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Tabanidae - Horseflies



BRACHYCERA, Tabanomorpha, Tabanoidea Number of British species: 30

Size: M-L

Difficulty: 1-3

Scheme: Covered by the Larger-Brachycera recording scheme


Stout, medium sized to very large (6-30 mm) flies, devoid of bristles. Body generally brown, black or grey and with a pattern of lighter markings; in some cases body yellowish, greenish or metallic blue. Eyes in living flies often brilliantly reddish or metallic green, sometimes yellowish, often with spots or bands; eyes in male holoptic, in female dichoptic; antenna with 6 or more segments, usually with a large third segment and a tapering style; in most females the mouthparts constitute a powerful, often long piercing proboscis. Wing clear, or tinged, or with transverse bands, or darkened with distinct spots; the costa surrounding the wing entirely; fork of veins R4 and R5 usually strongly diverging with vein R5 ending distinctly beyond the wing tip; cell m3 open; cell cup open or closed. Lower calypter conspicuously large. Legs powerful, tibia of mid leg and in some cases hind leg with apical spurs; empodium pulvilliform.


The larvae are aquatic, semi-aquatic or terrestrial (living mainly in soil and litter). In most genera they are predators but also able to feed as facultative saprophages. They prey on other invertebrates such as worms, snails and the larvae of other Diptera, including those of their own species. The adults are able fliers and especially active on warm, sunny days. In the majority of species the females feed on blood of mammals including humans; both sexes also feed on nectar and pollen. Some species show territorial behaviour, the males safeguarding their territories by hovering. As a consequence of their blood feeding habits and associated transmission of diseases, Tabanidae can be a serious problem locally for humans as well as cattle.


families/brachycera/old_brachycera/tabanidae.txt · Last modified: 2008/05/24 17:01 (external edit)     Back to top
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