The best of the biters

The new crew has been settling into the good old routine of the BIObus this year, and we’re all excited to get to travel all around the east coast! While we’ve really enjoyed Fundy, we have also been reintroduced to the fieldwork fan base… otherwise known as the female biting insects. The four of us have evaluated which of the biting insects are the worst and the deceptively charismatic deer fly is by far the winner.

The deer fly was the winner of our competition at Fundy National Park.
The deer fly was the winner of our competition at Fundy National Park.

At a first up-close look the eyes of the deer fly (from the family Tabanidae) are very mesmerizing, but that is only to mislead you. The deer fly has managed to be ahead of its competition by its incredibly adept abilities of constantly teasing you with its loud buzzing, dive-bomb attacks, and unpredictable motions.  Unlike its fellow biting friends, the black flies and mosquitoes, deer flies are very visual predators that aren’t easily thwarted by bug spray and lack the anesthetic that numbs the slice of your skin from its maxillae and scissor-like mandibles.

Black flies (family: Simuliidae) and mosquitoes (family: Culicidae) can be fairly effectively deterred with bug spray as they do not depend as much on their eyes and, as such, they are easier to catch if your bug spray is not enough. Black flies have a slightly more aggressive bite as they first anchor into your skin with their laciniae (part of the maxillae) before lacerating capillaries with their mandibles and providing an anesthetic and anticoagulant cocktail through its hypopharynx and feasting through its labrum. Mosquitoes have a similar mouthpart system as the Simuliids, although they have a refined feeding apparatus, which combines all the parts into a proboscis-like needle. Since mosquitoes transmit disease and make a more annoying noise they were granted runner-up to deer flies, in our competition.

Despite our re-introduction to the biting insects, the fieldwork has proven to be very enjoyable! We’ve found a lot of neat insects, especially damselflies and caddisflies, not to mention the plentiful large and beautiful Cercropia moths!

Until next time,

Jill

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