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How to Avoid Black Fly Bites

How to Avoid Black Fly Bites

In much of North America, the problem of black flies is largely unknown, but in areas where black flies are bad, they’re really bad.

These biting insects are a real nuisance and, in many cases, potentially deadly because of their sheer numbers. In the most severely affected areas, protecting yourself against black flies can make or break your plans to spend time outdoors.


Black flies are a family of insects that include about 1,800 individual species. In North America, they are particularly numerous in the northern part of the continent, including wet areas of Canada, Minnesota, Maine and Michigan. During heavy activity cycles, swarms of female black flies will often descend on unprotected hikers, boaters, fishers, hunters and campers and bite as they seek a blood meal to assist in egg production.

These clouds can be so thick that they literally choke their victims to death when hundreds of these bugs enter into the victim’s airways and block their ability to breath. Attacking swarms can even send victims into anaphylactic shock due to the overwhelming number of bites.

On top of those problems, black flies can also carry a number of diseases. The most notable, river blindness, is a problem in North America, South America and Africa.

Aside from its tendency to swarm people and larger animals, the black fly can be identified by its humped back, which has earned it the “buffalo gnat” nickname.  Black flies are also notable for their pointed rear end, downward facing head and small eyes.

What Are Black Flies?


If you live in some areas, the effort to stop black flies and the diseases they carry may already be taking place. In some municipalities, waterways are regularly treated with an insecticide that destroys the eggs of these biting insects.

Pennsylvania, for example, has a statewide program to suppress black fly populations. For the most part, these programs end up being a boon to the tourism businesses in rural areas – particularly for fishing, hiking and outdoor sport venues. In Pennsylvania, black flies were a problem in the state capitol of Harrisburg, which probably made it very easy to get that program funded!

Can Black Flies Make Me Sick?


When it comes to black flies, DEET-based insect repellents will do their job for the most part – they’ll keep a lot of insects away. However, even the most powerful sprays won’t deter these biting insects if they’re really hungry, and that appears to often be the case.

To get the maximum effect from your bug spray, look for repellents that offer high concentrations of DEET. The higher the number, the the more repellency the spray provides. Your best bet is to always seek out heavy-duty 100% DEET sprays. Be aware that most everyday-use sprays hover around 25% DEET, so check that number before buying. (Note: Higher concentrations of DEET do not make the spray last longer, instead, they offer stronger repellency)

Once you have your spray, apply it according to instructions and be ready to reapply as needed.


If you’re planning a hike, fishing trip or camping expedition into areas where black flies are known to be bad, then you’ll want to skip the traditional summer wear of typical suburban life. In short, you want to cover yourself up. In fact, you don’t want any skin available for these insects to bite.

That means you’ll want long pants and long sleeves. Further, tuck your shirts into your waistband and push your pant cuffs into your socks. Gloves may not be a bad idea either.

For the highest quality of relief, you’ll also want a head net, which will block these bugs from attacking your face, nose, mouth, ears and eyes. These nets will make you look a lot like a beekeeper, but they are your best defense against black flies (and mosquitoes) when it comes to clothing.

You can also invest in clothing infused with permethrin, an insect repelling chemical that mimics the properties of chrysanthemum flowers. This treatment will repel insects for a while before the effect is worn away in a few washings.

What Clothes Work Against Black Flies?


When you’re picking out your clothes – and maybe even your 4x4, tent and food-storage cooler – go for light colors, including white, off-white, tan and truly muted pastels. These colors, according to most black fly experts, help to hide your presence from these insects.

On the flip side, dark colors appear to assist black flies in finding you. So think again before you wear blues, reds, greens, browns and blacks the next time you venture into black fly country. If you’re wearing one of those colors, consider yourself a target for these aggressive insects.


If you’re worried about black flies on your property, then be sure to check out the CO2 mosquito traps available from Mosquito Magnet®. These traps emit an attractant that draws mosquitoes – and black flies – away from areas where people congregate. As the flies and mosquitoes buzz close to the trap, they’re vacuumed inside where they’re caught in a net and die of dehydration.

Why do mosquitoes and black flies fall for the deception? These insects seek out the odors and body heat mammals produce, a combination that Mosquito Magnet® traps are made to replicate. The mosquitoes and black flies can’t tell the difference, and come looking for the blood meal they need to survive and breed.

How Can I Get Rid of Black Flies?


While you may be mostly familiar with Mosquito Magnet® from its ability to attract and trap mosquitoes, these CO2 traps are also perfect for dealing with black flies, too. To learn more about these CO2 biting insect traps, join Mosquito Magnet® on Facebook. You can also subscribe to our E-Newsletter for helpful articles and ideas to battle biting insects.

When you’re ready to invest in one of our traps, be sure to join the Mosquito Magnet® rewards points program, which gives you money back on every purchase.

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