I had heard stories of the black flies that live in the north, but I never believed that they could be that bad. I was wrong. I am trying unsuccessfully not to scratch as I write this.
Last week I went with my Dad and Kay to Mont Tremblant, a mountain resort area in Quebec, Canada. It was a fantastic place, full of gorgeous rivers, lakes, and mountains. We went fishing for trout, hiked on great trails, and ate LOTS of fantastic French food.
The area is full of lakes carved by glaciers that retreated long ago. The lakes are full of frogs and fish. I saw green frogs and heard their calls, along with the calls of gray tree frogs, bull frogs, and spring peepers. I did not see any reptiles, but I was lucky to catch a speckled trout on our fishing expedition. During our time on the boat, there were no insects to be seen (or felt).
I was on the dock of a very nice restaraunt, petting a cat, when I had my first real taste of what black flies are capable of. They were swarming all around my face and head. I brushed them away and figured they were kind of like gnats – annoying, but basically harmless.
I went back inside the restaraunt to place my order for dinner (grilled venison, yum!), and noticed I was bleeding around my chest and neck. The waitress who spoke mostly French, noticed, and began to explain what black flies can do to a person. She said they liked to crawl under your clothes and hair where they bite throught your skin ans suck blood. Their bites will cause bleeding, then later, the bites swell and become very itchy and in some people, very painful.
I excused myself from the dinner table, went to the restroom and shook all my clothes out. I then noticed that I was bleeding from many, many bites on my face, neck, and back. It was a bit gross. After the bleeding stopped, I went back to the table and enjoyed a dinner that was magnifique.
A day later, all of the bites had turned into large red welts that itched like mad! I knew I had to avoid getting any more black fly bites. I now had respect for them. These were no gnats!
It turns out, black flies breed in clean, fast running creeks and rivers. The larvae cannot tolerate pollution or still water. The larvae and adult flies are a major source of food for trouts, birds, and many other insects and animals. The adults typically come out around mid-May and stick around until the end of July, but the actual “black fly season” depends on location and weather conditions.
Black flies are a major problem for livestock. Because black flies like to crawl inside nasal passages, cattle an other livestock are sometimes smothered by the swarming flies. The flies can also spread disease and cause such stress to animals, that they die.
I had a great time in Canada – and I would love to go back. But this time, I’ll remember to bring the bug spray!