As if the usual ticks were not bad enough, flying ticks are now spreading in our forests. But: these do not actually exist in this form – it is much more a common name of the deer louse fly. How dangerous are these parasites and what is the right thing to do if you have been bitten?

Flying ticks: Here’s what you need to know about deer louse flies

We have summarized all the important information about the habitat, appearance and danger of flying ticks for you in this article.

What do deer louse flies look like and where do they live?

Since the deer louse fly has certain similarities with the commonly known ticks, it is popularly called the “flying tick”. The insect is about half an inch in size, has a brown to black flat body, and two long transparent wings. Its six hairy legs, however, are much thicker than those of familiar houseflies. Common ticks, on the other hand, belong to the arachnids and have eight legs – but no wings. Unlike common ticks, the deer louse fly also does not sit in bushes, shrubs or on blades of grass to lie in wait for a potential victim. In fact, the insects fly through the air until they find a host on which to settle and eventually bite. At their ends are small hooks with which they finally cling to their host.

Tip: Flying ticks live in swarms, so you can easily identify them and avoid the swarm. The swarms tend to hang around forest edges when temperatures are high in midsummer and late summer. By the way, deer louse flies circle their victims several times before landing on them and biting. So you still have enough time to get yourself and your pet to safety.

How dangerous are flying ticks?

Scientists believe that a deer louse fly bite can transmit bacteria, viruses and various pathogens. The best-known bacterium “Bartonella schoenbuchensis” causes inflammatory skin rashes, edema, purulent sores, boils or fever in humans. In animals, you can also recognize a deer louse fly bite by purulent skin sores. Otherwise, both humans and animals experience the usual reactions after an insect bite. These include itching, swelling, pain at the site of the bite, bruising, or even a skin rash. Allegedly, bites from a flying tick can also trigger inflammation of the heart – but this has not been scientifically proven.

By the way: In humans, the deer louse fly likes to bite in the neck area and migrates from there over the hair up the head. Dogs are more likely to be bitten on the anus, abdomen and inner thighs. In horses, the culprits tend to attack the neck and the base of the mane and tail. After the deer louse fly lands on the host, it sheds its wings and sucks blood for several minutes. It then seeks out the other flying insects from its swarm to reproduce with them on the host. The female lays the eggs on the host. The larvae eventually drop down and pupate on the ground.

What to do after a bite

If you notice clear symptoms or can even see the culprit, you should consult your family doctor – or a veterinarian in the case of your pet – as soon as possible. Until then, the bite should be cooled. If you can still see the deer louse fly, you should not provoke it under any circumstances – otherwise it will bite even harder. Instead, you can try to remove the culprit with a nit or lice comb. Alternatively, flying ticks can be removed with tweezers, tape or a lint brush. If you discover several creepy crawlies on you or in your pet’s fur, an extensive bath can help.

What helps against flying ticks?

At this point, there are neither special tricks nor home remedies. Against deer louse flies only special caution and attention help. It is best to avoid forest edges in summer and to check yourself and your animals for a possible deer louse fly infestation after a walk in the forest. As a preventive measure, comb yourself and your pets regularly with a nit or lice comb. If you’re unsure whether you or your pet has fallen victim to a flying tick, a thorough bath will also help get rid of the possible culprit. So, try to avoid forest edges to avoid deer louse flies.