Horse flies, biting insects and stinging insects

Horse fly Image,link courtesy of the Daily Telegraph

I was very sad to read in this article of the very sad death of a 48 year old Englishman, Andy Batty, arising from a serious allergic response, or anaphylaxis, to a horse fly bite.

This is very unusual – in fact the very first time I have heard of this serious allergic response to a biting insect.

It is important to appreciate that a stinging insect such as a wasp or bee injects venom into the victim and this is the type of insect encounter that typically generates anaphylactic shock.  In contrast, biting insects such as horse flies and mosquitos inject a tiny bit of initial saliva into their victim and then suck like mad to extract nutrients from their victims.  Often there is no meaningful introduction of any insect proteins into the victim and hence typically no serious allergic response.

We should not be alarmed by this event but just rather saddened by the terrible damage a tiny insect can do to a six foot rugby player and both his family and friends.

Author: David I Glaser