From mid May until the end of June (sometimes early July) we are blessed with black fly season. There are many species of black fly within Canada (approximately 165) but only two that swarm and bite and we have this type here in Nova Scotia 🙁
Unlike mosquitos, black flies lay their eggs on moving bodies of water that are uncontaminated and free of any kind of organic pollution. Since the waters in our area are clean running, we in turn get an abundance of black flies.
Over the winter the eggs hatch into larvae as they attach themselves to anything that’s convenient and underwater. As temperatures warm, they develop into adults where they will float upwards out of the water and are ready to fly as soon as they reach the surface.
After mating, the male goes off looking for some kind of nectar, the female goes hunting for a blood meal, as she needs this to lay her eggs. They find their blood meal by the scent of carbon dioxide and body heat. Dark clothing, lactic acid and perfume will also attract the thirsty female.
Once the female has fed on you and digested her blood meal, she will lay her eggs usually back in the same stream where she emerged. And unlike mosquitoes who leave their barb in your skin, the black fly simply takes a chunk of skin thus sparking the anti-inflammatory cascade.
For those of us who have not grown up around black fly, our immune response tends to be rather more aggressive. It’s very common to have a reaction to the black fly’s saliva which can cause swelling and itching around the site of the black fly bite. If the black flies bite around your eye socket, it is very possible for your eye to swell and close. This has happened to me several times in previous years, so much so that I take anti-histamine medication during the black fly season. Yet other people I know, barely react to a black fly bite, so you’ll just have to see for yourself on this one.
Now the question is, why these pesky things can hang around for a lot longer….(the season is supposed to be Mother’s Day to Father’s Day ie. second week of May until mid June) but sometimes they can still be around early July. What speeds up their killing off is if there is several late May to early June days of hot weather that dry up the streams that they live in. And then they disappear until next Spring.
But if we have an ultra cool and damp Spring (which unfortunately we are experiencing so far this year), they may well still be biting into July 🙁
Fingers crossed for some very hot and settled weather.
A black fly’s lifespan is about three weeks
They emerge mid-May and die off after the Spring creek run-off has ended
Wear light coloured, high neck, long sleeve clothing.
Black flies tend to be most active in the morning (at the bus stop :), late afternoon and on warm, overcast days. They don’t like wind as they cannot fly on blustery, windy days
For flies that swarm, wear a protective bug jacket and/or head net. They love to bite around the back of your neck into your hairline
They will also take a chunk out of your beloved pets too and some animals can be more sensitive to these bites than others.
The guide is to use generous amounts of insect repellant, about 30 per cent of DEET.
I for one, do not like to use DEET on myself or my children so we tend to spray just our bug jackets and our head wear. I do dab a drop or two of geranium essential oil on my wrists. Avon Skin So Soft is widely touted as being an all round natural black fly deterrent, so may be worth trying.
If you do get bitten:
Apply a cold pack to reduce swelling to help lessen irritation to the nerve endings of the skin
Apply cream such as AfterBite, calamine lotion or my favourite, good old fashioned germoline 🙂
Consider a topical treatment such as hydrocortisone cream directly on the bite. This will work to decrease inflammation.
And if topical treatments don’t work, maybe consider an over the counter antihistamine such as Reactine (non drowsy).
The good thing is it’s only temporary but it can make Spring pretty miserable, especially if you are planning a bbq and you are swarmed with black fly wanting to join in too.
But if this is the worse part of living in Nova Scotia, I’ll take it.
Have a great week!
Jane and Richard