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Black Flies Really Suck - can anything be done about this blood sucking pest?

Updated on June 3, 2011

The Black Fly

The blood sucking black fly is more irritating than mosquitoes.
The blood sucking black fly is more irritating than mosquitoes.

Keeping blood sucking insects at bay

Black flies really suck or rather they rip. Unlike mosquitoes who cut into the skin with tiny knife like appendages, black flies actually tear away bits of flesh as they seek their blood meal. That's why a black fly bite is usually more irritating than a mosquito bite.

If your not familiar with black flies then you probably live in an urban area where air pollution keeps the population at bay. Black flies can only live in clean water so out in rural areas, the black fly populations are fierce and have become larger ever since the Clean Water Act started to work towards restoring our waterways.

What is a Black Fly?

The black fly is a very small fly about one sixteenth of an inch. Some might refer to it as a "nat". They swarm around their victim and seem to enjoy biting their victim when they are sweaty and have their hands full. Gardeners trying to get their gardens going in the spring are easy targets.

Unlike mosquitoes and vampires, the black fly has no problem with daylight. They come at you in full sun but for some reason they don't like the indoors. If you get a mosquito in your tent it will feast on you all night but the black fly indoors becomes neutered.

In northern New England there are at least 50 different species of black flies (Makes one wonder how Noah got them all on the ark doesn't it?) so there is not shortage of these annoying flying blood suckers.

Unlike the mosquito which lays its eggs in standing water, the black fly likes moving water. The Black Fly larvae attach themselves to rocks in the fastest part of a moving body of water - streams, rivers etc. They filter the water, hatch and fly away looking for a nice blood meal. With all the water around this year, its bound to be a bumper crop of black flies.

Mosquito Magnets?

I've owned several Mosquito Magnets over the years and have had several friends and relatives use this product. The carbon dioxide releasing units do attract mosquito but the machines themselves are very finicky. I gave away two of them because I could not get them to work after the first summer.

I have since purchase traps from Blue Rhino called the SkeeterVac and find them superior. They start up and they include the highly effective sticky black and white traps which catch zillions of black flies and mosquitoes. If you want to go this route, consider the SkeeterVac over the Mosquito Magnet.

SkeeterVac Review

Is there anything good about Black Flies?

Like all things in nature, just because we humans don't like them doesn't mean they don't have a purpose in the overall scheme of things. If you are religious you might think Satan created the black fly but they do provide an important food source for birds. Here are some of the Black Fly's good points:

  • They are the indicator of clean water - they don't tolerate pollution
  • They only live for a few weeks - Traditionally between Mother's Day and Father's Day
  • They don't bite indoors
  • They filter particulates out of water
  • They produce a tremendous amount of biomass
  • They deter humans from entering pristine wilderness areas

Tips for avoiding black flys

Black flies like mosquitoes and other blood suckers are attracted to plumes of carbon dioxide that we humans emit. Here are some tips for avoiding their bites:

  • When hiking try to be in the front of the line - the flies will follow the CO2 plume and get the guy at the end of the line
  • Stand next to someone who attracts them better - some people are natural attractants.
  • Some people swear by dryer sheets as repellents - put one on your hat
  • Take vitamin B supplements in the winter (supposed to work)
  • Wear long sleeves - watch out for openings, black flies like to get under clothing and bite
  • Keep moving
  • Wear repellent with DEET
  • Stay inside or leave the state until they are gone - come back for deer fly and mosquito season

The Black Fly Song


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    • peanutroaster profile image

      peanutroaster 3 years ago from New England

      Those are nats I believe. They don't have the teeth of the Northern Black Fly - at least in my experience in Virginia. Northern Black Flys draw blood. Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      Jack 3 years ago

      Your northern black flies might only last Mother's Day to Father's Day, but here in Pennsylvania, the little buggers are out from April until late October. They don't bite as aggressively here, but they wear you down over time with their constant swarming.