Blowing on Bats. For Science.

In Bug Grad School I learned about a crazy group of flies called Hippoboscidae, or louse flies.  These flies have adopted an ectoparasitic lifestyle, which means they live on other animals much like a tick or a louse. Most have lost their wings in the evolutionary scrabble to live on fur or feathers.

Having only ever seen these preserved in jars, or from engravings, I was very excited to find a video of one of these alive! Even better, it was a bat ked, which are really cool.

Things I learned today:

  • You collect bat parasites by blowing gently on the bat’s fur.
  • Carl Dick at Western Kentucky University is a master at blowing on bats, and specializes in Hippoboscids, which has to be pretty darn fascinating work.
  • Bats do not enjoy being blown upon.

Here you go: Blowing on Bats For Science.

Here’s a view of a ked on the fluffy part of a bat.  Warning: the squeamish may be creeped by this, because there is scurrying about. But it is AWESOME scurrying about, IMHO.

Standard disclaimers: Only professionals should blow on bats. Do not blow on bats without training and proper equipment. Do not taunt bats.

Thanks so much to BioInFocus for finding these videos! Ked Fly image from USDA.


Bug_girl has a PhD in Entomology, and is a pointy-headed former academic living in Ohio. She is obsessed with insects, but otherwise perfectly normal. Really! If you want a daily stream of cool info about bugs, follow her Facebook page or find her on Twitter.

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  1. You’re right – this second video does show some awesome scurrying about! That is really cool. I could get into bugs.

  2. If you want to see a real live hippoboscid, just pick up a pigeon. They are (literally) crawling with them. The first time I saw one I was when I was working at a wildlife rehab when I was in school. Someone found an injured pigeon and when I pulled it out of the box two hippoboscids ran out of the feathers, over my
    hand and back onto the bird. It was all I could do to
    stuff the bird back in the box before I freaked out.
    Sorry, I’m not a fan of the insect world. Pretty much every pigeon had them. Ugh.

  3. Why, never seen them live? Come take a hike in my woods, I’ll let you have them all. They come in hordes (at least so it seems). The dogs have tick collars, so the flies prefer me. Love them! (Not ;-) Not been stung yet, because they land so loudly that I usually know they are there. Then I frantically shoo them off. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lipoptena_cervi

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