Magnetic Island North Queensland
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A young koala's beach adventure

January 13th 2003
Don't kill me - I'm a bloke!

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



Don't kill me - I'm a bloke!
 
6 comments
 
Tricia
January 21st 2003
Never had an education so I love to learn all I can. Esepcially nature topics. Keep up the good work as I hope to pass on to my grandchrildren everything I think will benefit them. Have to make up for my misfortune (Abridged - Ed)
 
Pete Kitchin
October 30th 2004
My girl friend Ali was desperate to go on the broad Water walk to Cardwell with some other ambling maniacs. Having a bung hip My job was to pick them up at the other end and transport them back to the Broard Water camping ground.We arrived at the camp at 9am and soon much to my dislike found it to be infested by March flies. I was told that the walk would take them untill 230pm to get to the other end, where they would be very happy if I was there to welcome them as it was a fair trot.So with 4 hours up my sleave i thought I would have a quick look around the camp settle down to read the bully and then mosey in a relaxed manner to the pick up point, for the welcome home meeting.With in 10 minutes I decided that the march flies were far too much to bear and set off for the rondezvuos point.( a trip of 98km's)When I arrived at the Darymple walk park I sat under a tree and started to read the bully from where I had been so rudely interupted. within 2 minutes they were there bloody hundreds of the buggers and hungry.I had to resort to sitting in the 4wd to escape them.which in the mid day heat was starting to be very hot.opening the door every 1/2 hour to let in some fresh air and of course march flies.21 deaths per 10 minutes of door open time.When the intrepid walkers did finally turn up they said "when did you get here?" "2 3/4 hours ago" "wow you must have been bored ?" "No I had plenty to do thank you...!" Then back to the camp to get more bites yippie.The broard Water camp site has got great facillities and is well worth a look. I'm told the walk is excellant.Just do'nt go there when the flies are at thier worst. I do sympathise with the people of Maggie if they have to put up with these horrid blood suckers.The almighty did do us a favour when he built these little blighters as they are soooo Sloow that to squat them is easy. Bit of a problem if you are a March fly.........
 
Tex
February 9th 2010
George don't come to the Palmer River cause the march flies there look exactly like the one you have pictured green eyes and all and they DO suck blood, and in large quantities too I do a lot of gold detecting there and have been bitten literally thousands of times
 
H Williams
October 30th 2010
I have enjoyed all this information on these march flies, but no-one can enlighten me on where these blighters breed. I also find loose clothing, lighter in colour helps...but would dearly love to find out their breeding cycle and start from there. I am allergic to the bite and I love being outdoors...some-one's gotta go and its not going to be me. Any information on where I can start looking would be appreciated...
 
Mark
September 4th 2011
I found a bit of useful info on this site
http://www.bitingflies.com.au/March-Flies/
My nephews in the US use the fly trap product (Epps Fly Trap) on their hobby farm (raise / breed horses) and really have control over their horse fly & deer fly problems.
Cheers,
Mark
 
Regina
February 27th 2012
I am very confused as to their proper name. Is it correct to call them 'Marsh' or 'March' flies?


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