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Horseflies up close

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Insects are beautiful, except when they’re biting you, writes SIMON WEBSTER.

It’s that time of year when organic gardeners like to punctuate their planting, watering and weeding with the frequent raising of a leg and slapping of a calf.

What looks like a short excerpt from a Morris dancing sequence is, of course, the ancient art of horsefly swatting. Horseflies (also known as March flies, from the Tabanidae family) love nothing more than to spend their summer holidays sucking the blood of humans (well, at least the females do; the males stick to nectar, apparently).


A bite can be painful (that would be the mandibles like serrated scimitars), but the tabanids have several good qualities that shouldn’t be ignored.


Firstly, they are important pollinators. Secondly, they are beautiful up close, as the incredible macro photographs of Thomas Shahan show. And thirdly they are slow enough to swat. Gardening would be unbearable if they weren’t.


Picture: Female horsefly, Tabanus lineola. By THOMAS SHAHAN