January 13th 2003
Don't kill me - I'm a bloke!
Yes, they're back. The creatures that manage to enrage the calmest souls once bitten. They are of the family Tabanidae and are known commonly as March flies, marsh flies, horse flies or green heads.
These ferocious biters have reappeared on Magnetic Island and are set to increase in number soon following seasonal storms in the last few weeks which are known to trigger off their hatching.
Already, residents from the Island's west coast are reporting large numbers while the windward, populated, eastern bays are only just starting to notice the annoying insects. Julie Venables of Bolger Bay told MT, "They began about three days ago and when the sun is out we can be slapping them at a rate of one or two every ten seconds."
Living in one of the worst parts of the Island for March flies Julie has some interesting insights on the critters, "The March flies appear about two weeks after showers of rain. They are preceded by zebra flies which are much quieter and lighter when they land but can bite painfully too. If it is cool and cloudy the March flies will ease off but in full sun you have to run for long pants and sleeved clothes. Harem pants are ideal as the Marchies will bite straight through tight fitting garments. They are particularly attracted to dark blue" said Julie who continued, "so blue jeans are really out!"
March fly outbreaks appear to continue if the Island is only receiving lighter showers but once the wet season begins in proper the rain gets rid of them.
According to Julie, the March flies tend to stay fairly close to the ground so high set homes offer a big advantage. The flies are also heavily predated upon and it is common to find all sorts of birds including chooks and butcher birds only too happy to eat as many as they can find. Julie added, "The dogs love 'em too!"
But if you find one land on you and notice he happens to have beautiful green eyes then you might prefer to just sit and enjoy their company for these green heads are males and like most of the biting fly species do not need your blood to produce offspring. It's the less glamourous girls with the brown eyes that you will want to swat as they are keen to stab you with a very sharp mouth part to suck your blood and leave a nasty sting. The boys by comparison believe in flower power and feed on nectar.
Fortunately, unlike some species of mosquito, march flies are not known to pass on any diseases that humans can be harmed by. March flies are also kept at bay by most mosquito repellants.
Interestingly, locals say that the longer the march flies are around the more likely you are to see tiny orange parasites appearing on their bodies. These parasites play a role in many a Marchy's demise so have a look next time you flatten a March fly look for their orange assassins.
Story and photo: George Hirst