BLACK FLIES, VERMONT'S 6TH SEASON !
Often called Vermont's 6th and most challenging season for many.  The dreaded " Black Fly Season".  And they are going to get you !.  For years now I have hated the black fly.  They seem to always be out "to get me" !  I am warm blooded, and must be tasty, because they plague me like no other insect I know. 

Spring, being one of my most favorite seasons, and busiest, takes me to the great outdoors.  I work and play there.  Over the years I have developed a black fly suit.  It is the only thing that allows me to spend time outdoors from the middle of May, till the second week of June.  There is an old saying from Mother's Day till Father's Day they are here and hungry !

I have done some research on the little critters and they are bigger than no-see-um's and smaller than a mosquito. They ar 1/6 of an inch long. And I might add, very sneaky.  They love the warmth of my body and the taste of my blood.  They can smell me coming. Even if I am scrubbed clean as a whistle, it doesn't matter.  If I douse myself with upteen kinds of  bug sprays and lotions, somehow they have built up an immunity to anything I apply to fend them off.

My best defense is my black fly suit.  It's relatively easy to construct.  A netting jacket with full face hood and pants, socks, gloves and masking tape.  Need I say more. 

You need to wear a wide brimed hat, (to keep the netting from laying on your face) long sleeve shirt and pants.  Put them all on and tuck your gloves into your sleeve cuffs and pull your socks up and over your pants legs.  Then tape the masking tape around each wrist snuggly and then do the same around your ankles.    Either wear a belt or tuck your netted jacket into your pants.  If you don't they will crawl into any untucked clothing as they are heat seeking critters.  You won't look very pretty, actually you will look kind of nerdy,  but the suit is effective.  It works wonders for me.  They will land on you, but cannot penetrate your clothing, unless it is thin and flimsy.  This "suiting up" will allow you to stand still and pot plants and weed and garden without running the risk of being bitten.
They will do a number on your mind, as they will torture you by landing on your face net and crawl all over it,  driving you crazy to the point you want to scream and run to get away from the swarm. Black flies have been known to drive animals into deep water to escape their stinging bites.
I always feel so sorry for nesting birds. From my experiences,  I know that the black flies tortures the loons when they are nesting in the spring time.  I have actually seen them crawling all over a devoted nesting bird.  The sight of this makes me squirm. The birds  only relief is  to jump in the water and dive. Leaving their eggs exposed to predators. I am not sure what purpose black flies provide and other than maybe a little bite for a hungrey bird, but if a vote came up,  I would vote against having a poplulation of them for darn sure..

When black flies swarm there is no stopping them. Know that if you spend lots of time around the water in the spring, this is where they love to hang out the most.  Moving water is one of their favorite places.  This is where they will breed..  If you do not have netting to wear, try to work outside when its cool, breezy and dry. Wet and damp days without a breeze and deep shade is a great combination for luring them to you.

Black flies are like mini vampires.  Yes,  they are blood suckers.  They love blood.  Blood provides protein that will nourish their eggs.  They are smart.  They go for the warmest exposed parts of our body.  Usually along the hairline, they love the back of your neck and behind your ears. And best of all they love your hair.  You don't usually see them or feel them till its too late and they have already taken a bite out of you.  They use an anticoagulant that can cause blood to flow once they bite you.  Then they can consume as much blood and nurishment as they want and quickly before they dart off.

Some people do seem to be immune to them.  I had a carptenter work for me  a few years ago.  We were working outside  and they seem to totally ignore him.  I was so fancinated that they didn't bother him, all the while they were hovering around me.  I asked him what he had on that was keeping them at bay, he said "nothing, they just don't seem to bother me".  I am careful to be scent free of perfume, deodorants or hairspray and they still think I am yummy.  It has been said they will not be as attracted to lighter shades of clothing as they are to darker shades.

If they do get a bite of me, and once in a while they will catch me off guard without my netting, the bite will itch and create welts and sometimes  become infected.  I remember reading a civil war book once about the battles in the swampy areas of the south,  where soldiers were  bitten into a state of insanity.  And became infected  and sick.  These boys had no where to turn to and no where to hide.  I cannot even imagine how terrible this must have been for them. 

Some birds love black flies.  I have heard swallows will eat them.  Folks put out bird houses and feeders to lure  birds in for the black fly season.  We know birds eat insects, so why wouldn't this work ?   It just might be worth trying.

A friend and neighbor of mind, Gail,  inports nematodes.  These are fly parasites that destroy insects in the egg laying stages.  In the natural environment this natural ememy of the pest fly, keeps the fly population in check without any of the dangers of pesticides.    She feels that by releasing some of these nematodes, they have cut down on the black fly population around her area. I have never tried this. 

 I would suggest if you want to check it out further, do some research.  There are web sites on the internet that provide mega information on fly parasites and beneficial nematodes. Lady Bugs favor small insects, but Ido not know how effective they would be on the black fly population. As far as I am concern, anything is worth a try.

So if you are not an outdoorsy person or a gardener, staying inside is your best bet.  But contrary to belief, they will follow you inside, so give yourself a good and very quick brushing off with your hands before opening that house door, as they will follow you in and this goes for your car or your tent too. 

Don't forget your pets.  Especially your dog.  His/her underside, ears and nose area's are favorite places for these biting insects.  The best bet is to try to take your pet out doors during the off period when the flies are not active. Like cool, dry or windy.  When bringing them back in, give them a quick once over of brushing through their hair , expecially their stomach and ear areas. These nasty little critters can be found crawling through the hair, bite your pet then fly around inside and usually gravitate towards the windows and light.  It would be in your best interest to squish them anyway you can.  Otherwise they will turn into little vampires during the night and bite you on your exposed area's.....
I have never, ever heard anyone say they like black flies.  So my final words are "fair warning, and good luck". "You are on your own"!   

Darlene Sprague