stable fly

Biting insects are invading Toronto waterfront areas right now

A visit to one of Toronto's waterfront areas might come with a nasty insect bite as reports of run-ins with stable flies seem to be on the rise.

The stable fly (Stomoxys calcitrans), looks like a normal house fly, but like the black fly or horse fly, it has the capcity to bite.

Two different areas in Toronto are reporting an increase in the flies.

A post in the Beaches Facebook group indicates the flies are out and biting.

"They were out in full force yesterday evening," one person wrote this week.

Dogs in particular find the bites painful.

"These flies are AWFUL!" one person wrote. "They last about two weeks, My dog is a doberman with short black fur and she is miserable — can't go to the beach for walks until they are gone."

People are also finding the flies out in Colonel Samuel Smith Park, according to a post in the South Etobicoke Community Group.

"They are all over and they are so friggin annoying," one person wrote.

Most people agree that the biting bugs in question are stable flies.

"They are 100% stable flies! I had to leave Col Sam Smith with my dog. He was covered in them!" wrote one local.

They are closely related to the common housefly but the stable fly has syringe-like mouth parts, similar to a mosquito, which can "jab into your skin," Douglas Currie, vice-president, Department of Natural History and Senior Curator of Entomology for the ROM tells blogTO.

Both male and female stable flies suck blood for nutrition.

Currie says the flies breed in rotting organic matter and water-weed. They tend be concentrated on lake front areas.

"Stable flies are actually problematic throughout the Great Lakes," Currie says.

The flies can spawn several generations throughout the summer — it could be that this is a high point in the cycle for the flies right now.

"They are out every year," says Currie.

The bites are painful but not dangerous — these bugs don't carry diseases.

Currie suggests using bug spray with DEET or wearing long pants. It is difficult to get rid of the flies at this point, he says. A cottage owner might try cleaning up rotting organic material around a shoreline to reduce numbers locally.

The stable fly is not native to North America but came overseas with settlers from Europe.

"Now they are worldwide," says Currie. "This species is tormenting people, literally, around the world."

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