Cold comfort: A slow start to summer means fewer black flies

June 12, 2009

It’s been another “unseasonably” cool week here in central New Hampshire. Even Jim, who rarely complains, felt compelled to grumble about the slow start to summer. Me, I’m thrilled. I am more than happy to trade off heat, even sun, for fewer biting bugs. And it does appear that black flies haven’t done any better than the season at getting off the ground.
Usually those little devils have already moved in by now, gotten themselves tangled up in my hair, hunkered down behind Ursula’s ears, and staked out a cafeteria line around Virgil’s wrists and ankles. And normally I think twice, and then again, before I plan lengthy outdoor time for the kids between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. This year, I haven’t had to do that much thinking, because we just haven’t seen that many black flies. I may have the cooler temperatures to thank: They’ve been in the high 30s and low 40s at night around here, and not much higher than that during the day.
I checked around and learned that black flies are relatively inactive when the temperature is below 50 degrees. Here are a few more things I learned (follow the links below to more information):
  • Black flies are less attracted to light-colored clothing than to dark clothing, so wear pale colors and avoid dark blues and blacks.
  • Unlike mosquitoes, black flies aren’t active (and therefore don’t bite) at night.
  • Small comfort: Black flies breed in clean, moving water, so you can at least be glad that their presence indicates a healthy stream somewhere nearby.
Black flies, and mosquitoes, will have their season soon enough. So here’s some information about insect repellent, especially about using it with children:
  • Be a minimalist. Your children will probably be exposed to less insecticide, and therefore to fewer potential side effects, if you apply the lotion or spray.
  • Avoid putting repellent on children’s hands and keep it away from their eyes and mouths.
  • Do not apply insect repellent on cuts or wounds.
  • Use the lowest concentration of DEET that will work: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that concentrations of 10 percent are as effective as concentrations of 30 percent.
  • The AAP recommends against using repellents with DEET on children younger than two months.
  • Remember that you can also keep bugs at bay by other means. Teach your children to wear long sleeves, pants and socks, and hats during bug season and you may find that you don’t have to reach for insect repellent.
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Kristen Laine

In 2013, Kristen Laine won an EXCEL gold award for outstanding feature writing for her work in AMC Outdoors.