Recently, we received word from a reader that her apartment in Tacoma, Washington has become “overrun” with what she believes to be “no-see-ums” or black flies. Since their discovery, she swears she “can feel them inside the bottom of both” of her feet, and she asks what we know of black flies.
Although our reader did not send in any photographs with her query, she elaborates in asking if no-see-ums (which is a slang term for biting midge flies) are the same as black flies. She also adds that, at first, the number of flies was small and so she tried to fight the infestation off herself, “but they quickly multiplied!” Then, on the 19th of March, she realized that the flies “were possibly more dangerous than first thought” when she discovered their presence in her feet. She reassures us that she is planning on calling her doctor.
First of all, to answer her first question, no-see-ums and black flies are related, but not one and the same. No-see-ums, otherwise known as biting midges, biting gnats, sand flies or punkies, will bite mammals, such as humans, and can even draw blood, but are not parasitic. This behavior is shared with black flies, who also bite and draw blood. The difference is mainly their appearance. No-see-ums are gray or yellowish in color, while black flies are, well, black. In addition to this, no-see-ums more closely resemble mosquitoes, while black flies look more like the common house fly. Black flies can also transmit parasitic nematodes through their bite, but that is not to say we are suggesting this is what is living inside our reader’s feet. We are not able to suggest something like that as we are not medical professionals and can thus not give diagnoses.
This brings us to our second point. Given that our reader states she is sure that she has something living inside her feet, this situation is clearly medical in nature. Hence, we will not be able to identify what it is that has been living inside her feet. It’s good that our reader is consulting her doctor, but we also fear that she may be turned away, like so many of our readers have been, because her doctor does not believe her, or is not equipped to deal with something like this. We still advise that she consults her doctor, but we can also provide some other ways of going about getting this treated if her doctor does not prove useful. For instance, she may consider consulting an infectious disease physician. To find one, she can simply do a Google search of ‘infectious disease physician’ or ‘travel disease doctor’. Additionally, in order to make the identification of this creature in her feet smoother, it might be worth considering going to her local county extension office or to the entomology department at a nearby university to have the flies inspected. On that note, if any of the creatures come out of her feet, she can bring a sample of those too.
In conclusion, although we have tried to answer our reader’s question on what we know of black flies, and how it might relate to her situation, we are not able to provide an answer to whether or not the discovery of these flies is linked to the creatures now living inside her feet. As the situation is medical in nature, it requires a practiced medical professional to deal with the matter. We nonetheless hope that this article proves to be helpful or interesting to some degree, and that our reader gets this issue resolved soon.