Occasionally, when the rain is abundant, these troubling little flies may torment us. 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. They range 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. El Niño was the culprit for that wet and cold winter season.
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 breed and 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. Although large swarms are attracted to people, most do not bite us. However, we don’t want to downplay the severity of this pest. If you show an allergic reaction from the contact of this fly, you should consult a physician for immediate treatment.
So far this year, much of Florida has received abundant rainfall. We could be in for an increase of black flies in several areas of the state!
So how do we prevent them from attacking us? We can tell you from personal experience those repellents containing DEET are not much help and may actually attract more black flies! According to one article, Avon’s Skin So Soft may give you about 10 minutes or more of relief. Testing by the University of Florida has shown some protection is given by herbal-based treatments with an active ingredient of geraniol.
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!