These troubling little flies plagued us in the Spring of 1998, 2004, 2005 and 2014. You may even be seeing these pests now due to the excessive rainfall we've experienced in parts of Florida. They fly around our heads, get into our eyes, nose and ears and crawl around in our hair. They’re known by several names like Turkey Gnats, Buffalo Gnats and they’ve been called a few other names that won’t be repeated here!
Black Flies are rather small, ranging from 1/8”-1/4” in length. The thorax, which is the middle section of the body, is hump-shaped (hence the name Buffalo Gnat), shiny and ranges in color from black to gray to yellow.
Population peaks are associated with heavy rainfall. Abundant rainfall causes creeks and rivers to flow producing a more oxygenated water source which is needed for the development of the immature stages. This is what happened during the Winter of 1997-1998 and recently during the Spring of 2014.
Although they need the above mentioned conditions to develop, an adult may fly as much as eight miles from the breeding site to find a host. After feeding, they return back to the breeding site to lay eggs. While the male is mainly a nectar feeder, the female will feed on just about any warm blooded animal from birds to humans. Simulium slossonae, the main species found in Florida, is primarily a bird feeder. Although large swarms are attracted to people, most do not bite us. This is a good thing for us humans but aggravating nevertheless. However, we don’t want to downplay the severity of this pest. Anyone showing a strong allergic reaction from this fly's bite should consult a physician for immediate treatment.
Recently, most of Florida has received abundant rainfall. This would account for the increase of Black Flies in several areas of the state and the problem could get even worse!
So how do we keep them from attacking us? Well, from personal experience, those repellents containing “DEET” are not much help. According to one article, Avon’s “Skin So Soft Bath Oil” may give you about 10 minutes or more of relief. Testing by the University of Florida has shown that a product called “Quantum Buzz Away” has shown some protection.
There are many repellents available and care should be taken when applying them. Read the entire label before using these products.
Now, go enjoy the great Florida outdoors!