We spent last weekend at our camp at the lake. We LOVE it there but with the thawing of the ice and melting of the snow and the warmth of spring comes the “not-so-nice” part of living in Maine. It is the dreaded black fly season!!
Maine is not the only place that has these tiny little blood suckers. They often occur in very large numbers in the spring and early summer months, especially in the northern latitudes. I have read that almost every state has them although I had never run into these ferocious little dudes until moving to Maine. They are not in the cities so much as in areas where people like to play outdoors. Fishing, golfing, camping, gardening – all those things that we look forward to during the winter are hampered by the black fly season. So what is a black fly?
Most adult species of the black flies are about 1/8-inch long and have a humpbacked, gnat-like appearance. Aside from the bites that we get from the adult female black black flies, they are a nuisance as they fly around your nose, ears, mouth, arms, ankles and generally any exposed skin that they can find. Bites can be extremely painful, and the mouth-parts are somewhat similar to those of a horse fly (bladelike and piercing) in the female. On people, they crawl into sleeves, under neckbands, around boot tops and other vulnerable places, especially favoring the head just beneath the rim of a hat. Bites can cause bleeding, swelling and numb soreness for many days. When we were working at Baxter Park, we had a volunteer that had a wedding to attend when she got home. She was to wear a pretty dress and thanks to the black flies, she had a circle of bites around each leg where her socks began.
A bit of a lesson about black flies. Unlike the mosquito that breeds in still water, the black fly breeds in running water. Females deposit from 150 to 500 small, shiny, creamy-white eggs on submerged objects in the stream such as on water plants, rocks, twigs, leaves, etc. or simply scatter the eggs over the water surface. Eggs darken then hatch in four to five days at water temperatures of 70º F. Eggs deposited in the autumn do not hatch until the following spring when the water warms.
Flies usually bite during the day in outdoor shaded or partially-shaded areas. They do not bite indoors or late at night. Some fly 7 to 10 miles from the breeding sites, or are blown by wind even further to feed on warmblooded animals and people. Flies usually bite for about three weeks before they die. Dark blue cloth attracts more flies than white or light colored cloth.
What to do to avoid them???? Stay indoors or move to the city. 😉 Seriously folks, each year we complain about them but most of us just go about doing the things that we love in the spring. The net clothing helps, as does insect repellent. Of course, there’s always the old timers remedy of peeing on the hat that they wear (something that I never tried, as you might imagine). Mostly we hope for windy days (they can’t fly if it is too windy) and we all know that by about mid June, they will be mostly gone. Now all we have to worry about is the mosquito’s and deer flies! 🙂
There is a great folk song from Canada, our neighbor to the north. The singer recounts his battle with the pesky insect in the woods of north Ontario on this cute YouTube vid.
Evidently they have them up there too. To read the words to the song, click HERE.