Fly Identification

Is it a mosquito?

The Diptera family is the fourth largest order of insects, with more than 120,000 species. It includes house flies, gnats, midges and mosquitoes. Many of the species within this family bite and are vectors of disease.

Identifying flies that bite from other flies can be a challenge. Many biting flies are confused with mosquitoes. Use the checklist below to identify whether you have a mosquito bite, or perhaps a bite from another type of fly.

What other types of flies bite, besides mosquitoes?

Mosquitoes are notorious biters. Because of this, other types of flies can be misidentified as mosquitoes if they happen to leave you itching. While the common house fly does not bite, stable flies, that look similar to house flies, do. Stable flies are common in rural and beach areas. Like some mosquitoes, stable flies are attracted to dark-colored clothing and more likely to feed in the early morning or late afternoon.

When trying to identify flies that bite, it is helpful to note that when feeding, stable flies often puncture the skin several times. While many insect bite marks may look similar at first, the bite of a stable fly is typically smaller. Stable flies and mosquitoes do not look similar to one another. Stable flies are about one-fourth of an inch in length, while the average mosquito is more than one-half of an inch.

Gnats and midges more closely resemble mosquitoes. There are more than 4,000 species of biting midges. In terms of fly identification, however, gnats and midges are typically only half the size of mosquitoes, although their bites are larger and out of proportion with their body size.

What non-biting flies look similar to mosquitoes?

Crane flies are commonly confused as giant mosquitoes due to their similar leg shape and slender bodies. These flies, however, are harmless, although they can look intimidatingly large, growing up to 2.5 inches in length.

Some species of dancing flies from the family Empididae may also be confused as mosquitoes. These flies, however, are actually effective mosquito predators.

What types of diseases have been attributed to these flies?

Proper fly identification can help clarify health risks associated with different flies. Stable flies can transmit Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium responsible for causing anthrax. They also carry various other parasites. Biting midges are a nuisance, but none have shown evidence of carrying diseases that are transmittable to humans. They are capable of transmitting diseases to animals, particularly livestock.

Different flies require different methods of control. With hundreds of thousands of species, identifying flies that may be pestering around your home can be a challenge. For the best advice on fly management, contact a pest management professional.