes, and / or mating habits.

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