The Yellow Fly: Winged Spawn of Satan

yellow flyAs I lay here, icing my swollen ankle after applying a topical steroid, I find myself extremely fed up… with the yellow fly situation. What’s a yellow fly? Well, if you’re new to Jacksonville, allow me to enlighten you on these winged spawns of Satan. In Florida, the name yellow fly is commonly used to describe a group of about a dozen different yellow-bodied biting flies in the Tabanidae family. In Belize, this species is known as the doctor fly. Why? Because it inflicts so much pain with its sting, you’ll feel as though you need to see a doctor.

Be On the Lookout

The female yellow fly is one of the most serious biting fly pests wherever it occurs (males do not bite). It attacks humans vigorously, and the bites are painful, often causing large and itchy swellings. Although it attacks throughout the day, it is most active during the late afternoon and on cloudy days. It is especially common near large bodies of water but tends to remain in or near forests. Flies are on the wing in Florida from March to November, although the peak season is April through June.

The yellow fly, aka winged spawn of Satan.

How to Avoid Them

Besides quarantining yourself inside for months on end, there are some remedies to help prevent the flies from biting you in the future, although it’s impossible to guarantee 100% prevention.

A black beach ball coated with Tangle-Trap. The yellow flies are attracted to the heat and motion.
  • Sticky Black Ball: 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 home supply or hardware stores. These devices are hung from a tree limb using string, in a shaded area, about 4 feet above the ground. The 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.
  • Over-the-Counter Prevention: Repellents containing DEET (diethyl metatoluamide) applied to exposed skin, wearing long sleeves or pants while outside during peak seasons, or even mosquito nets around your head. But who wants to look like the psycho neighbor, I mean…
But it comes in pink!
  • 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-and-a-half cups of apple cider vinegar.
  • 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 the refrigerator (be sure to label the container). When needed, shake well and apply with cotton swab, and rub briskly.
  • Bite Relief: You can try an oatmeal bath, calamine lotion, hydrocortisone cream, or aloe vera to help relieve pain and swelling.
yellow fly
yellow fly

Treatment & What to Watch For

On both occasions, which happened only a few weeks apart, I had extreme swelling on both ankles. This is partly because the bite occurred on an extremity like a foot where a lot of pressure is placed throughout the day. It was extremely painful, felt like someone was applying pressure and the area was also warm to the touch.

For the first bite, I did a virtual doctor’s appointment and was prescribed a topical steroid, which eventually brought the swelling down and allowed me to be able to walk on my foot without pain. However, the swelling did not dull completely until nearly a week later. I had to miss out on a friend’s bachelorette party in Savannah, so I was devastated.

Thankfully, my mother-in-law is a nurse and provides a lot of professional medical advice and guidance to us whenever we need it. These are the signs she said to watch for:

  • Red streaking on or around the bite
  • Fever or chills, nausea, headaches, or swollen lymph nodes
  • Wheezing or hives

You should seek professional medical attention immediately if any of the above signs occur since there is a risk of infection.

I hope you find relief from yellow flies this season — or just never get stung by one at all. But if you’re like me and all bugs just find you, I hope these tips help you in your journey to avoid them like the plague; the yellow fly plague.

If you have found a natural remedy or great way to prevent yellow flies from inhabiting your private outdoor space, please let me know in the comments below.  

Meagan Vesta
Midwest-natives Meagan and her husband Matt first moved to Jacksonville in 2011 and have lived all over town from the beaches to St. John's County. They now own a small farm in Nassau County along with their two sons and two rescue dogs. This year they are starting a market garden featuring fresh, locally-grown produce and you can follow along on their journey at @vestafamilyfarms! Meagan has been a full-time working mom, a stay-at-home mom, and now a work-from-home mom for Jax Mom while homeschooling her two boys and helping run the farm. They enjoy watching their sons play little league along with Jumbo Shrimp games and also enjoy fishing and boating in Jax whenever they can!

1 COMMENT

  1. DEET does NOT work on these things. All it does is just piss them off and make them more aggressive. Literally, nothing works to get rid of these stupid things. I’ve been dealing with them inside my home since March 2022. Vinegar does not work either. I am going to try this black ball contraption cause I’m at my wit’s end.

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