I recently hiked in a swampy forest in the Yaroslavl region(Eastern Europe) near lake Plesheevo and came across a clearing. Although the area was swampy and verdant, there was a 5 meter wide "bald spot" on the ground which looked like sand. Near that spot there was a lot of buzzing (which I initially mistook for the buzzing of wasps), and soon I found myself covered in these black flies.

The flies clung to my fabric hoodie, at least one tried crawling in my hair, and one tried to find its way into my eye. I tried shaking them off, but they seemed to be able to cling very firmly to my clothes. (later I discovered that even dead flies were really hard to remove from fabric) At that point I panicked, quickly retreated, and spent a good 15 minutes extracting every single one of them from myself and my garb.

When I came back, I took a picture of the carcasses of two flies that found their way into my pocket and silently passed away there from unknown causes. Unfortunately, I didn't get to take a picture of a living fly because I was too agitated at the time.


Their length was approximately 0.3 inches and when squashed, they produced yellow spots on my clothes.

I tried identifying them, but didn't have much success. They seem to look like a variety of horse-fly (or a dear-fly), but I think none of them actually bit me. Also, strangely enough, my clothes were sprayed with insect repellent which they seemed to either completely ignore or were actually attracted by.


They look very much like Hippoboscidae. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippoboscidae This family are parasites of birds and mammals, but I am not aware that they are vectors of any diseases to humans. So don't worry. One member of the family is a wingless parasite on sheep (Melophagus ovinus)

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, I think that's it! It seems I was "assaulted" by a spawn of deer flies (for some reason Wikipedia has 2 articles on deer fly, and the one I initially linked was not "the right one"?) The article mentions their bodies are hard to remove once they've attached themselves to the victim (check), they prefer dampness (check), they reproduce on moose and deer (which are numerous in that area), and it can be found in the European part of Russia (check). $\endgroup$ – fullerene Sep 11 '18 at 14:26
  • $\begingroup$ The Russian Wikipedia entry also mentions the deer flies can transmit the Lyme disease to humans, albeit somewhat rarily. So it seems to make sense to get checked if bitten after all. $\endgroup$ – fullerene Sep 11 '18 at 14:46
  • $\begingroup$ These were NOT deer flies (Tabanidae). That is the problem with common names, that differ across languages. They may have been Deer keds, which are in the family Hippoboscidae. $\endgroup$ – Karl Kjer Sep 11 '18 at 15:04
  • $\begingroup$ Interesting, the English Wikipedia page lists both of these names as synonymous for Lipoptena cervi. I guess they're only synonymous in some people's vernacular. $\endgroup$ – fullerene Sep 11 '18 at 16:07
  • $\begingroup$ Common names are often used for different species, even in any particular language. The people using the common name are simply not distinguishing the differences, even when organisms given the common name are quite different. $\endgroup$ – mgkrebbs Sep 11 '18 at 21:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.