A visit to a forest invariably throws up interesting things; this time, it was in the form of little flies. These flies seemed to be all over the place. They were a minor irritant during the daytime, particularly when outdoors. I found people constantly waving their hands in an animated fashion, trying to ward off these little insects.

I watched the others with me trying to swat and kill these flies, but in vain. Being adept fliers, they were way too quick for a human hand. In a bid to keep these persistent flies at bay, I waved my hands too, and in a stroke of luck, caught one between my fingers! I held on to it and trained my camera on it. I was completely taken aback by what I saw – the eyes of the fly were a sight to behold!

The beautiful eyes of a Horse-fly

Now that I was smitten by the beautiful eyes of the fly, I wanted to photograph the entire insect. So I waited for one to settle on a friend. I did not have to wait long. The fly itself was predominantly black and white, with a wash of yellow. Only the eyes stood out as I was looked through the lens.

A Horse-fly trying to get a meal of blood, notwithstanding the cloth.

Flies belong to an insect order called Diptera. Order Diptera is diverse and has over 100000 species! The one I have been talking about is the horse-fly. Horseflies belong to a large family of flies called Tabanidae, which itself consists of about 4000 species with a worldwide distribution, the exceptions being remote islands and very cold areas.

But why were they bothering us?

I got an answer to this question upon reading about them. Female horseflies need a meal of blood before they can reproduce – the same reason for which mosquitoes drink blood. Horseflies essentially feed on mammalian blood, or for that matter, blood of birds and reptiles too. Horseflies, unlike many other creatures, do not suck blood. They make a deep cut, and the anti-coagulants in their saliva prevent blood from clotting; they then lap up the blood with a sponging action!

The mouth-parts of a Horse-fly

As one should expect, I never saw a male horse-fly, as the males feed on nectar and are considered to be important pollinators of flowers. Horseflies, as adults, live for a very short period; they perform their primary role of reproduction and die. When they are around, albeit briefly, they are playing their part in the larger scheme of things.