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Old 20-08-2018, 07:59   #1
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Black Flies

Having just completed a Lake Ontario "homecoming" cruise after years away, we had a rude reminder of the prevalence of black flies. After biting our ankles all day long, they added insult to injury by leaving black speckled droppings as a souvenir of their "visit".

We'd love learn tips to avoid them, or at least make them less of a constant nuisance.

Bonus question - How is it that they are nowhere in sight, then all of a sudden they just show up 20+ miles from the nearest shore?
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Old 20-08-2018, 08:44   #2
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Re: Black Flies

They are not “black flies” they are stable flies. They are a formidable. No escape. Will bite through blue jeans and heavy socks.
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Old 20-08-2018, 17:27   #3
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Re: Black Flies

Oh so easily dealt with when offshore:



The big thing to remember is that, at least away from shore, you are dealing with individuals an that, you can easily keep them killed off an at bay with a Bug-a-salt. Above picture is my buddy Henry on watch transiting over to the Apostles from the Keweenaw sniping targets of opportunity. There is not a whole lot of other stuff to do when you are on watch, so it's easy to keep them killed back. No faster than flies are when you are out on the water, it's pretty hard to miss. We killed literally thousands of the little devils.
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Old 20-08-2018, 18:24   #4
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Re: Black Flies

We like to made a game of how many we can kill in a day. If you enjoy games of strategy, swatting with a rag and flicking with your finger can be entertaining. If you instead enjoy setting personal records, spraying them with bleach or any other cleaner is highly effective.
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Old 20-08-2018, 18:37   #5
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Re: Black Flies

We called them Lake Erie ankle nippers until we moved to West Michigan. The hatch, stand on the water surface tension and swarm the boat as it passes. It helps to keep your parts above the cockpit. They like the low, sheltered confines of the ankle zone. My wife invented a game based on baseball called “flyball” to amuse young guests on long transits. Played with a swatter instead of a bat.

BTW, black flies are about the size of a pinhead. We run into them on far north Canada fishing trips. They burrow through socks and moose fur and draw copious blood.
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Old 21-08-2018, 07:57   #6
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Re: Black Flies

I’ve been told the whole life cycle of the fly is in the water.
We also have a “game of swatting”.
When new crew see me go crazy swatting and think me daft, they soon learn the truth.
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Old 21-08-2018, 08:14   #7
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Black Flies

The worst bug episode I’ve ever had was coming up the ICW in North Carolina. Anchored in some wide marsh area about a mile from a lee shore. At about midnight I looked out the companionway and saw I had left a solar light going in the cockpit. BIG BIG mistake. I could barely make out the light for the cloud of caddis or mayflies around it. In the morning there were thousands upon thousands of them carpeting the boat. They would not leave. Spraying them with water just transformed them into green slime and made a bigger mess. Days went by and they would not leave. Finally got rid of them by anchoring next to a brightly lit marina. A few lingered and they lived for a week or more, so not mayflies I guess. Gawd it was awful. Had they been biting insects I would have breen found shriveled and bloodless by some passing boater.

Here they are and the green. They were thicker than this in many places.
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Old 22-08-2018, 03:32   #8
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Re: Black Flies

Bug-a-salt order placed. Something with NATO 5.56 was a consideration also.
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Old 22-08-2018, 04:58   #9
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Re: Black Flies

5.56 would make holes in the cockpit. The bug-a-salt is probably the safer bet.

It's trivially easy to wipe those fools out with that thing. Regular house flies are at least semi inclined to think that the Bug-a-salt is a threat, those guys never see it coming. On top of that, they are not the sturdiest of flies so even clipping them seems to put them down with ease. Lastly, unlike swatting, the bug-a-salt does not tend to smear fly goo all over the place making clean up a lot easier.
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Old 22-08-2018, 05:24   #10
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Re: Black Flies

Cheap ammo is a plus, too!
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Old 22-08-2018, 05:28   #11
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Re: Black Flies

When the fly hatch is in full swing mere humans are simply overwhelmed by the numbers. Something like the movie Zulu. I have observed transoms covered with the monsters. Bug-a-salts are a fools paradise.

Then help you if there are thunderstorms approaching, hot and humid. That's when these guys get serious and really start the attack. They are ferocious and relentless. So imagine, it's 90 degrees and 90% humidity, way too hot to cover-up but yet survival requires being covered up. Sometimes retreat is the only option.

In the UP there are beautiful spectacular beaches with no people. That is because they are the domain of the stable fly. Local and state camp grounds near Lake Superior, on occasion, have given refunds on fees to facilitate honorable retreat from the horror.
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Old 22-08-2018, 06:34   #12
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Re: Black Flies

Always fun to hear what the various biting pests are called in different locations. I've always called the OP's flies "ankle biters" b/c that's where they seem to focus. True blackflies are actually tiny, relentless blood suckers that swarm in the millions. They don't bite through clothes, but they will crawl into every crevice; into clothes and between skin folds. Their bite somewhat numbs the area, so they can go unnoticed while they slice into your skin and lick up the pooling blood.

Check out https://www.nfb.ca/film/blackfly/
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Old 22-08-2018, 06:48   #13
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Re: Black Flies

Suijin.....

North Carolina flies:

Been there, done that. These are called locally "fuzzybills". Google it. They seem to live in a very narrow latitude range centered on Albemarle Sound. Fortunately, they have a very short life cycle (5 days), they do not bite, and the green "stuff" is water soluble and fades naturally in the sun. But they do make a mess of canvas...

The only sure way to avoid them in the fall is to jump from Coinjock, NC all the way to the south end of Alligator River. Do not stop at North River anchorage, no matter how nice it looks.

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Old 22-08-2018, 08:20   #14
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Re: Black Flies

Tennis anyone? available at Amazon

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