|Volume 24 Number 5 May 2022
The outdoorsmen among our readers have just come through one of the most important times of the year, the buck firearms season. Hopefully everyone was safe and successful at filling their freezer with venison. While we could talk about the incredible senses that God created in the whitetail deer, as each hunter knows, instead I would like to talk about a mostly unseen parasite found on the deer population – the neotropical deer ked. Let’s look at what God created in this amazing member of the fly family.
The deer ked is described as an ectoparasite (a fancy word for living on the outside of the host) of the white-tailed deer in the southeastern United States. It is an introduced species of biting fly originally found in Europe, Siberia and China. It is found as a parasite on whitetail deer, elk, horses, cattle and humans. On humans, the deer ked will engorge on blood in 15 to 25 minutes. The bite is barely noticeable and leaves very little trace at first. Within three days, the site develops into a hard, reddened welt at the site where the bite occurred. The accompanying itch is intense and may last 14 to 20 days. Currently, deer keds are not known to carry any diseases to humans, although some research shows that Lyme disease may be transmitted by them.
Adult deer keds are about 1/8 - 3/16 inches in length. Its head, thorax and abdomen are flattened and leathery in appearance. The head and thorax are brown, and the abdomen is a greenish yellow with light-brown plates on the posterior segments. Deer ked legs are stout with large dark claws with hairs designed to point in opposite directions that allow the ked to hold onto and crawl through the hair as deer flee from hunters. Overall, the ked is covered with strong, dark hairs. Many hunters who see them crawling on a recent kill think they are ticks, but these insects are fast moving in the deer hair and only have six legs unlike ticks that have eight legs and move very slowly.
During early summer and autumn, the larva grows into an adult ked that has wings and they fly about in search of deer. As soon as the fly lands on a host, it begins to burrow through the fur, shedding its wings by breaking them off close to their bases, which are visible on the fly when a hunter sees them. The keds then bite the deer to get a blood meal. The female will find a mate, and after an unknown period of time, the female will give birth to a live, mature larva. God designed this fly to give birth to live young with no eggs being laid. This unusual ability is called viviparity by scientists who study insect reproduction.
The female will then repeat the process and produce an unknown number of young. These larvae will fall off the deer to the ground and wait until spring to grow into a winged adult to fly away looking for a host.
The deer ked has no effect on the meat from an infected deer, but should there be an overabundance of keds on a single deer, they could affect its health by sucking out too much blood. Usually, this parasite is just a nuisance for the deer population.
So, God broke the design for most insects in the creation of the deer ked by allowing it to have live birth. Let us praise the Master Designer for His marvels that we can see in the world around us.
Life is full of choices. The most important of these choices is to choose God. It cannot be overemphasized that being a follower of God is a choice. Even the nation of Israel, which God rescued from Egyptian slavery and which entered into a covenant with Him, still encountered choices it needed to make on multiple occasions. Especially twice God called upon His people to make the most important of all choices. “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NKJV). “‘And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’ So the people answered and said: ‘Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods’” (Joshua 24:15-16). Sometimes the Israelites made good choices while at other times they chose poorly. The book of Judges chronicles the cycles of Israel’s faithfulness and unfaithfulness.
Fast forward 1,000 years to the time of Jesus, and God still presents this same choice – whether or not to “choose life.” He never compels any to believe and to be baptized. “He who believes and is baptized will be saved…” (Mark 16:16). God’s desire has always been for all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Jesus stands at the door and knocks (Revelation 3:20). However, it is completely up to each of us to open the door, because He will never barge in. Invite Jesus in and keep Him there. Choose life.