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Warning for possible plague of black flies in Spain this summer, insects best known for their aggressive bites

Warning for possible plague of black flies in Spain this summer, insects best known for their aggressive bites

The insect bites, tearing the skin of its victims a with saw-like action, and introduces a small dose of anaesthetic which allows it to go unnoticed. It can lead to serious infections and very alarming allergic reactions

Raquel Merino

Malaga

Friday, 14 July 2023, 12:18

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Experts are warning of a possible black fly plague in Spain this summer, with the dry conditions encouraging higher numbers of the insect known for its aggressive bites.

Although not invasive in Spain, the black fly has caused havoc in recent years due to its intense bites, the national association of environmental health companies (Anecpla) said.

Despite the rain at the start of summer, many rivers have remained dry, creating the perfect breeding conditions for the black fly. Anecpla warned this could cause a possible plague of the insect if the relevant controls are not carried out, and urged public administrations to speed up and intensify this preventative work in riverbeds.

Some of the main rivers where the pest usually breeds are the Duero, Ebro, Guadalquivir, Guadiana, Júcar and Segura, so the most affected areas are Madrid, Catalonia, Aragon, Valencia, Murcia and La Rioja.

Anecpla pointed out that this species cannot be underestimated. "The black fly has become so strong in our country that it has come to take over first place from the tiger mosquito in the list of the most feared insects of the summer," experts said.

'It doesn't sting, it bites'

The black fly population has accelerated in recent years, and more people are affected by its bite, Anecpla said. The organisation's general director, Jorge Galván, said the insect "doesn't sting, it bites".

"The fundamental problem with this insect is that it does not bite, but rather it bites with a saw-like action, generating a nasty wound and can lead to infections and very alarming allergic reactions, which in some cases can even require hospitalisation," he said.

The black fly needs to consume blood to complete its lifecycle. Lacking a stinger, the insect bites, tearing the skin of its victims with its mouth. It introduces a small dose of anaesthetic, which allows it to go unnoticed for around five minutes.

The bite of the black fly can causes welts several centimetres long, which may swell and even bleed. If you are bitten by this insect, it is recommended to apply ice to reduce the swelling or a mild corticosteroid ointment, and to go to the nearest health centre to avoid a worsening of the reaction. Do not scratch the bite, as this could make the wound worse or even infect it.

Why is the black fly population increasing?

Anecpla president, Sergio Monge, said there are two reasons: climate change and globalisation. He also pointed out that the solution is adopting preventive measures prior to the hottest months, such as applying larvicidal treatments, which are the most effective.

Tips to avoid being bitten

Unlike other flying insects, the black fly is most active during the day and is capable of getting beneath clothing. Some of the advice offered by Anecpla to avoid falling victim to this insect this summer is:

- Wear light-coloured clothes, but not bright colours as that could attract swarms

- Avoid walking along rivers or areas close to them, especially in the late afternoon

- Install mosquito nets on doors and windows in risk areas

- Avoid accumulation of water outside the home and keep water tanks covered

- Control drains

- Use certified repellents, especially those containing citronella

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