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Given the fact you’re reading this blog, we assume you know exactly what black flies are. However, on the off chance that you aren’t fully educated on the biology and history of this annoying pest, let’s quickly cover the basics.
As you can guess from the title, Black Flies are one of the most irritating creatures to grace us with their presence. Annoyingly, they are found in nearly every state in the USA.
Regardless of whether you’re hiking, biking, or generally enjoying the outdoors, you’ll find these annoying things hot on your tail. Imagine you’re in a blissful setting, enjoying the ambiance. That’s when the black fly will strike, giving you a big jolt when its painful bite hits.
So what exactly are they? Well, they are an aphid creature that can deliver a powerful punch with their bite. They also like to live near running water and have a small body, roughly 5 to 15 millimeters in length. In terms of appearance, they aren’t the greatest-looking creatures. They boast large eyes and fan-shaped wings, kind of like a bat. Pretty creepy if you ask us.
Black flies can be particularly annoying in warmer summer months but can be repelled with a few simple methods, which we will cover later in this blog.
So, let’s talk more about this painful bite we’ve mentioned. The bite of a black fly can be problematic for several reasons.
Black flies are one of the most common flies that bite. Worryingly, mature black flies can carry disease around the world, although the kind we have in North America is generally harmless from a health perspective. However, we would never take our chances if we could help it.
Their bite tends to be much more concentrated and intense than something similar to a mosquito. As most of us know, a mosquito bite feels like a small sting, but a black fly truly feels like something is biting you. This intense pain comes from the fact that the fly is releasing chemicals into your skin as it attempts to extract its blood meal. This causes a double helping of pain when they choose to sink their ‘teeth’ into you.
These nasty bites usually turn into itchy welts. On the unfortunate occasion that you do get attacked by black flies, we recommend that you take the appropriate steps to soothe and heal the itch. For example, washing the affected area with soap and warm water is a great place to start. We would also suggest that you avoid scratching the bites as much as possible. We know this can be incredibly hard. But trust us, it’s worth it in the long run. Scratching can break the skin, increasing the risk of infection. After all the pain you’ve already gone through, this isn’t advised. You could also apply a topical agent, such as aloe vera, which will also help the healing process. If the itching continues or is very bad, an antihistamine cream may be needed to help fight the cause.
The next thing to consider is, where on earth do these horrible things live? Well, as we mentioned previously, black fly areas are usually found near running water. A thing to consider is that places that have been recently hit by large downfalls of heavy rain can increase the local population of black flies. This means you should watch out and take the necessary precautions to avoid those nasty bites we were talking about!
Seasonally, June tends to be a popular month for these pesky little insects. Due to the fact that much of their life cycle is in the egg and larvae stage, black flies really are not adults for very long at all. This means that late spring and early summer are usually when black flies are most noticeable for the average person.
Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to avoid getting bitten by black flies, especially during the key months of late May, June, and early July. You didn’t think we were going to tell you about the bastards, then not help you protect yourself against them, did you?
So anyway, I think we’ve bored you enough. The question on everybody’s lips is…how do you keep them away? Let’s take a look.
When it comes to protecting yourself. The clothing you choose to wear is key in the battle. We recommend opting for white, beige, khaki, or other lightly colored clothing as biting bugs are attracted to dark hues. Another obvious is to COVER-UP. However, If it’s very warm, opt for cool cotton and other breathable fabrics so you don’t suffer from heat exhaustion.
Granted, black flies can be very difficult to repel overall. However, clothing is certainly the foundation. Next, you should look for other handy tricks to ensure they don’t get the upper hand. If you’re looking for a chemical-free and humane way to beat them, then try a fan. A simple box fan will do the trick. Fans make it much harder for bugs to fly in the area and also help to blow away the carbon dioxide we produce when we breathe. Think of it like we’re disrupting their air space.
Another natural tip is the use of garlic. Consuming garlic helps you to release a sulfur compound called allicin. This is the stuff that causes a strong smell on our skin when we cook or eat garlic. Overall, this will help to mask your natural scent, helping to keep the black flies (and your friends!) away from you.
If you aren’t bored of our suggestions yet, citronella oil is another natural black fly repellent. This substance is extracted from the stems of partially dried grasses. Its properties are perfect as a repellent for black eyes. In terms of usage, we suggest you use citronella oil topically or in a candle for the best results.
Yes, you guessed it, bug spray. Natural and humane methods are often great. However, sometimes bug sprays are extremely effective in keeping these nasty things away from you. At the end of the day, that’s the most effective thing, right?
We suggest that when you’re looking for a sprayed look, you should look for higher concentrations of DEET. For example, if the number is very high, then the spray will work much better as a repellent overall. A general store-bought spray tends to be around 25% DEET, but make sure to check the number and try to get a repellent that is higher. This will provide that extra level of safety, ensuring it works better at keeping those pesky flies off your beautiful bodies.
DEET works perfectly. Although, after over 50 years of being the main effective remedy for black fly visits, a new name entered the market. Say hello to Picaridin. This is a liquid that has no odor or color. It works just as well as DEET, but it's much less irritating and doesn’t destroy plastics as DEET does. See, we’re still looking at the bigger picture here.
Try and find a handy, smaller, solid spray bottle. One that won’t leak or accidentally spray in your backpack. These are also much easier to transport, helping to ensure you always carry it with you on hikes or other outdoor activities.
Try to apply either of our suggestions to key spots like your neck, scalp, and ankles every hour or so. Yes, this seems like a big ask, but it’s a small price to pay for keeping the black flies away.
As we have mentioned in previous blogs, the success of your battle against black flies fully depends on your effort to repel them. With the correct use of insect repellent, in addition to the other methods we’ve spoken about, you’ll be well on your way to a happy and healthy summer.