louse fly from WikimediaIn Bug Grad School I learned about a crazy group of flies called Hippoboscidae, or louse flies.  These flies have adopted an ectoparasitic lifestyle, which means they live on other animals much like a tick or a louse. Most have lost their wings in the evolutionary scrabble to live on fur or feathers.

Having only ever seen these preserved in jars, or from engravings, I was very excited to find a video of one of these alive! Even better, it was a bat ked, which are really cool.

Things I learned today:

  • You collect bat parasites by blowing gently on the bat’s fur.
  • Carl Dick at Western Kentucky University is a master at blowing on bats, and specializes in Hippoboscids, which has to be pretty darn fascinating work.
  • Bats do not enjoy being blown upon.

Here you go: Blowing on Bats For Science.

Here’s a view of a ked on the fluffy part of a bat.  Warning: the squeamish may be creeped by this, because there is scurrying about. But it is AWESOME scurrying about, IMHO.

Standard disclaimers: Only professionals should blow on bats. Do not blow on bats without training and proper equipment. Do not taunt bats.

Thanks so much to BioInFocus for finding these videos!

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. Ah! Batflies! I did a term project on Nycteribiids and Streblids in Florida, so these are close to my heart! I wish I could encounter some myself, but I do not have rabies vaccination!

  2. For interest sake, many sparrows have actual Hippobscids which tend to abandon ship when mist-netted…If you are a first-year ento student and need an odd family, visit a bird banding station!

  3. i type freehand April 6, 2013 at 9:11 pm


  4. Very neat! This is what makes science so much fun. Who else gets to blow on bats?

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