The Perils of the Black Fly

When we moved to Maine, we were warned: watch out for the black flies!

This seemed like kind of a silly warning, honestly. Sort of like “Watch out for the green grass!” or “Beware the evils of the blue sky!” Flies are black. I’m not going to spend my life always paranoid of any ol’ black fly.

“No,” people would say. “These are different. These are tiny little flies that will bite you. They’re small.”

“You mean like biting gnats?” I’d ask.

“Nope. Black flies.”

Whatever. It was August. There were some gnats around, but nothing seemed too bad. Denisa and I dismissed it as just a bit of local flavor. Crazy Mainers and their fear of black flies.

Then May came, and we were introduced to “Black Fly Season.” Now, having been through almost 10 years here, I know better. These flies are very specific. They just go by a very generic name (probably to lull the unsuspecting into a false sense of safety). Just look at the Wikipedia page. They suck so much blood from Canadian cattle that the cows die. If that’s not serious, I don’t know what is.

Honestly, these days I’m not that worried about blood loss. It’s true that when a black fly bites you, you feel it. And when you swat them, they explode in blood. But all of that pales in comparison to the fact that some people are quite allergic to them. Not “bee sting” allergic. Black flies don’t kill you (I don’t think), but their bites swell up and itch, depending on the person. For me, they itch for days after and are a real annoyance. For my family? Tomas got bit in his ear canal five years ago or so. (His ear canal!) And his bites swell a bunch and hurt.

It was not a good few days for Tomas.

Most black flies die off by around mid July, and then life returns to normal. But if you go outside from later April until then . . . watch out.

I like to tell myself they’re acceptable because they keep people away who don’t really love the area. But if there were one thing I could change about my home . . . that might be it.


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