Despite their beauty, salt marshes are home to species of flies and mosquitos that can be very annoying to humans and other mammals. They can often make it very unpleasant to enter the marsh in mid to late summer.
Green-Backed Heron Scientific Name: Butorides striatus
This small heron is about the size of a crow. On its short, bright orange or yellow legs it moves patiently over the salt marsh, ready to jab at any potential victim. It will sometimes dive from a perch on a tree root or shrub in pursuit of prey. Size: 15 to 22 in. (38 to 56 cm)
Osprey Scientific Name: Pandion haliaetus
Ospreys are found during spring and summer months throughout the Chesapeake Bay area, occupying nests of rough twigs built over the water on posts, platforms, or navigational markers. As fish eaters, the alternate name of “fish hawks” describes their ability to dive for fish, clutching their slippery prey in toes bearing sharp spines beneath. Size: 21 to 24 in. (53 to 61 cm)
Greenhead Fly Scientific Name: Tabanus spp.
For most of its two-year life this insect is a ferocious maggot, roving the salty mud for small animal prey. As an adult, the biting female and her harmless mate live for only a few weeks, but can become such a nuisance to humans that they cause beaches to be closed. Size: 1.12 in. (2.8 cm)
Deer Fly Scientific Name: Chrysops spp.
Patterned eyes and wings and a slighter build distinguish the deer fly from its cousin, the greenhead. Like the greenhead, it may become a nuisance to humans. Its bite—delivered by powerful mouth parts—can transmit the germ that causes tularemia or “rabbit fever.” Size: 3/8 to 5/8 in. (1 to 1.6 cm)
Saltmarsh Mosquito Scientific Name: Aedes sollicitans
This insect lays its eggs in shallow depressions in the damp mud of the marsh. When these little hollows later fill with water from rains or tides, the larval mosquitos (“wrigglers”) emerge and develop rapidly into winged adults. Only the blood-drinking female bites humans; the innocuous male sips the juice of plants. Size: 1/8 to ¼ in. (.4 to .6 cm)