The misery of the greenhead fly

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

On Tuesday, a greenhead fly bit my shin. This is a common hazard of spending time on the beach. The Tabanus nigrovittatus lives in salt marsh areas, and their population swells in July. They’re worse on days with a land breeze because the wind brings them over from the marshes and dunes.

I didn’t think much of it. The pain and itch of a greenhead bite is painful but goes away faster than those of mosquito bites. But by Wednesday morning, the spot was red, and I felt as if someone had lodged a quarter under my skin. By Thursday, the spot had spread, and was warm. My leg had swelled, my ankle turned into a cankle.

The bite had become infected. I never knew such a thing could happen, but when a bug pierces your skin, bacteria carried by the bug or bacteria that routinely lives on your leg can get inside. My doctor prescribed antibiotics and told me to wear a compression sock on my Friday flight. Today, the swelling is almost gone.

If your bug bite doesn’t go away after a few days, and the spot feels warm to the touch, make sure to get medical attention. Bug bites stink, but infections are far more dangerous.

There’s not much you can do about greenheads. I haven’t found a bug spray that keeps them away. If it’s a land breeze, I move my chair right to the water line, or stay in the ocean. And pray for the wind to change.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Help us get to 100% of our membership goal to support the reporters covering our region, the producers bringing you great local programs and the educators who teach all our children.