Hippoboscidae, the louse flies or keds, are obligate parasites of mammals and birds. In this family, the winged species can fly at least reasonably well, though others with vestigial or no wings are flightless and highly apomorphic. As usual in their superfamily Hippoboscoidea, most of the larval development takes place within the mother's body, and pupation occurs almost immediately.[2]

The sheep ked, Melophagus ovinus, is a wingless, reddish-brown fly that parasitizes sheep. The Neotropical deer ked, Lipoptena mazamae, is a common ectoparasite of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in the southeastern United States. Both winged and wingless forms may be seen. A common winged species is Hippobosca equina, called "the louse fly" among riders. Species in other genera are found on birds; for example, Ornithomya bequaerti has been collected from birds in Alaska. Two species of the Hippoboscidae – Ornithoica (Ornithoica) podargi and Ornithomya fuscipennis are also common parasites of the tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) of Australia.

Pseudolynchia canariensis is commonly found on pigeons and doves, and can serve as the vector of "pigeon malaria" (Haemoproteus columbae). Louse flies of birds may transmit other parasites such as those in the genus Plasmodium or other Haemoproteus parasites. Some evidence indicates that other Hippoboscidae can serve as vectors of disease agents to mammals. For example, a louse fly of the species Icosta americana was found with West Nile Virus infection from an American Kestrel [3]

The flightless Crataerina pallida
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Diptera
(unranked): Eremoneura
(unranked): Cyclorrhapha
Section: Schizophora
Subsection: Calyptratae
Superfamily: Hippoboscoidea
Family: Hippoboscidae
Samouelle, 1819

Hypoboscidae (lapsus)


In some obsolete taxonomies, the name Hippoboscidae is applied to the group properly known as Pupipara, i.e. the present family plus the bat flies (Nycteribiidae and "Streblidae"). They are called pupipara because the females birth live young, one at a time, that are deposited as late stage larvae called a prepuparium that pupate immediately at birth.[4] For the species Pseudolynchia canariensis, as well as other louse flies, reproduction is incredibly energetically expensive. Larvae feed on milk glands within the female fly prior to being deposited. Single offspring (pupae) can weigh more than an unfed emerged adult fly since the pupal casing is included in the pupal weight and teneral flies often put on mass after their first few blood meals.[5] Two of the three traditional subfamilies (Hippoboscinae and Lipopteninae) have been shown to be good monophyletic groups at least overall. According to cladistic analysis of several DNA sequences, to make the Ornithomyinae monophyletic, their tribe Olfersini deserves to be recognized as a full family, too.[6][7]

See also


  1. ^ Maa, T. C. (1969). "A Revised Checklist and Concise Host Index of Hippoboscidae (Diptera)" (PDF). Pacific Insects Monograph. Honolulu: Bishop Museum, Honolulu, Hawaii. 20: 261–299.
  2. ^ Hutson, A.M (1984). Diptera: Keds, flat-flies & bat-flies (Hippoboscidae & Nycteribiidae). Handbooks for the Identification of British Insects. 10 pt 7. Royal Entomological Society of London. p. 84.
  3. ^ Bó, M. Susana; Cabezas, Sonia; Martínez, Pablo; Sarasola, José H.; Cicchino, Armando C.; Santillán, Miguel Á; Liébana, M. Soledad (2011). "Ectoparasites In Free-Ranging American Kestrels In Argentina: Implications for the Transmission of Viral Diseases". Journal of Raptor Research. 45 (4): 335–342. doi:10.3356/JRR-11-26.1. ISSN 0892-1016.
  4. ^ Walker, Meredith Swett (2015-05-18). "Behold the Hippoboscidae: Bizarre Biting Flies that Give Live Birth!". Entomology Today. Retrieved 2019-02-10.
  5. ^ Waite, Jessica L.; Henry, Autumn R.; Adler, Frederick R.; Clayton, Dale H. (2012). "Sex-specific effects of an avian malaria parasite on an insect vector: support for the resource limitation hypothesis". Ecology. 93 (11): 2448–2455. doi:10.1890/11-2229.1. ISSN 1939-9170.
  6. ^ Petersen, Frederik Torp; Meier, Rudolf; Kutty, Sujatha Narayanan; Wiegmann, Brian M. . (October 2007). "The phylogeny and evolution of host choice in the Hippoboscoidea (Diptera) as reconstructed using four molecular markers". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 45 (1): 111–122. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2007.04.023. PMID 17583536.
  7. ^ Dick, C. W. (20 December 2006). "Checklist of World Hippoboscidae (Diptera: Hippoboscoidea)" (PDF). Chicago: Department of Zoology, Field Museum of Natural History.

External links


Austrolfersia is a genus of biting flies in the family of louse flies, Hippoboscidae. There is only one known species, Austrolfersia ferrisi Bequaert, 1953. It is a parasite of Diprotodontia.


Calyptratae is a subsection of Schizophora in the insect order Diptera, commonly referred to as the calyptrate muscoids (or simply calyptrates). It consists of those flies which possess a calypter that covers the halteres, among which are some of the most familiar of all flies, such as the house fly.

About 18,000 described species are in this group, or about 12% of all the flies yet described.


Crataerina is a genus of louse flies in the family Hippoboscidae. All are parasites of birds, feeding on the blood of various species of Apodidae (swifts) and Hirundinidae (swallows and martins). The genus is sometimes spelled Craterina.

Crataerina pallida

Crataerina pallida, the swift lousefly, is a species of biting fly in the family of louse flies Hippoboscidae. These flies are commonly encountered in the nests of the common swift (Apus apus) in Europe and Asia.The lousefly spends its entire life cycle associated with swifts. The adult lousefly produce larvae in the late summer months which then pupate and lie dormant during the winter months inside the vacated swift nest. These parasites have highly aggregated population distribution and high levels of host prevalence. The adult fly then hatch out in spring when the first swift eggs are laid, by the returning adults, and feed on the blood of the nestlings and the adults, sucking about 25 mg of blood every 5 days. They can be a serious pest of adult and nestling swifts.

Crataerina pallida is vertically transmitted ectoparasite, in that it is passed from parent host on to offspring. C. pallida are relatively benign, because their own species fitness will depend on successful reproduction of swifts. Evidence suggests that C. pallida had little if any effect on nestling growth or fledging success rate.


Hippobosca is a genus of flies in the family Hippoboscidae. There are only 7 known species. There are numerous synonyms.


Hippoboscinae is a subfamily of the fly family Hippoboscidae. All are parasitic, and unlike some other members of the Hippoboscidae, all Hippoboscinae are winged species.


Hippoboscoidea is a superfamily of the Calyptratae. The flies in this superfamily are blood-feeding obligate parasites of their hosts. Four families are often placed here:

Glossinidae - Tsetse flies

Hippoboscidae - Ked flies

Nycteribiidae - Bat flies

Streblidae - Bat flies(Note that the Mystacinobiidae, while also a bat fly, belongs to the superfamily Oestroidea).

The Hippoboscidae are commonly called louse flies or ked flies. The bat flies are Nycteribiidae and Streblidae (along with Mystacinobiidae); the Streblidae are probably not monophyletic. The family Glossinidae, monotypic as to genus, contains the tsetse flies, economically important as the vectors of trypanosomiasis. The enigmatic Mormotomyiidae are entirely monotypic at present, with the single species Mormotomyia hirsuta known from one locality in Kenya. Most probably, the Mormotomyiidae belong to the Ephydroidea and not to Hippoboscoidea as previously constructed.In older literature, this group is often referred to as the Pupipara ("pupa-bearers"), because, unlike virtually all other insects, most of the larval development takes place inside the mother's body, and pupation occurs almost immediately after "birth" – in essence, instead of laying eggs, a female lays full-sized pupae one at a time. In the strict sense, the Pupipara only encompass the Hippoboscidae, Nycteribiidae, and "Streblidae", which in older works were all included in the Hippoboscidae.

Lipoptena depressa

Lipoptena depressa, or the Western American deer ked, is a fly from the family Hippoboscidae and 1 of 3 flies within the genus Lipotena. They are blood-feeding parasites of the mule deer - Odocoileus hemionus in the western United States and Canada particularly in regions containing the Rocky Mountains.

Lipoptena mazamae

Lipoptena mazamae, the Neotropical deer ked, is a fly from the family Hippoboscidae. They are blood-feeding parasites of the white-tailed deer - Odocoileus virginianus in the southeastern United States and Central America, the red brocket deer - Mazama americana in Mexico to northern Argentina, and also an incidental parasite of domestic cattle, Cougars - Puma concolor, and man.Deer keds are small brown, flattened flies . Females are slightly larger than males, with a body length of 3.5-4.5 mm for females 3 mm for males. They have a tough protective exoskeleton to prevent them from being crushed. They shed their wings upon finding a suitable host. As in all Hippoboscidae, both males and females are blood feeders.They are often misidentified as ticks.

The female fly will produce a single larva at a time, retaining the larva internally until it is ready to pupate. The larva feeds on the secretions of a milk gland in the uterus of the female. After three larval instars, a white pre-pupa which immediately forms a hard dark puparium. The pupa is usually deposited where the deer slept overnight. When the pupa has completed its pupation, a winged adult emerges and flies in search of a suitable host. On finding one, the fly sheds its wings and is permanently associated with the same host. This is typical of most members of the family Hippoboscidae.

L. mazamae are known to carry several species of the Bartonella bacterium, but it has not yet been positively proved whether they are active vectors of Bartonella infections, or just carry the bacterium as a by product of their blood feeding habits.


Melophagus is a genus of biting flies in the family of louse flies, Hippoboscidae. There are three known species and one subspecies. All are parasites of bovids. All are wingless.

Melophagus ovinus

Melophagus ovinus, or the sheep ked, is a brown, hairy fly that resembles a tick. This wingless fly is about 4 to 6 mm long and has a small head; it is a fly from the family Hippoboscidae. They are blood-feeding parasites of sheep. The sheep ked feeds on the blood of its host by inserting its sharp mouthparts into capillaries beneath the skin. The legs of the sheep ked are very strong and tipped with claws. Sheep keds live their whole lives in the wool of sheep. They are most commonly found on the neck, shoulders, and underbelly of the host animal. Although they are often referred to as the “sheep tick”, sheep keds spend their entire lifecycle on their hosts, which is distinguishable from the characteristics of a true tick. Additionally, sheep keds have six legs, whereas true ticks have eight legs.


Neolipoptena is a genus of Hippoboscidae, known as louse flies or deer keds. There is only one known species - Neolipoptena ferrisi.


Olfersia are genus of biting flies in the family of louse flies, Hippoboscidae. There are 7 known species. All species are Parasites of birds.


Ornithoctona are genus of biting flies in the family of louse flies, Hippoboscidae. There are 12 known species. All species are parasites of birds.

Ornithomya avicularia

Ornithomya avicularia is a species of fly in the family Hippoboscidae. It is found in the Palearctic.


Ornithomyinae is a subfamily of the fly family Hippoboscidae. All are blood feeding parasites, for the most part on birds, though some have mammals as hosts.


Ovoviviparity, ovovivipary, ovivipary, or aplacental viviparity is a mode of reproduction in animals in which embryos that develop inside eggs remain in the mother's body until they are ready to hatch. This method of reproduction is similar to viviparity, but the embryos have no placental connection with the mother and generally receive their nourishment from a yolk sac. In some species, yolk sac supplies are supplemented, or largely replaced by, uterine secretions or other maternal provisioning. Examples include trophic eggs in the uterus, or even intrauterine cannibalism.

Extreme examples of intrauterine secretions occur in some species of insects; for instance, females of some Glossinidae, Hippoboscidae and other Hippoboscoidea retain one larva at a time in the uterus, where it feeds on intrauterine secretions analogous to "milk". When the young insect has completed its larval metamorphosis, the mother deposits it where it can dig in and pupate without further attention. She then proceeds to raise the next larva in the uterus.

The young of some ovoviviparous amphibians such as Limnonectes larvaepartus, are born as larvae, and undergo further metamorphosis outside the body of the mother. Members of genera Nectophrynoides and Eleutherodactylus bear froglets, not only the hatching, but all the most conspicuous metamorphosis, being completed inside the body of the mother before birth.

Among insects that depend on opportunistic exploitation of transient food sources, such as many Sarcophagidae and other carrion flies, and species such as many Calliphoridae, that rely on fresh dung, and parasitoids such as tachinid flies that depend on entering the host as soon as possible, the embryos commonly develop to the first larval instar inside the mother's reproductive tract, and they hatch just before being laid or almost immediately afterwards.


Proparabosca is a genus of biting flies in the family of louse flies, Hippoboscidae. There is only one known species, Proparabosca alata (Theodor & Oldroyd,1965). It is a parasite of lemurs.

Pseudolynchia canariensis

Pseudolynchia canariensis, the pigeon louse fly or pigeon fly, is a species of biting fly in the family of louse flies, Hippoboscidae.

Extant Diptera families


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