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Scientific Literature

The literature on traps for biting flies is mostly in scientific journals; many of the key references with practical details of trap construction and efficacy are old and are hard to find. Fortunately, there are alternative modern sources for the same information. Here I provide several key references and web links to useful resources, with an indication of the "styles" of traps used for different flies. More references can be found in bibliographies on visual ecology and behavioural techniques. I have also prepared a major compendium of the literature on horse flies and deer flies (Tabanidae).

The Literature Research Service search engine at the Armed Forces Pest Management Board deserves special mention. It contains > 100,000 references as free PDFs. The coverage is broad with many current and historical papers available.


There are many idiosyncrasies of trap performance, even for the same species in different localities. There is no such thing as a "universal" fly trap.

The Nzi happens to be a particularly good trap for most tsetse, tabanids and stable flies, and hence, has some of the attributes of this elusive goal for a universal trap, but it clearly does not catch all species with the same efficiency. As data are published on the efficacy of the trap in different environments, it will be posted in a comprehensive bibliography of publications.

bulletAn authoritative and straightforward source of information for instructions on how to make and use diverse traps, targets, and odour attractants is available at the Natural Resources Institute in the United Kingdom. It is well-illustrated and referenced. It covers a wide variety of practical topics in tsetse control.
bulletUseful information on making traps can also be found in the Information Resources section of PAAT (Program Against African Trypanosomiasis) at FAO in Rome (Volume 4, Chapter 3 of the Training Manual for tsetse control). This site contains comprehensive information and links to many resources, including the twice-yearly news and bibliographic publication Tsetse and Trypanosomiasis Information. Practical information on sampling tsetse has recently been compiled by FAO in the publication "Collection of entomological baseline data for tsetse area-wide integrated pest management programmes" (Leak et al., 2008).
bulletIn 2004, the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International published a major book "The Trypanosomiases" edited by Maudlin, Holmes & Miles. It contains authoritative chapters on diverse topics related to tsetse and trypanosomiasis, including a chapter on biting flies. It can be obtained from the CABI Bookshop.
bulletIn 2004, the TDR programme hosted by WHO published a strategic review of the use of traps and targets in Africa. It is available on the web, and is a good source of pictures of control devices and recent major papers.

Kuzoe, F.A.S. & Schofield C.J.
(2004) Strategic review of traps and targets for tsetse and African trypanosomiasis control, UNICEF / UNDP / WorldBank / WHO Special Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Disease Research, TDR / IDE / TRY / 05.1. Geneva World Health Organization.
bulletIn 2003, John Hargrove produced a major report on tsetse control for DFID in the United Kingdom. This report, along with other useful information is at the Animal Health Program.
bulletAn encyclopedia of technical and historical information on the biology and control of tsetse and sleeping sickness was / is available in French at La Maladie du Sommeil. Unfortunately, the website seems to have lapsed (September, 2008). It was created by Claude Laveissiere and Laurent Penchenier in December 2001. It is well-illustrated and comprehensive. In 2005, the authors published a practical manual on all aspects of sleeping sickness control, available from IRD for 22 euros. Similar useful resources are also available from the Centre International de Recherche-Développement sur l'Elevage en zone Subhumide.
bulletEvery two years, the International Scientific Council for Trypanosomiasis Research and Control holds a meeting in Africa. In 2007, proceedings from recent meetings were posted on the web. This is an important source of news and activities on many topics related to tsetse and trypanosomes. See the web site of the AU-IBAR.
bulletDetailed information on tsetse species identification and biology is available in a CD-ROM produced in 1998 by ORSTOM/CIRAD. This is an excellent electronic compendium that is still available from IRD in France. Much of this information is now also available on the IRD/OCEAC web site above.
bulletThe literature on biting fly identification to the species level is enormous; it is contained in regional monographs and journal articles. General information on biology and useful taxonomic keys can be found in entomology textbooks. An excellent reference is: Lane, R.P. & R.W. Crosskey (1993) Medical insects and arachnids, Chapman & Hall, New York. Major taxonomic works are mostly out of print and are available only in university, museum or government libraries.
bulletA good pictorial introduction to the various groups of biting flies (and other insects) can be found at Bioimages in the UK, and at IPM Images in the USA (many excellent photos of tabanids). This site has exquisite images of many species. High-quality annotated images of representative flies are also available at the Anatomical Atlas, produced by CSIRO in Australia.
bulletLinks to a vast number of useful web sites in entomology can be found at Iowa State University. Diverse extension information is available for common pest species on a large number of regional web sites. A few special interest groups also maintain web pages, e.g. there is a group exchanging information on biting midges.
bulletA good search engine for integrated pest management is the Database of IPM Resources. A practical introduction to pests in Canada is Biting Flies Attacking Man and Livestock in Canada.   There is an excellent photographic key to Canadian female mosquitoes on the web site of the Biological Survey of Canada produced by Thielman. & Hunter (2007) as well as a similar excellent photographic key to many Canadian Tabanidae by Thomas and Marshall (2009).
bulletFor a discussion of the many issues related to vector-borne diseases and animal and human health in developing countries see the electronic book published by the UK Collaborative on Development Sciences in January 2010 - Science and Innovation for Development.

NG2G / EPSILON - Savannah Tsetse, Horse Flies

NG2G 21k


The NG2G trap was designed for economy and simplicity for community use. It was refined for Glossina pallidipes in Kenya following the development of the F3 trap in Zimbabwe, and its later refinement as the Epsilon trap shown below.

The NG2G or NG2F (two equal blue wings)
are good traps for many tsetse, and for tabanids. There are several other options in triangular traps, but with important differences in efficiency in different localities.

Brightwell, R., Dransfield, R.D., Kyorku, C., Golder, T.K., Tarimo, S.A. & Mungai, D. (1987) A new trap for Glossina pallidipes. Tropical Pest Management 33, 151-159. The  initial development of the "NGU' series of traps in Kenya.

Brightwell, R., Dransfield, R.D. & Kyorku, C. (1991) Development of a low-cost trap and odour baits for Glossina pallidipes and G. longipennis in Kenya. Medical and Veterinary Entomology 5, 153-164. The design of the final "NG2" series, with many practical details on traps and simple odour baits.

See the Natural Resources Institute for the Epsilon trap

629k Brightwell, R., Dransfield, R.D., Stevenson, P. & Williams, B. (1997) Changes over twelve years in populations of Glossina pallidipes and Glossina longipennis (Diptera: Glossinidae) subject to varying trapping pressure at Nguruman, south-west Kenya. Bulletin of Entomological Research 87, 349-370. Ecological studies on the impact of a community-based trapping program against the vectors of animal trypanosomosis at a Maasai group ranch in the Rift Valley of Kenya.

Biconcial 16kBICONICAL - Riverine Tsetse

The Biconical trap was the first practical cloth trap designed for tsetse in West Africa. It is an efficient trap for riverine tsetse.

It has been used for fly surveys for many years, even though it is a poor trap for tabanids and stable flies, and most savannah tsetse.

The biconical trap is difficult to sew due to the use of complicated inner screens and its conical shape, but remains popular.

bulletChallier, A., Eyraud, M., Lafaye, A. & Laveissière, C. (1977) Amélioration du rendement du piège biconique pour glossines (Diptera, Glossinidae): par l'emploi d'un cône inférieur bleu. Cahiers ORSTOM, séries Entomologie médicale et Parasitologie 15, 283-286. The final design of the biconical trap. Instructions for reproducing this trap can be found in several  reviews.

Vavoua 20kVAVOUA - Riverine Tsetse, Stable Flies

The Vavoua trap was designed as an economical alternative to the pyramidal trap in widespread use for the control of riverine tsetse. There are many similar designs that employ hanging blue-black screens. These open designs are excellent for both riverine tsetse and stable flies. Traps like the Vavoua are straightforward to sew and assemble. They can be hung from simple wooden supports or trees. Unfortunately, trap styles with this open design are poor for tabanids and savannah tsetse.
bulletPractical information for these styles of  traps is available in French in the section Piégiage at La Maladie du Sommeil, and in a recent publication from CIRDES.
bulletRozendaal, J.A. (1997) Vector control. Methods for use by individuals and communities. World Health Organisation, Geneva.      This is a useful general reference with details of trap construction.
bulletLaveissière, C. & Grébaut, P. (1990) Recherches sur les pièges a glossines (Diptera: Glossinidae). Mise au point d'un modele economique: Le piège "Vavoua". Tropical Medicine and Parasitology 41, 185-192.

ALSYNITE - Stomoxys calcitrans

In North America, stable flies are mostly sampled with compact sticky traps, or with flat sticky panels (e.g. Coroplast, Beresford & Sutcliffe, 2006). A retail adaptation of the Alsynite trap (Broce, 1983) is sold by Olson Products. The trap consists of disposable sticky sleeves attached to a corrugated fibreglass panel. Certain optical properties of clear fibreglass (Alsynite is just a  tradename) are similar to those of blue cloth, likely accounting for the efficiency of this small trap for stable flies.
bulletBroce, A.B. (1983) An improved Alsynite trap for stable flies, Stomoxys calcitrans (Diptera: Muscidae). Journal of Medical Entomology 25, 406-409.
bulletZacks, D.N. & Loew, E.R. (1989) Why is Alsynite fiber glass sheet attractive to stable flies. Experimental Biology 48, 215-222.
bulletBeresford, D.V. & Sutcliffe, J.F. (2006) Studies on the effectiveness of Coroplast sticky traps for sampling stable flies (Diptera: Muscidae), including a comparison to Alsynite. Journal of Economic Entomology, 93, 1025-1035.

TRAPS FOR TABANIDAE - Horse Flies & Deer Flies

There are a tremendous number of traps that have been designed for tabanids, with major differences in efficiency for different species. Just a few examples are shown here. See the Tabanid Bibliography for a comprehensive set of tabanid trapping references.

Malaise TrapMALAISE TRAP - Flight interception traps are popular for catching tabanids for research. The larger models are expensive. Retail versions are available from many suppliers (e.g. John W. Hock, Bioquip). The trap shown at left is 6 m wide and about 3 m high.

Malaise traps can sometimes catch large numbers of horse fly species that are not readily-caught in other traps. Deer flies (Chrysops) are difficult to catch in any practical trap (French & Hagan, 1995), but are sometimes caught in good numbers in Malaise traps.


Canopy 11kCANOPY TRAP - A large canopy with a black "skirt" and a netting apex is an economical and portable option for sampling horse flies. It is usually set about 50-70 cm off the ground. It can be sewn without much fuss from black poplin and uv-stabilized insect netting. A shiny black visual target (e.g. a beach ball spray-painted with gloss enamel black paint) is often suspended underneath the canopy. Although this is often an excellent trap for many kinds of horse flies, it did not perform well for the Tabanus and Hybomitra species at my home in Russell, even with the use of a target (Mihok et al., 2006).
bulletHribar, L.J., LePrince, D.J. & Foil, L.D. (1991) Design for a canopy trap for collecting horse flies (Diptera: Tabanidae). Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association 7, 657-659.
bulletSchreck, C.E., Kline, D.L., Williams, D.C. & Tidwell, M.A. (1993) Field evaluations in Malaise and canopy traps of selected targets as attractants for tabanid species (Diptera: Tabanidae). Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, 9, 182-188.
bulletFrench, F.E. & Hagan, D.V. (1995) Two-tier box trap catches Chrysops atlanticus and C. fuliginosus (Diptera: Tabanidae) near a Georgia salt marsh. Journal of Medical Entomology, 32, 197-200.
bulletMihok, S., Carlson, D.A., Krafsur, E.S. & Foil, L.D. (2006) Performance of the Nzi and other traps for biting flies in North America. Bulletin of Entomological Research, 96, 387-397.


Manitoba Trap 23kMANITOBA TRAP - The basic concept of a canopy trap evolved from the Manitoba trap of Thorsteinson et al. (1965), named after where it was designed in Canada. The original trap was refined for Hybomitra spp., the common horse fly in northern environments. The first design had a conical canopy (set 1 m off the ground) with a black acrylic spherical target (75 cm diametre). Modern "Manitoba" traps with plastic canopies are often simply referred to as "Canopy" traps.  They now typically use a pyramidal canopy with a spray-painted or black vinyl beach ball suspended underneath. They may also incorporate a black skirt. The height at which the trap is set, and the size and the shininess of the visual target and/or black skirt likely affect catches. Similarly, the use of uv-stabilized PVC (Schreck et al., 1993) instead of plain plastic as in the original trap (Hanec & Bracken, 1964) may affect catches of species that react to ultraviolet light.  Except for Schreck et al. (1993) there have been few tests of how changes in trap materials or format affect catches.
bulletHanec, W. & Bracken, G.K. (1964) Seasonal and geographical distribution of Tabanidae (Diptera) in Manitoba, based on females captured in traps. Canadian Entomologist, 96, 1362-1369.
bulletThorsteinson, A.J., Bracken, G.K. & Hanec, W. (1965) The orientation behaviour of horse flies and deer flies (Tabanidae, Diptera). III. The use of traps in the study of orientation of tabanids in the field. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 8, 189-192.


Box TrapBOX TRAP - Blue- or black-painted plywood box traps are easy to make and are effective for certain species of horse flies (Greenhead Box trap). The basic concept dates back to the "animal traps" of the 1940's. The example here was made to the same specifications as the trap currently used for the control of Tabanus nigrovittatus at Cape Cod. It differs from the Cape Cod version in the addition of a hanging visual target (black beach ball). It also differs from the operational version in that it has a netting cone to facilitate counting the catch (Hayes et al., 1993), instead of a flat screen to close off the top.  The inside is painted black. It contains a sloping charcoal wire mesh baffle with a slot at the top. The baffle partitions the inside to provide an upper chamber to hold captured flies (Wall & Doane, 1980). For the tabanids at my home in Russell, use of a black visual target is essential. In some areas, a plain box trap works well without a target.

A  retail adaptation of the basic box trap concept is the Horse-Pal® horsefly trap.



Salt marsh near Barnstable, Cape Cod (July 2012)

Wall, W.J. & Doane, O.W., Jr. (1980) Large scale use of box traps to study and control saltmarsh greenhead flies (Diptera: Tabanidae) on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Environmental Entomology, 9, 371-375.

Hayes, R.O., Doane, O.W., Jr., Sakolsky, G. & Berrick, S. (1993) Evaluation of attractants in traps for greenhead fly (Diptera: Tabanidae) collections on a Cape Cod, Massachusetts, salt marsh. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, 9, 436-440.


Epps TrapEPPS TRAP - This large interception trap is a patented "flying insect" trap sold by Farnam (US Patent # 5836104).  The original image is on the Farnaminternational web site. Tabanids strike the black panels and then drown in water-filled trays. It seems to be popular with horse owners, despite lack of scientific study. Nevertheless, unpublished data comparing the Epps trap to a conventional Malaise trap for Tabanus abactor suggest that it is a useful trap (NCSU Report).  I am only aware of one published study from North Carolina where this novel trap was compared to the Horse Pal® trap:
bulletWatson, D.W., Denning, S.S., Calibeo-Hayes, D.I., Stringham, S.M. & Mowrey, R.A. (2007) Comparison of two fly traps for the capture of horse flies (Diptera : Tabanidae). Journal of Entomological Science, 42, 123-132. North Carolina Pest News


TABANOID trap - Something new in August 2012. Waiting for a new trap based on the attraction of tabanids to shiny black surfaces that reflect horizontally polarized light.


Practical Advice

Very high catches of tabanids are possible if one uses the right approach
See Horses and Mihok & Lange (2011)

bulletGreen, C.H. (1994) Bait methods for tsetse fly control. Advances in Parasitology 34, 229-291. A now dated review, but still an excellent summary of applications related to the use of traps, targets, etc. to control tsetse. This paper is a good starting point for someone unfamiliar with this topic.
bulletTorr, S.J., Hall, D.R., Phelps, R.J. & Vale, G.A. (1997) Methods for dispensing odour attractants for tsetse flies (Diptera: Glossinidae). Bulletin of Entomological Research 87, 299-311. Detailed advice on the use of chemical odour baits as tsetse attractants. This is a highly specialised field with many references.
bulletVale, G.A. (1998) Responses of tsetse flies (Diptera: Glossinidae) to vegetation in Zimbabwe: implications for population distribution and bait siting. Bulletin of Entomological Research 88 Supplement 1, S7-S59. Impressive monograph with practical details on how to use traps.
bullet Gibson, G. & Torr, S.J. (1999) Visual and olfactory responses of haematophagous Diptera to host stimuli. Medical and Veterinary Entomology 13, 3-23. A good review of the principles underlying the way traps work for many kinds of biting flies.
bullet Mihok, S., & Lange, K. (2011) Synergism between ammonia and phenols for Hybomitra tabanids in northern and temperate Canada. Medical and Veterinary Entomology 26, 282-290. PubMed (PDF on request).