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Black Fly Control: Is there hope in permaculture?

Posts: 114
Location: Ontario Canada, Zone 5b
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Hi Paul & Permie friends,

I'm from Ontario, Canada and up here in some parts we deal with what we like to think of as the 'black plague' in late spring/early summer. Basically, around the end of spring and beginning of summer great swarms of bloodthirsty female black flies do their worst on animals and humans alike. Interestingly, the male black flies just hang out, pollinate and drink nectar while the females seek out their victims, drinking their blood and flying off to reproduce, leaving them with wounds akin to leprosy within milliseconds. In some parts of Northern Ontario it is so bad that you can not leave your house safely without wearing a hazmat style bug jacket and duct taping around your wrists and ankles (I'm not kidding).

Now, you might think, why not get some bats? That might clear it right up! Well, sadly, bats won't eat the things because the flies only come out during the day. Birds maybe? Maybe. But if there are enough black flies to kill Alberta cattle or wandering human tourists, I don't think birds have a chance. Although, I may be on the pessimistic side.

We've tried eating tons of garlic, rubbing this or that on our skin, staying away from sugar, even attempting zen like states in the hope of gaining supernatural invisibility against these creatures but to no avail.

We are beginning to implement permaculture techniques in general since they are super rad, and I am wondering if anyone has had experience or may have some ideas on how to create an environment that black flies won't be interested in. After searching for ideas on the internet and other permie forums, I am beginning to lose hope.

Now, these aren't your typical house flies. These are Black Flies or Simulium yahense if you want to get fancy, or 'Sand flies' if you're in New Zealand. They need moving water to breed and can travel many kilometers from the free flowing water they emerge from by determination and catching a ride on the wind. They love to hang out in long grass and hate the wind. Walking in the forest during peak black fly season is next to impossible unless you are wearing a bug jacket, and even if it is perfectly sealed at least 10 will find a way through some how and attack you from the inside and you won't know until you get home and notice the blood stains on your shirt/pants/socks etc.

Since it has become quite a problem in Northern Ontario and different parts of the country, municipalities are implementing black fly control by dumping larvicide into the rivers during breed time and then again and again since they breed repeatedly over the course of a few months. This has worked to drastically reduce black fly population in certain areas, but the affect it has on the environment remains to be seen.

I'm not looking to wipe out the species or anything (especially since they are supposed pollinators of blueberries) but I would like to be able to go outside without an astronaut suit to plant in my cool hugelkultur beds. I thank you all in advance for your ideas and suggestions.

Here's a little song about black flies to help inspire your creative ideas:


Posts: 2719
Location: Maine (zone 5)
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I've noticed a lot less Black Flies once I got a few dozen chickens. During black fly season I like to sit on top of the pig shelter surrounded by chickens and see how long it takes for one to get through my chicken defenses. Even if they manage to land on me, the chickens get em fast.

If you have water nearby where they breed, you can encourage small fish to take up residence. That will help with the larva... maybe.

There's also fly resistant clothing and hoods for you to wear. Bug Baffler is one that comes to mind. To avoid the flies, try doing yard work when the flies are laying low. Early morning and after dark and cloudy days. I've gotten used to the idea of doing some spring plantings by way of headlamp at night just to avoid the swarms.

I've also heard that they are attracted to certain colors like blue and green. White seems to offer some protection and it's easy to see them on white clothes. They aren't all that fast, so mushing them is easy. BUT THERE'S JUST SO MANY!
I've even heard of people coating a blue piece of plastic with that sticky bug trap glue and placing it on their hat. Supposedly the flies attack from above and land on the blue sticky trap. I haven't tried it but I do know that they tend to be hovering right overhead all spring.
Early in the season they aren't so aggressive, but as time goes on they get down right ballsy.

[Thumbnail for IMG_0209.jpg]
One in the hand is worth... Itchy hand
Posts: 345
Location: south-central ME, USA - zone 5a/4b
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Anyone know if muscovies will tackle these little vampires? I know they're big fans of mosquitos....just not sure if their eyesight is sharp enough and their bills are small enough

God I hope they do...planning to get some baby mother-duckers this spring to help with the biblical swarms of mosquitos and the like

If they don't do black flies, though, I may never get "spring fever" again
I'm not sure if I approve of this interruption. But this tiny ad checks out:
BWB second printing, pre-order dealio (poor man's poll)
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