Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Don’t Go Out Without A Net: It’s Black-fly Season in the Adirondacks

Bug net photo of and by Tracy Ormsbee

With the blooming of the first spring flowers comes another rite of spring: black flies. Consider this a warning, since you may have a little time before they start biting, according to scientist Curt Stager, a professor at Paul Smith’s College.

“They’re out already,” he said, adding, “Often they don’t bite right away. They just swarm and see what’s on the buffet.”

And that’s us.

“A day or two of wildflowers and then you’re on the menu. There’s one climbing on the window as we speak,” Stager added.

Black flies are attracted to humans’ upper body and head, as we release carbon dioxide. So one tip from Stager, aside from the usual insect repellent, long-sleeved clothing, pulling your socks over your pant cuffs, and just moving is to change your mindset. It works for him, he said.

“If I let them bother me, it’s much worse,” he said. “I don’t know if they sense it. If you are hot and bothered, you may be sweating more and releasing more CO2.

Or do what the indigenous people have done for thousands of years, Stager said. Find a beautiful bluff or shoreline with a stiff breeze and let the wind do the work for you.

It’s the females who do the biting, not the males. They need the extra nutrition from our blood to make eggs – 200 to  500 in a single batch, according to the Purdue University website .  If they don’t need to reproduce, they may not bite.

Get used to them. They’ll be around for at least another month – or as local lore goes, from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day.

“That’s when the mosquitoes take over, then the deerflies and the no-see-ums,” Stager said.

Here’s a list of black-fly spottings so far, taken from the vigilant, fly swatting readers of the Adirondack Explorer Facebook page:

  • Northeast Oneida County, South Lewis County — getting buzzed but no bites yet
  • Wells on Wednesday and our yard in Providence, northern Saratoga County
  • Saw one today at my home in Lake Clear. Don’t worry I killed it. One down, countless more to go
  • Hardy Road last week, maybe cold weather and snow Tuesday will slow them down
  • Lots of them in Southern Lewis County this afternoon! Yikes!
  • They are flying in from Maine
  • Yes in Owls Head 2 weekends ago they were bad
  • Harvey Road, North River
  • Lakeside School at Black Kettle Farm

Photo by Tracy Ormsbee.


Tracy Ormsbee

Tracy Ormsbee is the new publisher of the Adirondack Explorer. When she’s not working – and it’s not black fly season – you can find her outdoors hiking, running, paddle boarding or reading a book on an Adirondack chair somewhere.


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4 Responses

  1. Amy Jaquith says:

    They are up here in the Adirondacks and they are biting.

  2. Kevin Bean says:

    We are in North River and the black flies are out in swarms. I don’t believe for a minute that ignoring them does any good. I wear netting over my head, long pants and shirt along with work gloves. There is no other way to get yard work done.

  3. Connie says:

    Lots, lots in Apalachin, NY….Tioga County..Southern Tier.

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