Highlighting the dispersal ecology of parasites is important for understanding epidemiological, demographic and coevolutionary aspects of host–parasite interactions. Yet, critical aspects of the dispersal stage of parasites, such as longevity and the factors influencing it, are poorly known. Here we study the lifespan of the dispersal stage of an ectoparasitic dipteran, Carnus hemapterus, and the impact of gender, body size and food provisioning on longevity. We found that freshly emerged imagoes survive at most less than 4 days. Longevity increased with body size and, since this parasite exhibits sexual size dimorphism, the bigger females lived longer than males. However, controlling for body size suggests that males lived relatively longer than females. Furthermore, a humid environment and food provisioning (flowers) significantly increased individual life spans. We discuss the relative importance of spatial and temporal dispersal in relation to the infectious potential of this parasite.