Yellow flies are back!

Photo courtesy J.L. Castner, University of Florida

Photo courtesy J.L. Castner, University of Florida

It’s that time of year again, and those nasty yellow flies are biting… here are some tips for armoring yourself

In Florida, the name “yellow fly” is used to describe about a dozen different species of yellow-bodied biting flies. “Yellow flies” readily attack humans and are usually abundant in Florida with peak annoyance occurring in May and June. “Yellow flies” are in the family known as Tabanidae. All tabanids go through an egg, larva, pupa and adult stage, referred to as “complete metamorphosis,” the same development process that mosquitoes go through. Tabanids lay egg masses containing 50 to several hundred eggs. Most species deposit their eggs around ponds, streams or swamps on overhanging vegetation such as grasses or cattails.

Yellow flies congregate in shaded, humid areas on the edges of forests, rivers and creeks, avoiding large, open, sunny areas. Some species are active in the early morning while other species are more active in the late afternoon.

However, depending upon conditions such as heavy tree canopy, cloudy days or when an animal is moving through an area, yellow flies can become active and bothersome throughout the day. “Yellow flies” prefer to attack man about the head, neck or shoulders, however, any exposed part of the body may be attacked.

Their persistence to obtain a bloodmeal, once a host is found, can make 5 or 6 flies unbearable. Sometimes the use of the old-fashioned fly swatter will give relief by taking out the few flies in an area.

What to do

A trapping method homeowners can use, which does not involve the use of pesticides, is called the “sticky black ball” trap. Basically it is a beach ball, (milk jugs work just as well and are easier to hang) painted black and coated with a sticky substance. The sticky substance is called Tangle-Trap and comes in a spray or liquid applicator. It can be found at local Ace Hardware stores.

These devices are hung from a tree limb using string, in a shaded area, about 4 feet above the ground. Movement of the ball by the wind attracts the flies, thinking it is an animal, they land, get stuck, and die on the ball. Several of these balls will reduce the local adult populations.

Birds are not attracted to the ball nor can be “stuck” as the adhesive is only strong enough for insects.

CLICK HERE FOR VISUAL INSTRUCTIONS

South Walton Mosquito Control District will provide a ball and instructions so residents can make more if he or she feels they are effective for their situation. For more information, call (850) 267-2112.

You can also create your own “ball” using a milk jug, spray paint it a dark color and apply a sticky substance.

Cactus juice, a non-toxic protectant has shown to be effective against yellow flies. Available at Ace Hardware in Santa Rosa Beach.

Cactus juice, a non-toxic protectant has shown to be effective against yellow flies. Available at Ace Hardware in Santa Rosa Beach.

Vegetation management
By removing underbrush around a residence, helps to eliminate resting sites for the flies and increases light levels making the area less attractive.

Bite and sting relief
Here is a general purpose sting relief for yellow flies. It is also helpful for mosquito, chigger and jellyfish bites.
1 tsp. baking soda
1/3 cup ammonia (Windex is mostly ammonia)
1/3 tsp. papain (meat tenderizer)
1 crushed aspirin
Mix thoroughly and store in refrigerator (be sure to label container). When needed, shake well and apply with cotton swab, and rub briskly.

Vinegar wipe/bath: When you first notice the bite, try applying a small amount of vinegar directly to the bump. If you have many bites, you may want to take a very hot bath in a tub filled with water and 2 1/2 cups of apple cider vinegar.

Other methods locals have used with some success: Witchazel, Preparation H with aloe if put on bite immediately helps relieve itching and swelling, Cortisone cream.

Protection:
Personal protective measures include the use of repellants containing DEET (diethyl metatoluamide) applied to exposed skin. Wearing physical barriers such as a head net, long sleeve shirts and long pants are effective protection if you must be out in areas where “yellow fly” populations are high. Permethrin containing products labeled for application to clothing only, can also be effective in repelling and killing “yellow flies.” Thankfully, “yellow fly” season is relatively short, one maybe two months, and then mosquitoes become our major pest.

Repellent recommendation is “Cactus Juice” available at Ace Hardware, and Modica Market in Seaside, also Swamp Gator available at Frank’s Cash and Carry.

Check comments below for reader contributions and suggestions.

Information courtesy South Walton Mosquito Control.

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49 Responses to Yellow flies are back!

  1. Heather Schumacher says:

    When the yellow flies bite do they become super swollen and then turn into blisters? I have been severly bitten all over my feet and lower legs. My legs resemble chicken pox. I have been using an over the counter relief of chiggerex and benidryl and sleeping pills at night. I have been popping the blisters 6-7 times a day. They are filled with clear sticky pus. Do you know how long it will take to heal???

  2. We are not able to provide advice, however personally I would suggest seeing your doctor if it persists. I would continue to apply Benadryl and not scratch or reopen the blisters.

  3. Lori says:

    The bites I have gotten have swollen up pretty big and if you scratch them often then they can blister. Otherwise I am not sure. They do annoy me to death though and seem to last and itch forever!

  4. chelsea says:

    ok yes i hav a 4 yellow fly bites on my knee that is very annoying and has blistered and the size of a quarter and if not it is bigger-watch out for yellow flies-then i have another one that is about an inch away from the other one and is penny sized-i think i might be allergic but i just moved to where i lived and this is the first time i have seen them and they are really annoying and lots of people are allergic even if you might not know you are so watch out for them becuz they really hurt!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. David says:

    I have tried many things to find something to help ease the pain and suffering of insect bites, most importantly the yellow fly. Found it! It is in most everyones med’ cabinet, it is any muscle rub, Flexall, Bengay, or Vicks. It works the best when applied ASAP, I try to use it within the first hour but usually get it on within a few minutes. The itch will remain for 8-10 minutes, but i use to have swelling for days, no longer. Try it.

  6. alex says:

    think you for tell me about yellow flys

  7. sally says:

    yes yellow flys do bite you and it hurts!!! will i was at camp a lot of yellow flys where ever ware when. i got bite and i saw it and i now know what a yellow fly is if you ware off it will still bite you i did it befor will tack to you later

  8. De Bo says:

    I was bitten 2 days ago by one yellow fly and the bastard got me twice. On my right knee and left elbow while napping in my lounger outside. Unless you see them, you won’t even know you were bit. They land on you softer than a feather and their bite is hardly felt. But I did get the bastard with a fly swatter and my blood splattered out of it like red paint. The bites began to welt up in about 10-15 mins and got worse with time. It’s been 2 days now and no relief from the swelling,oozing,itching and heat from those 2 bites. Hydro-Cordazone gives some temp relief but no for long..

  9. Carllene says:

    I get bit / stung several times a year. I have found that an ice cube applied immediately helps. I use Lanicane right away also. I have had bites swell up to the size of a grapefruit! Ice brings down the swelling and reduces the itch. Lanicane keeps the itch bearable. DON’T SCRATCH!!! They become infected very easy! If you DO get infected (as I have), a good home remedy is….and you may think this is nasty….take tobacco and your saliva and mix together and let sit a few minutes. Apply as a poltice and cover with a adhesive bandage. This will draw the poison of the infection out and will help it heal. Your own saliva is the best antiseptic for you! I have also found that burning a mosquito coil KILLS YELLOW FLIES!! If you can stand the smell!! Good luck!!

  10. lisa says:

    Has anyone figured out how to kill these things? The only thing that worked for me was campho-phenic. It’s usually in the 1st aide aisle in a small yellow box. I had tried everything short of setting myself on fire and nothing worked. The campho-phenic actually dried the bumps up, stopped the itching & accelerated the healing. It also has an anesthetic to stop the pain. It worked wonders for me, hope it helps y’all as well. Just fyi: I started seeing results within the 1st day I used it. Good luck.

  11. Stacy says:

    I treat them just like chiggers. I get as much fluid, toxins out as possible and clean it well with soap and water. Then coat it with clear polish it burns, and I don’t know if its the right way to treat, but it goes away in a couple days and stops the itch. I was told by a neighbor that watched Doctor Oz, to use Listerine as a repellent, it seems to work but you need to reapply after you sweat or go in the pool. I would check with a doctor first before trying my relief. Hope this helps.

  12. Joan Piper says:

    I was bitten by the yellow fly in my home. I thought that it was a bee, I did not know about the yellow fly. I tried many different remedies and nothing seemed to help stop the itching and pain. As a last resort I massaged the area with Hand Sanitizer and much to my delight it worked. The Hand Sanitizer has Vitamin E and Aloe in it. You can buy it in the Dollar Tree or any store in Florida. Hope it helps.

  13. Debbie says:

    A doctor gave me the Rx hydrocortisone cream and I also tried the home remedy posted,then aloe vera, but the itch still persists. I was bitten twice through a silk dress at an outdoor party at dusk. I saw 2 quarter-size red welts and over the next 2 hours they expanded over my thigh to the size of a dinner plate. Very hot to touch and aggravating, especially when trying to sleep. Before I was bitten, I shooed away a sand-colored moth so I don’t know if my bites are from a yellow fly or not. I will next try Ben Gay and the hand sanitizer. These flies are brutal

  14. Laurinda says:

    FYI we live in Kansas and I read they’re mostly in Florida, so they must be moving more than before. My husband has been bitten 4 times in the last 2 months, he swells up like crazy. Dear flies, plz go back to Florida!!

  15. kire says:

    Might sound nutts, but when I go outside to work at my outdoor desk, i wear a shirt that exposes my elbow. The bites are a great relief for the joint pain. For other parts I use the 91% rubbing alcohol for a quick wipe, and it seems to get the edge off. I believe they are also attracted to heat as they love to swarm my coffee cup. Trimming your trees of bottom limbs will help alot. They love to hang out on the bottoms of leaves and dive bomb you….

  16. Georgie says:

    Thank you all for such great info

  17. Tamara says:

    To Heather. It sounds like you were bitten by fire ants. Their bites are very painful and do turn into small blisters filled with pus. If you break the blisters, they will refill with pus, and possibly get infected. In Texas, we treat fire ant bites by mixing 1 part bleach to 9 parts water, then apply with a washcloth or cotton balls to get relief. Also, fire ant bites WILL leave scars depending on your skin type. I hope this helps. We are very Blessed to NOT have “yellow flies” where I live. I do know about the “black balls” because my sweet sister, Kelly, and her family live in Santa Rosa Beach. She tells me they also use it as a “weather indicator”- meaning, if there is a hurricane approaching they just watch how much the wind affects the “black ball”! To date, they have not lost a single one due to hurricane type weather!!!

  18. Melissa says:

    I fill a spray bottle with Listerine (brown variety) and apply all over before I go outside. Works great for pets too and not as toxic as most pesticides. The downside is it does very little to discourage those pesky mosquitoes

  19. Carolyn Moss says:

    I just use Ecosmart insect repellent, http://www.ecosmart.com. You can get it off their web site, Home Depot or Wal-Mart. I think it is around $4. It’s organic, doesn’t have toxic chemicals and smells great b/c its made with botanicals (rosemary, lemongrass, etc). safe to spray on kids

  20. Pat Baker says:

    Years ago when we first arrived here in Florida I had my first experience with Deer flys….ouch! It was awful at the beach, but thank goodness they have ridden our beaches of those pests. Then I was bitten by a Yellow Fly on the golf course and before nightfall I had an area on my thigh as big as a plate……itched like crazy. I ended up in the ER and they gave me shots, I almost ended up with a huge abcess. So I really am careful now when I go birding, I spray all over with OFF and wear the wristlets that they make to ward off bugs. I never want to be bitten by a Yellow fly again. Wish we could get rid of them like we did the deer fly.

  21. kelly roe says:

    If you’re near the beach, pick up some wet sand and scrub it in. It worked for me. Also, they’re pretty hard to kill unless you’re patient and let them get on you. When they land on ya, slap the hell out of them. I like killing them. : )

  22. BenBitten says:

    last year I suffered 32 bites at once, through this website, talking to people and some research,i have learned that different remedies work on different people. Here is a list of helpful items: depending upon the stage of your bite, your body chemical makeup and I don’t know what else. I hope some of this works for you.
    Remedies after bitten: Lemon juice, windex, lemon scented clorox wipes (adults only), tea tree oil, aloe, aloe with lidocane, confrey cream (minimal relief), bendryl spray, rub freshly cut onion
    Repellents: Listerine in spray bottle; 1/2 and 1/2 aloe and vics vapor rub, tea tree oil

  23. cruiser says:

    The Mosquito Magnet is the only thing that gets rid of yellow flies.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the tips! I got bit today on the shoulder and I look like I’m wearing one shoulder pad. The grapefruit size swelling is red and hot, doesn’t itch anymore, I put Seabreeze on it, I think the main ingredient is rubbing alcohol. That got rid of the itch but not the ache, swelling or redness. I’ll probably just try ice and a BC powder.

    @ Kelly Roe if you have the patience to just wait and watch for a while, that’s actually a great way to get them since usually it’s only a few of them causing all the problems.

    @Heather – Sounds like that is something else, sand gnats, chiggers or most likely, fire ants. In Florida, all will attack around your feet, ankles, calves. Don’t scratch or pop them unless you want scars!!!

  25. Ana says:

    I was out side doing some folwer plantings and I had long pants and sandals, well I started to itch but I didnd know hwy, then I look I had 10 flyies in my feet area sworming at me. I have to come inside and take my sandals off and put some benadryl, but no help also my elbow. So I crsushed a big garlic clove and put all the juisce and smashed bulb on me and the sewlling and itch went away, its quite miracle. I hate this animals and they are so persistent, they bit so hard also dogs. We need a torch to torche them up as they fly in. they are just horrible, and the horse fly even worse. Is liek a living hell out side. they bite even with your shirt one! Damm pests

  26. Kellie says:

    I have never experienced yellow flies until this year, in the last week I have been bitten around 10 times ( we live near a state forest). These little bugs are the most painful bites I have ever had. I have tried everything to make them stop itching and have found nothing yet. If someone has advice as to what I can use for relieve it would greatly appreciated. I haven’t been scratching the bites , but they have still swollen something awful.

  27. teresa cline says:

    Here is a little trick I use and it really helps repel the flies if you are out walking or trying to sit in the yard…I break off a wax myrtle branch, crush the leaves and use it as a wand. The crushed leaves are aromatic and the flies do not like it. You could also rub the crushed leaves on exposed skin, pets too.

  28. waco loco says:

    I am a born and raised walton county resident and have grown up with the infamous “yellow fly”. A great topical relief, once bitten, is hemorrhoid cream. Dab it on, do not rubb it in. It generally eases the itch and swelling.

  29. terri says:

    ive been around yellow flies most of my life and have found rubbing down with skin so soft from avon as a pretty strong deterent for these agravating flies also tiger balm with kill the sting and itch associated with the bites you can find it at walmart it has camphor and mentholatum i think in it but it works the best of anything ive ever used..

  30. terri says:

    also you can take a benadryl to help with itch and swelling

  31. Sandra Hawkins says:

    We use Absorbine Veterinary Liniment at my house. My family has used it since I was a child. It was written up in a medical journal several years ago for use on fire ant stings. If applied immediately, they will not fester up. I know everyone wants to go for the holistic approach, but I have used this product for close to 50 years. We used it on our horses and figured if it was good enough for them, it was good enough for us. Soak a cotton ball with the liniment and apply to the bite. It will alleviate the stinging and the itching. Also good for wasp stings. AND for mosquito repellent…I still swear by a mixture of alcohol and Skin So Soft bath oil.

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  33. Debra says:

    I found that Comet spray gel bathroom cleaner will take away the sting and reduce the swelling in about 15-20 minutes after it is applied. I was bitten so many times on my legs one afternoon and reached for whatever was the strongest in my cleaning cabinet and have been using it ever since that day. I hope it works for others as well as it does for me.

  34. ann says:

    I found something new this year for those painful bites. One drop organic oregano oil… Apply only on the center of bite area. This oil is very strong do not rub over entire area or you can dilute with a little almond oil. Works great.

  35. Teresa says:

    I have been bitten on both of my eye lids so a lot of these remedies will not work for me as I don’t want to put rubbing alcohol, ammonia or onions on or around my eyes. Does anyone have a suggestion? After reading a few post I am trying the aloe, from my plant, I have been taking benadryl and put beandryl cream very carefully on the bites but it has been a week and the itching is terrible, my lids are red and the skin is getting dry and flaky and last night they started swelling. I am a site to be seen! I guess I will go to the doctor tomorrow??? I guess it is an infection?

  36. bennie says:

    I used somethine call cura chrome on my bites, i got bit sunday june 5 and didn’t itch again until tuesday then the swelling started the cura chrome was given to me by and older woman, it came in a little brown bottle, the cure chrome i purchased from my pharmacy was different and had to be reapplied after a few hours, but i used and preparation h and cure chrome and today is june 8 my bites are only red with hardly any irretation.

  37. mike says:

    Yeah them bastards hurt I got stung about 50 times they are bad in coden Alabama

  38. Marie says:

    I am a photographer, and yesterday, while doing a shoot at a mountain lake, I got bitten by a small fly/flies at least six times on my right leg and thigh area. I was wearing long pants and knee socks, and hiking boots. I didn’t realize anything until my husband showed me his bite, which looked like a scab, surrounded by a raised read bump. When I got home, and took off my gear, I realized that I, too, had been bitten. From reading the other posts, it seems that we might have been bitten by a yellow fly. In my photos, the lake, where I was taking photos, shows almost a swarm over the water. This area with these nasty flies is Grey Eagle, CA. I had already tried ammonia, and it worked for about 2 minutes. I kept putting it on, but the relief did not last. After reading the posts, I tried Watkins Liniment. That was about 10 minutes ago and I am still itch free. Should I see a doctor? Do these flies spread diseases? I am highly allergic to a variety of things, so I am a bit worried. I may wait and see if the liniment works.

  39. Marie,
    We are not a medical reference and certainly cannot offer recommendations. These comments are simply that, comments on various remedies that have worked for folks. This is the first we have heard of yellow flies in CA. Yellow flies are typically found in wetland areas in the southern U.S. and never found in swarms. I would suggest you seek a professional opinion. Good luck to you.

  40. Ronnie says:

    I tried everything until I read the post about the Listerine…..it worked….I ran out of Listerine and had a bottle of Scope…I used that on the Yellow Fly bites and it worked also…didn’t swell up or itch any more……I did the good hot shower with Dial Bath Soap first then put the Scope/Listerine on the bites, and no more of anything….I have also used the Listerine and Scope without that bath and it worked really great….now I keep a bottle of both in the car and the truck…never know when you will need it….breath or bites….lol.

  41. lynn says:

    You do not have to spray paint anything black. Use a 3 gallon black nursery pot. Run string through the bottom holes, hang in tree so it’s upside down, and then apply your tangle-foot. Also, call your local Ag. Center, for the tangle-foot, the last few years I have been able to get this for free.

  42. cynthia says:

    Where can I find a mosquito Magnite, we have yellow flies here in Va., also, they are horrindous, can’t go outside without getting bit, the Listerine helps some but they still get me & my daughter.

  43. A.D. says:

    I never heard of yellow flies until I got bitten twice yesterday at a relative’s house. The bites aren’t swollen but they are red and a little itchy. I have some Benadryl and lidocaine jelly — they are working fine. However I’m not sensitive/allergic to such things; if my children or husband were bitten it would be another story. All I can say is, I’m glad it was me.

  44. Derek says:

    I Was at my uncles house at Sana Rosa beach just outside of San Destin and got bit several times on my ankles ,calf and elbow.You never see or feel them when they bite,but the next day I just iched like hell.The little basterds are worse then even poison ivy.The beach was no problem,but go a little ways inland and watch out!They are vary prosistant to.And Off repelant doesn’t seem to help much either.I hope they never make it up here to Birmingham AL.

  45. Lauren says:

    Fresh cut onion rubbed within first few hours will stop it from blistering and itching. The sooner applied the more effective. I am severly allergic and this works like magic!!! I had five bites and within 30 minutes all bites were relieved.

  46. Justin says:

    yea i have them all over my legs,arms, and back. but i have had mine for almost two and a half months and they wont go away. i went to the doctor and they told me to get this creme that cost $247.00 and i looked a him like he was crazy so i would rather find a different way to get rid of them then pay that price. and i have scratched them until they bleed and then put alcohol on them and it doesnt even burn or do anything. Things that i tried that didnt work; aloe vera, alcohol. peroxide, benedryl,anti-itch, the pink lotion calamone or something like that.

  47. Peggy says:

    I think I was bitten by those same yellow flies in the Guatemalan jungle. I got the blisters and my foot swelled quite badly. Four days later, after coming home, I landed in the ER with chest pains. Has anyone ever experienced a similar type of reaction? I’m trying to figure out if it is related, since the poison from the flies may travel through the body.

  48. Candice says:

    I have been in St Joe Fl for the past 2 weeks. The bites I have are severe and at times drive me crazy – dime if not nickel sized welts! Especially at night. My feet,ankles and calves are so hot and itchy I have to soak them in the epsom salts in the middle of the night.When I ingested Benadryl and have soak them in Epsom salts and blot with calamine lotion – The relief lasts about two hours – then it returns! They seem to multiply! Going to the store to try Listerine. I love the Gulf Coast but this sucks! I could be on the beach w/ my husband – he gets nothing – I am covered with itchy welts! There has to be some chemical reaction going on. Anyone? Anyone?

  49. tln says:

    We’re in Belize and they call them doctor flies here. I don’t really like asking for hemorrhoid cream at the local drug store☺ (they keep it behind the counter), but it WORKS. We’ve learned to keep a tube handy so that it can be applied immediately.