The air is warm, the grass is green and the flowers are up. Finally, after months of cold, snow, ice and gray skies, the outdoors beckons us.
The ground is soft, the sun is out and our gardens need tending. We want to rake and tidy our front yards and play in our back yards. And now more than any other time in our world, people are finding solace in being outside hiking, walking and exploring the natural world. That’s why it is such cruelty that just when being outside should feel so gloriously warm, sunlit and good, the blackflies swarm us, biting and driving us to madness. Then finally, just as the black flies disappear and you think the world is safe again, out come the mosquitoes ready to feed. How is a person to survive?
Here are some handy tips to still enjoy the outdoors during biting-fly season – also known as summer.
Dress for success. If you want to spend a lot of time outside in your garden, doing yard work or hiking, consider donning the haute couture of New England’s bug season: a bug-baffler coat with hood. Zip yourself up in an entire hooded jacket or head-to-toe jumper made from mosquito netting. This will at least offer some protection from the dreaded biting.
If wearing netting is not your style, at least try dressing in light-colored clothing. Black flies and mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors and warm bodies, so avoid wearing black, navy and other similar colors and stick to this season’s cool whites and lights. This will also help you spot any dark-colored ticks seeking purchase on you.
Skip your shower. Who’s showering much these days anyway? Black flies and mosquitoes are drawn to the sweet floral odors often found in our shampoos, conditioners, soaps and perfumes. If you want to go under the radar from these bugs, try heading out before you shower and roll on your flowery deodorant. You might be stinky, but you will have less itchy and swollen bites at the end of the day. You could also, of course, choose to perfume your body with essential oil blends and certain chemicals, including DEET (found in most bug sprays) that these biting insects find repellent.
Escape into the water. Follow the lead of moose, deer and other wild animals that seek to escape the incessant onslaught of the flies and get yourself into the water. Hop in your kayak, canoe, fishing boat, rowboat, party boat or stand-up paddle board. Paddle your way out into the middle of the lake, where there will be less of these bugs. Avoid the swampy edges of ponds and reconsider heading out at dawn and dusk, right when certain mosquito species are more active. Or just for go for a swim. Mosquitoes and black flies cannot get you when you are mostly underwater.
Speed it up. Hop on your bike or put on your running sneakers and out-speed these biters. Think of it as your motivation to work on your speed and build up your muscle and endurance. But remember to keep your mouth closed so you don’t accidently end up eating a few of them.
Find where the wind blows. Search for the windiest places in your community. Black flies and mosquitoes are not known for their strong flying abilities so a good gust of wind can be your best ally. Find ways to get to mountain tops, big wide-open meadows and shorelines of large water bodies. Enjoy the breeze and fresh air without the bugs.
Go urban. Having black flies in your neighborhood is actually a good indication that there is clean flowing water in your community. This is a good thing. In our New England cities and even the downtowns of our smaller towns, there will be less black flies and mosquitoes, simply due to less breeding grounds for black flies and too much pavement and heat for mosquitoes. This makes it a perfect time to take an amble through town. Even though you may see less nature, towns and cities have much to offer the curious explorer from interesting cultivated plants and city birds to historical and architectural features.
Give blood and give back. This might be the hardest strategy to employ but remind yourself that when a black fly or mosquito bites you, you are feeding an essential part of the food chain. After all, these bugs are a key component to many beautiful and amazing birds that we all love to see in our neighborhoods, including swallows, phoebes and warblers, to name just a few. And that’s not all – they are also tasty morsels to dragonflies, damselflies, frogs and bats, plus the fish they feed when they are an aquatic larva. So maybe consider the blood you donate to the black fly and mosquito a way of giving back to the creatures that you do love.