local insects and animals- Stinging flies

It’s summer, you can tell by the buzzing noises all around. Flies are a common problem in Australia, especially in rural areas where livestock are kept. Here we have three sources of fly attraction; the sheep, the chooks (and other sundry poultry) and the toilet. The most common flies are the stingers, they feed on blood and lay their eggs in poop, so they have a double incentive to live with us.The most common stinger we have here is the horse fly (Tabanidae species) there are many different species but they all share common behaviours.

Around the humpy there are two main times when you will probably get bitten by a stinging fly; early morning and early evening. These flies seem to swarm together to feed before and after the sun hits the ground. They buzz around the sheep when I let them out to graze in the mornings and come back to the paddock with them in the evening, luckily the buzzing sound attracts the guinea fowl, who see them as an ‘all you can eat’ opportunity. The guinea fowl parade around the sheep making squeaky wheel sounds in an excited fashion as they snap up flies by the dozen. The chook pen is one place I rarely find stinging flies but not because they don’t go there; they are attracted by the smell of warm blood and chook poop. I rarely find stinging flies in the chook pen because the chooks love to eat them too, in fact one source of constant amusement here is watching the young chickens catch a fly then run away with it cheeping like a maniac while all the other chicks give chase (also cheeping maniacally).
The toilet is the other place where you will probably encounter stinging flies; not only are there warm blooded animals holding relatively still, but nearby manure in which to lay eggs…it’s a stinging fly paradise. In response to this over-abundance of flies several bird species have taken to loitering around outside the toilet (and sometimes inside it too). The fairy wrens (both blue and red) always build nests on grass clumps or low shrubs nearby and are a source of entertainment as they hop about chasing flies and other insects. The welcome swallows swoop around the little tent that is our toilet building catching flies on the wing (and swooping very low to do it because stinging flies stay close to the ground). Our two old ducks spend a lot of time sitting in the toilet (well, beside the pedestal) because at their age they prefer food to come to them. They snap flies up as they buzz by.

Taken in balance, stinging flies are not such a problem for us, they provide a supplementary food source for both domestic and wild birds (and reptiles, I didn’t mention the lizards and small snakes who eat them too) and a constant source of laughter and entertainment for us. All for the cost of a few drops of blood now and then and an itchy lump or two.

Do you have stinging flies?
How do you think of them?

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