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Five Amazing Facts About World’s Most Dangerous Fly and How to Prevent Their Deadly Bites

Close-up of tsetse fly isolated on the white.

The tsetse fly is also known as the tik tik fly. These dangerous flies include all the species in the genus Glossina. However, these flies belong to are Diptera, the family of Muscidae, the kingdom of Animalia, class of insects, phylum of arthropods and the species of these flies are known to be as fuses, palpates, and Morsi tans. These are found in Africa and transmit a deadly disease called trypanosomiasis also known as the sleeping sickness. This disease also transmits into humans as well as animals, and the human sickness is very similar to that of in domestic animals called nagana. These deadly flies have the capability of puncturing the skin and feeds on the blood, human as well as animals. The tsetse flies are found in the tropical Africa and are large biting insects, or we can say flies. These are believed to be one of the oldest living creatures of all time. There are some fossils identified as these species also that some of these species are said to be living in Arabia.

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  • Appearance and size

The tsetse flies are about the size of a regular house fly from six-fourteen mm. They possess a yellow to brown figure and have quite large eyes. You can distinguish them in different categories. Their mouth parts are forward projected and have a wing which looks like scissors when placed over the abdomen while resting. Scientist calls these flies by the term “holometabolous insects.” The fully developed larvae pupate in the soil as the females give birth to them. When folding, the first wing is over the abdomen whereas the second one has placed directly on top the first one for resting. To the bottom their head, the long proboscis is attached which extends forward. These flies have tough outer coverings and veins all over the fly’s wings can be seen.Detailed Vector drawing of a Tsetse fly. 

  • Life cycle and habitat

These flies live and are in the vegetations by the river sides or the banks of the river. Other than that they can also be in heavy and thick rainforests or lakes in arid terrain. Female flies mate once and give birth to single a fully grown larva that develops in its uterus over the period of 7-9 days. When the larva is born, it then pupates within the soil. The female then continues to produce a single larva during her lifetime, after the eggs hatch within the mother after the development of the larva; the delivered larvae then starts to pupate immediately. This process usually takes three weeks or 21 days however the adult of the tsetse fly emerges from the ground in about a period of 30 days. The maturity period is 12 to 14 days. If it is a female, then they give birth to their first larva. The female thus takes a period of fifty days of the female fly maturing and then giving birth to its first larva. Both of these sexes feed on the blood of both human and animals. These then result in several diseases to both of their victims meaning to both humans and animals. The decreased rate of reproduction means the killing of about 3% population of the female tsetse per day.

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  • Diet and habits of tsetse flies

Tsetse flies feed on the blood of both animals as well as humans. They, however, transmit various diseases and species of trypanosomes that cause the trypanosomiasis. The common word used for this disease is nagana as they affect the livestock and can result in the total loss, as for humans the term sleeping sickness is used. These diseases are known to be similar to a great extent. Also, the main threat is from the livestock as these flies can affect the livestock, thus resulting in the loss of local cattle. The transmission of this deadly species depends on the feeding habits of the tsetse flies. People now use repellants to secure their cattle and livestock.

  • Mating and Reproduction

The mating among the tsetse flies is unique and different among the Diptera. These flies are usually low in density, but the presence of host animals bring the male and female of these species. Regulation of male location is by internal chemical and external physical stimuli. You can manipulate the tsetse behavior by studying the physiological mechanisms. These can, therefore, be exploited for many purposes as such to control which would be useful to stop the spreading diseases. Over there progress has been made, but much information is yet to extract.


These flies transmit various diseases that can prove to be deadly and fatal. These flies carry parasites trypanosome that gets transmitted from them to the human or animal body. It then develops a disease among the two categories, for animals the disease is known as the nagana whereas for humans they call it the sleeping sickness. The nagana happens by the species of the protozoan. These diseases mostly occur in the central and southern Africa. In this, the animal suffers the discharge from the nose and eyes. The body tissues start to swell up, and muscle wasting starts. Also, the animal suffers anemia, and parts of the body become paralyzed. Lymph nodes and liver size enlarge, also the spinal cord are affected. Therefore, this highly affects the cattle, and the disease can result in a huge loss as it directly affects the animal’s body and thus the animal dies.

The human trypanosomiasis is also widespread in Africa and can prove to be deadly if not treated on time. At the initial stages, a person would suffer high fever, soreness pain in joints and muscles, severe headaches and irritation. On a higher level, the disease strikes the nervous system and can result very negatively representing alterations in personality, confusion, difficulty in talking and walking as well as seizures. The problem increases as the time passes and if not treated they would prove to be fatal. Brain and Neurological damages can take place which can result in changes in personality. One should diagnose as soon as possible to avoid complications and make the detection of cure difficult. The quicker you treat this infection, the fewer chances are of you dying.

The Deadly Tsetse Bite

The bite of the Tsetse fly can prove to be fatal if left untreated in both humans and mammals. The Tsetse fly feeds on blood. Both male and female sexes of the fly are known to be vectors of trypanosomes and are known to cause sleeping sickness in humans. As they roam about in a vast territory of Africa and the Sahara, effective control and prevention of the bite are necessary as there are little or no medical centers for timely administration of the affected individual in these areas.

Methods of Control and Prevention

In the past, the local authorities have resorted to many different methods for the control of the disease and hence the control of the fly itself, some of these methods were crude, now modern methods are used. The wild animals affected by the disease are also recognized, and herds of them had been slaughtered in Africa which gave rise to a greater problem of recycling and disposing of the corpses. Another primitive method included clearing the land of any greenery and forestation. These methods destroyed the environment considerably resulted in the loss of habitat for the wildlife and effects of deforestation were grave. However recent developments have helped in innovation and awareness has spread among the residents of the affected regions.

All of this has enabled better management of the Tsetse. Innovation along with massive funding by the WHO and many NGO’s has made the control of the Tsetse possible. Some of these include mass pesticide campaigns in the heavily affected region. The Tsetse rests on barks of trees, and when they line up with poisonous pesticide, it proves fatal for the fly. This method follows a traditional control method as in olden times the tree barks were lined by the serum from the rubber plant by the locals, the serum is sticky, and hordes of tsetse resting on the serum could no longer fly because of the stickiness.

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There have been massive campaigns of setting up electrified fences in the heavily affected regions which were costly and largely ineffective in the past, but nowadays new blue colored electrified nets have been installed in areas of known problems. The tsetse is attracted to electric blue color, and this technique has been bearing fruitful results. The last scientific resort used on a large scale is the sterile insect technique whereby mass populations of the male Tsetse are trapped. The males then fly back and mate with females, but no offspring is born, the female tsetse only mates once a year hence reducing the risk of the affected population growth. Other methods of prevention include using insect repellents, as repellents have been known to repel the tsetse as well as many other diseases causing organisms. Setting up blue electrical traps for the tsetse in areas of human population and areas of residence has also helped in significantly reducing the damage the tsetse has been causing.

People give written and an oral warning to the tourists that they should avoid any contact with any fly in the region, and for that to be possible, they should avoid bushes as bushes are known areas of rest for the tsetse. As a desperate measure, people use to stop from entering affected regions without full clothing which included covering the head, neck, limbs, and feet. The early installers of traps went into the affected regions wearing electrified suits. The clothing used in areas of tsetse should not be too bright or too dull as tsetse is known to be attracted to both these color combinations.

Interesting Facts About the Deadly Tsetse

  • In local African language Tswana, Tsetse means “fly.”
  • In Mid-continental Africa as much as twenty-threedifferent species of the Tsetse fly exist
  • The vast population covers nearly ten million square kilometers are land and airspace in Africa alone.
  • The tsetse is among the oldest inhabitants of the earth. They have been on the earth for more than thirty-fourmillion years.
  • Unlike the house fly, the tsetse fly is bigger in size and can fold its wings while at rest. It tucks its one wing under the other when not flying.
  • The tsetse fly is among the diurnal animals i.e. it is most active during the hottest part of the day
  • Rapidly losing body mass, swollen lymph nodes, chronic headache, and lingering fever are symptoms of a tsetse bite (sleeping sickness) and the disease is responsible for more than 250000 deaths each year.
  • Both the sexes are bloodsucking vectors, but males usually prefer humans whereas the female targets large mammals.
  • The tsetse produces more than three generations each year and 31 generations in a lifetime.
  • Tsetse larva constantly produces toxins which are strong enough to kill a man.
  • The female tsetse flies mates only once in a year, but her body is capable of producing offspring every ten days or so. The eggs hatch inside the female body, and the larva feeds on the fluid secreted by the uterine walls of the female.
  • The larva then exits the body of the female and looks like a maggot; it continues the rest of its development by being buried into the soil. In the process it develops a hard protective shell around it, this stage of development is the pupa stage. Pupa stage lasts for about three weeks after which adult insect penetrates the cocoon from within and emerges.
  • The proboscis (mouth apparatus) in tsetse fly is in shapelike a scythe, and you can use it in penetrating deep into the skin of its hosts.
  • Tsetse flies have a pair of antennas on the head each covered in aristae(appendages) and long branched hair
  • With lengths up to 0.7 inches, the Tsetse fly has a big head, and the eyes are widely separated
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