Picky grater | Science

1. Thinks you’re a deer

Everyone who moves in the forest has surely had to pick out difficult-to-pluck annoying objects from their neck and hair. The flat, hairy and thick-legged little creature is easily recognized as a deer fly (Lipoptena cervi). It is the most common ectoparasite of moose in Finland.

Sutjakka’s appearance changes when a fly flies into the moose’s fur and begins to feed. The tiny rear body bulges manifold. The creature begins to resemble a woodworm that has enjoyed a blood meal.

The deer fly is picky. In order to reproduce, it needs the blood of a deer, nothing else will do. An animal is in trouble when it flies into a person’s neck because it thinks it is a deer. After landing, the fly automatically drops its wings. Without them, it cannot fly to find the right victim.

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A harsh fate lies ahead. Before long, the deer fly falls or is rushed to the ground, where it dies. However, it is a very tenacious creature. An adult can do without a blood meal for up to a month. After a forest trip, deer flies burrowed into clothes can often be found a long time later.

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2. Can also suck human blood

In addition to humans, the deer fly wanders into other deer and even dogs moving in the forest. It may parasitize white-tailed deer and fallow deer, but with poor success.

Reproduction in the wrong host animal remains weak. Deer flies are also found in reindeer and their wild cousins, forest deer.

The species has adapted to life in areas where a significant part of the mammals that roam the environment are moose. Therefore, it naturally heads towards the nearest object it detects. In the absence of moose, anything else will do. Especially when the deer fly is hungry, it clings to anything big enough and moving.

A deer fly mistaken for a human or a dog may suck a drop of blood, but that is not enough to continue the family.

3. Give birth to live offspring

After settling in the moose’s Turkey, the fly detaches its wings and gets stuck. It pierces the deer’s skin with its prong-like mouth and sucks blood daily. An adult individual stays with its host for at least nine months.

After getting stronger, it starts looking for a mating partner. A suitable one can be found nearby, among the host’s fur. The offspring develops from an egg into a larva inside the female.

The female gives birth to one cocooned larva per week. During autumn and winter, it spins hundreds of larvae, which nest in the moose’s hair and eventually fall to the ground. At the end of summer, the larvae hatch into flies, which start looking for moose – and blood meals.

They wait for a new host on the tops of the grass and on the branches of trees and take off when they find a suitable target. The cycle continues.

Jukka Ruukki
is the editor-in-chief of Tiede Luonno.

And can the deer fly spread diseases, is there evidence of the effectiveness of repellents, and why does it live in roe deer in Sweden but not in Finland? You can read all 15 interesting points about deer flies in Tiede Luonno issue 6/2022 or digilehdet.fiif you are a subscriber to one of Sanoma’s magazines.

Source: Tiede by www.tiede.fi.

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