Horsefly VS Housefly: How To Tell The Difference

What Do House Flies Eat - House Flies Sucking Mango Juice

Written by Peralee Knight

Published: February 12, 2022

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Housefly vs Horsefly

The common housefly is an annoyance that many people deal with and can be found everywhere in the world. But the horsefly is more than just another buzzing annoyance to shoo away. The biggest difference between a horsefly and the common housefly is a painful bite. That bite is why it’s crucial to know the difference between a horsefly vs a housefly!

Do Horseflies And Houseflies Belong To The Same Family?

Aggressive Animal: Horsefly

Horseflies belong to the family Tabanidae, while horseflies belong to the family Muscidae.


Horseflies belong to the family Tabanidae, while houseflies belong to the family Muscidae, both in the insect order Diptera. They are named for their high adaptability to sharing an environment with humans. However, flies fall into different subcategories based on size, physical characteristics, and behavior.

The species group we refer to as the common housefly is a common annoyance in most households throughout the world. While these types of flies are known for their dangerous ability to spread harmful diseases like e. Coli, they are more often a mild annoyance.

In comparison, horseflies fall under the category of stable flies and are known bloodsuckers. These species of flies are more dangerous. This is due to the initial bite and the higher risk of infectious disease that the bite may cause. It is vital to know whether you are dealing with horseflies to protect yourself from a potentially infectious bite.

Can Horseflies And Houseflies Be Found In The Same Habitat?

What Do House Flies Eat - House Flies Sucking Mango Juice

Horseflies and houseflies are separate species from the same group of insects.


Another factor that muddies the waters when trying to identify a housefly vs a horsefly is their shared habitat. Both horseflies and houseflies can live everywhere humans live and are often found in the same areas. Therefore, one will find them in whatever location, as they go wherever we do!

Unfortunately, horseflies can enter your house as easily as any other type of fly can. Keeping either out of your house depends on the use of screening. You can also use flytraps such as sticky papers and bottle traps used for any type of flying insect. Also, one cannot discount the tried-and-true method of grabbing a rolled-up newspaper or fly swatter and giving chase to them!

Of course, chasing down what we think is a regular housefly comes with the threat of that awful bite. It’s best to proceed with some caution. You may start out chasing the horsefly thinking it’s the housefly, only to find it chasing you!

Key Differences Between Horseflies vs Houseflies

There are multiple key differences between horseflies vs houseflies. Female horseflies need blood to obtain the protein necessary for them to reproduce, and she is relentless in her pursuit. A way to tell a horsefly from a housefly is that a female horsefly will actively chase you! However, there are even more differences between these two flies- let’s dive in and learn more about these two now.

Horsefly vs Housefly: Speed

One of the main differences between horseflies vs houseflies is their speed. Horseflies are the fastest flying insect in the world, flying up to ninety miles an hour. This is an important identifier when horseflies and houseflies are prevalent. Horseflies will be visibly faster than their counterparts.

Horsefly vs Housefly: Size

Horsefly sitting on the human skin

Horseflies are much bigger than the common housefly, and only female horseflies bite.

©Geza Farkas/

The best way to tell the difference between houseflies and horseflies is by the size of the insects. Houseflies are much smaller than the horsefly and are around a quarter of an inch long. Horseflies are twice the size of a common housefly and are closer to one inch in length.

Horsefly vs Housefly: Color

Animals With The Shortest Lifespan


Common houseflies have a shiny black or brown body with fine hairs scattered over the oval body. They also have four distinct longitudinal lines down the thorax that are much lighter in color than the overall body. The lines can be brown, white, or grey depending on the individual species. Their compound eyes are red in color and prominent.

Horseflies may have a dull yellow or black body depending on the species. Black horseflies will have a distinct green sheen not found in the common housefly. Their compound eyes are dull grey or may closely match the color of the body. They also have scattered hairs on the head but lack those hairs on the body.

Horsefly vs Housefly: Eyes placement

Female horseflies have visible mandibles and maxillae with serrated edges. Females can also be identified by the placement of their compound eyes. Male horseflies have eyes that nearly touch, while female horseflies have eyes further apart. Horseflies also have barbs or claws on the front legs used to hold onto prey.

Horsefly vs Housefly: Larvae

Another key difference to look out for when it comes to horseflies and the common housefly is the larvae. Both the common housefly and the horsefly lay eggs that go through a larval cycle.

The horsefly larvae can be as dangerous as the adult female. Horsefly larvae require a lot of protein, and like their predatory mother, they feed on blood to get it. Horseflies lay their eggs on leaves that hang over small bodies of water. When they hatch, the larvae fall into the water. There, they prey on small aquatic animals and go through thirteen larval stages before the pupal stage.

Like their mothers, larval horseflies have a vicious bite and can spread disease. The maggots left in the garbage by the common housefly are disgusting. But horsefly maggots are potentially dangerous to pets or humans unlucky enough to stumble into their wet environment. If a location is infested with horsefly larvae, it is recommended that you let an exterminator handle the issue.

Horsefly vs Housefly: Bite

The key takeaway when comparing the differences between the common housefly and the horsefly is the horsefly’s distinct bite. While both species are known to spread disease, the common housefly is a smaller and less dangerous. When dealing with an infestation, the common housefly is much easier to rid yourself of than its vicious cousin.

When considering the housefly vs the horsefly, size, speed, and coloration are the easiest ways to tell them apart!

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