The adult fly is a bee-like insect about 10 to 12 millimetres (3/8–½ inches) long, slightly hairy with a banded, dark grey body and dull yellow head and legs. It is widely distributed across the world wherever sheep, deer and goats are found. This includes North America, Central America, the area round the Mediterranean Sea, The Middle East, Australia, Brazil and South Africa. Incidence of the fly in northern Europe has decreased in recent years.
Sheep Bot Flies commence life as eggs within the female which are fertilized and hatch to larvae of 1 mm within the body of the female. The female then deposits a few larvae, while on the wing, within a tiny mucous drop, directly into a nostril of the host animal. The larvae then make their way up the nasal passage in the mucosa and enter a nasal sinus. During this time it will develop, grow and moult into a second larval stage or instar. It then continues to develop up to 20mm (apprx. 4/5 inch) in length with a dark stripe across each segment. When the larva is fully developed it moves down the nasal passage and drops to the ground where it buries itself and pupates. The length of time the larva takes to mature depends on the ambient temperature. This may be 25–35 days in warm weather but up to 10 months in colder climates. The pupa takes from 3–9 weeks to mature, again dependent on climatic conditions, after which the adult burrows up to the surface, takes to the wing and commences mating. The adults do not feed during their 2–4 weeks of adult life though they may take water.