This Texas fly can bite, leaving irritated skin. It loves the heat and moving water

Black flies, also called buffalo gnats or turkey gnats, are known to bite people during the day — particularly around the neck and head, leaving skin itchy and swollen. Black fly season lasts from April to July.

Black flies are small flies up to 5 mm that are active during the day, fast and strong fliers. They have a characteristic “hump-back” and can be black, gray, light tan or yellow in color. Black fly species can commonly be found along fast-moving rivers, particularly in northeast Texas.

Female black flies have mouth parts to bite and feed on blood of people, domestic animals, poultry and wildlife. The painful bite can cause localized swelling, and in extreme cases anaphylactic shock.

The larvae can be found just beneath the surface of rapidly flowing fresh water, according to Texas A&M. Most species develop while attached to submerged rocks or logs in shallow moving waters of streams and rivers, while some do well in sandy-bottomed streams and slow, muddy water. Development can take anywhere from two weeks to more than two months.

Adult black flies spread a long ways from their breeding habitats to feed, having been found far from streams and rivers in urbanized areas of Texas. Outbreaks are likely to occur whenever conditions for them to successfully breed in high numbers are present, most notably warmer temperatures and high amounts of rainfall that contribute to aquatic habitats needed for their development.

During periods of adult activity, the biting flies can become a nuisance. If not staying indoors, experts at Texas A&M say those working outdoors should dress in long pants and a long-sleeved shirt, wearing a cap and a mesh veil to protect themselves. While insect repellents can be used, particularly to the neck and head, they may not be very effective against the strong, fast flies.

Some products that may be effective against the black flies:

  • Avon Skin-so-soft Bug Guard

  • Coleman Skin Smart

  • Deep Woods Off

  • Sawyer Picaridin

  • Cutter Backwoods.

The pests can be collected using a fine-mesh net. Bites can be treated by applying over-the-counter insect bite remedies to help calm the itching. Some more sensitive individuals may need to visit their doctor.