A black fly (sometimes called a buffalo gnat, turkey gnat, or white socks) is any member of the family Simuliidae of the Culicomorpha infraorder. They are related to the Ceratopogonidae, Chironomidae, and Thaumaleidae. There are over 1,800 known species of black flies (of which 11 are extinct). Most species belong to the immense genus Simulium. Most black flies gain nourishment by feeding on the blood of other animals, although the males feed mainly on nectar. They are usually small, black or gray, with short legs, and antennae. They are a common nuisance for humans, and many U.S. states have programs to suppress the black fly population. They spread several diseases, including river blindness in Africa (Simulium damnosum and S. neavei) and the Americas (Simulium callidum and S. metallicum in Central America, S. ochraceum in Central and South America).
Eggs are laid in running water, and the larvae attach themselves to rocks. Breeding success is highly sensitive to water pollution. The larvae use tiny hooks at the end of the abdomen to hold on to the substrate, using silk holdfasts and threads to move or hold their place. They have foldable fans surrounding their mouths. The fans expand when feeding, catching passing debris (small organic particles, algae, and bacteria). The larva scrapes the fan's catch into its mouth every few seconds. Black flies depend on lotic habitats to bring food to them. They will pupate under water and then emerge in a bubble of air as flying adults. They are often preyed upon by trout during emergence.
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