Black Flies / Mayflies
After all the cold we had to endure, the warm temperatures were welcome. Out came the t-shirts and shorts, and it felt great to be outside working at removing the pine cones and small branches winter had left strewn across our lawns. But there was a ‘fly in the ointment’ of my enjoyment- quite literally. People living in the northeastern US, know that starting around Mother’s Day and ending around Father’s Day it is black fly (also known as Mayflies for obvious reasons) season. These tiny 1/6th of an inch flies are found all over the U.S. (with the exception of Florida) and it seems to me, that from mid-spring to early summer they put a dent in the spring activities, like planting your garden, filling the flower boxes with impatiens, and so on.
Black flies do not favor either male or female victims, but only the female black fly bites; she needs a meal of blood to lay eggs. The male black flies do not bite, but rather drink nectar. If you have ever been bitten by a female black fly, it is not something you will easily forget. The moment you feel something, it is really already too late. As with most biting insects, before the fly punctures your skin, it numbs the spot by applying a topical anesthetic contained in its saliva. It also injects an anticoagulant compound to prevent the natural clotting properties and starts drinking your blood. Eventually you will feel something and wipe the fly away, which will leave marks of your own blood.. The puncture is tiny, but it is painful, very itchy and after ten minutes the swelling will start.
Some people claim, that you will build up an immunity over time against these flies. Well, after over thirty years, my immunity must be still low.
Black flies are most active in early morning and right before sunset. If you go out during this time, wear light-colored clothes with long sleeves, gloves and tuck your pants into your socks. You might also wear a hat with mesh, tied around your neck. No skin should be exposed. If you choose to apply a commercial insect repellent containing DEET, apply it to the outside of your clothes, not to your skin. This will reduce your chemical exposure and absorption through your skin.
A bird feeder will help, as birds catch black flies.
If you move around a lot, the black flies have a hard time catching up with you, as they are a little slow. But if you stop, they are all over you.