Gadfly sting: how to recognize it and natural remedies

Gadfly sting: how to recognize it and what are the most effective natural remedies

The gadfly sting represents one of the most annoying inconveniences not only of the summer season, but also for most of the autumn one. These “giant flies”, As they are often defined at the popular level, they are in fact always looking for prey to attack. And, in addition to horses and other farm animals, they often also affect humans.

The consequences of the bite? Swelling, itching and burning, even particularly intense. But what are the characteristics of this insect, how to recognize its sting and which ones natural remedies are they helpful in reducing pain? Here are some useful tips.

Gadfly: what it is

The gadfly – also known as tabanide – is an insect belonging to the order of Ditteri. It is a hematophagous specimen, that is, it feeds on blood and for this reason it is known almost everywhere for its annoying sting. Although more than 4,000 different species are known today, in general the gadfly is identified as a large fly, an insect with which it shares some physical characteristics.

Due to the similarity with these last insects, except for their size, the gadflies are also called “horse flies“. In reality, this is an improper association as flies, however annoying with their chaotic buzz, do not bite their prey. In fact, they feed on fruit, vegetables, sugars and feces.

The adult specimens they are 5 to 30 millimeters long and, just as already specified, they see a build similar to that of flies. The body is dark and stocky, covered with light hair, while the wings are elongated and semi-transparent. The eyes are large and protruding but, unlike the much more common cousins, they are sensitive to the thermal variations of the environments. In other words, these insects are able to visually distinguish the hottest areas: an evolutionary strategy that allows them to more easily identify prey.

Unlike flies, woodpeckers also have a mouthparts narrow and pointed, which they use to sting animals and humans and suck their blood. Unlike other insects, such as hymenoptera, they are not equipped with sting.

Gadfly sting: what to know

Insect bites

As already mentioned, the gadfly sting represents one of the most frequent hitches during the summer and for most of the autumn, when temperatures are still very mild. But why does the gadfly sting, how to recognize its bite and, above all, what natural remedies have proven effective to reduce troublesome symptoms or sore?

Why the gadfly stings

Horseflies are bloodsucking insects: in other words, they feed on blood. For this reason, they always need to feed by attacking a prey, whether it is a farm animal or man. But why does the gadfly sting?

First of all, a clarification is necessary: ​​this insect does not sting, but bites. This is because it does not have a sting, but a mouthparts that allow it to suck blood. Why, however, do horseflies need blood?

In order to complete the production and fertilization of eggs, these insects need some specific proteins, which they are unable to synthesize on their own. And so they resort to the blood of mammals, which they feed on precisely to obtain the nutrients they need. However, it should be specified that, as in the case of mosquitoes, they are the females to bite: they are in fact the deputies to the production of the eggs. Males, on the other hand, can choose to feed on vegetables, animal waste or faeces.

What causes the gadfly sting


The gadfly bite can be particularly painful, with a greater itching and burning sensation than common mosquitoes. This not only because of the larger size of the insect, but also because of some substances that the specimen introduces into the tissues of the prey.

Just like mosquitoes, gadflies also inject one anticoagulant substance, so that the blood they feed on always remains liquid. Once in the skin, however, this element determines a strong immune response by the body: white blood cells, the sentinels of the human body, quickly reach the sting area and counteract the injected liquid.

As a result of this defense reaction by the body, symptoms such as:

  • Redness in the puncture area;
  • Appearance of vesicles filled with liquid or with a semi-solid consistency;
  • Itching uncontrollable;
  • Burning;
  • Anaphylactic reactions, even severe, in predisposed or hypersensitive subjects.

How to recognize the gadfly sting


It can happen that you get a bite on your body, but you don’t know which insect it comes from. On the other hand, every day we are surrounded by the most varied species, including mosquitoes, midges, wasps and other specimens. But how to recognize a gadfly sting?

The body’s response to the bite can vary from person to person but, in general, the bite of this insect is characterized by:

  • Larger size than the mosquito bite;
  • Intense itching;
  • Burning associated with redness;
  • Swelling, often hard and painful to touch.

As already mentioned, the gadfly does not have a sting and therefore no foreign elements will be found in the skin after its harassing action.

In hypersensitive or allergic subjects, the sting may be accompanied by swelling of the mucous membranes, angioedema in the face, breathing difficulties and severe malaise. All conditions that require immediate intervention, resorting to emergency services.

How long does the irritation last

Regarding the permanence of symptoms and the duration of irritation, also in this case a lot depends on the body’s response to the bite. Some people get away with it in a couple of days, others require a longer period.

In general, a sting of taffani should settle in less than a week. Longer timescales recommend that you sift your doctor’s opinion.

Natural remedies for gadfly bites

But what natural remedies to use to overcome pain and discomfort, after excluding the possibility of an allergic reaction? Fortunately, many alternatives come to us from the universe of grandmother’s finds. Here are the most common.



The ice it helps to fight the initial swelling due to the bite, as well as to temporarily numb the part. When applied correctly, it can also limit the chances of local adverse effects over time.

In general, ice should always be applied wrapped in a cloth – so as not to damage the skin – letting the skin rest every 15 minutes to avoid excessive vasoconstriction.


Calendula oil

The calendula is a natural remedy known for its antihistamine properties, given some of its active ingredients. This plant is in fact rich in quercetin, a substance that can help limit swelling.

Calendula can be applied in cream directly on the affected area, until fully absorbed. It can normally be used several times a day, without major problems.

Aloe vera


The aloe vera gel it is an indispensable remedy to treat all ailments caused by insects. In addition to being fresh and soothing, it creates a film on the skin thus reducing the likelihood of bacterial infections in the wound.

Just apply a small amount and massage until fully absorbed, reapplying as needed.

Source: GreenStyle by

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