Also called a buffalo gnat, turkey gnat, or white sock. There are over 1,800 known species of black flies. They are 2 to 5 mm long, and black, grey or even yellow. They spread several diseases, including river blindness in Africa.

Enormous numbers come out in the spring and early summer – especially in the northern latitudes. Their entire life is four to six weeks, and there are up to four generations per calendar year. Eggs are laid in running water and the larvae attach themselves to rocks.  They will pupate underwater and emerge in a bubble of air as a flying adult. They are often preyed upon by trout.


They usually bite during the day in shaded areas, and when wind speeds are low.  They only travel 10-15 kilometres from their breeding site, and further when blown by winds. They feed on warm-blooded animals. That’s you!


Certain species of black flies are fierce biters, whereas others are only a nuisance. Only the females bite. Often people are discouraged from venturing into the great outdoors during the black fly season – but not campologists!

The Nasty

Their mouth parts are similar to those of a deer fly,  and also with bites that can be very painful. They crawl into sleeves, under neck bands, and around socks, and they especially favour the head around the hairline.

After the black fly finishes feeding, bleeding may continue for some time. At first, the bite site appears as a small red spot surrounded by a slightly swollen area. It becomes itchy, swollen and irritating – sometimes for several days.


Consider the following:
  • They are attracted by the carbon dioxide exhaled by warm-blooded animals – so don’t breathe,
  • Wear light colours – they are attacked to darker colours,
  • Do not wear perfumes, deodorants or scented toiletries – don’t bathe, be natural!
  • There are times when they will bite regardless of repellent,
  • Insect repellents may attract black flies,
  • Don’t scratch – this will make it worse!
  • The swelling is an allergic reaction – bring antihistamines  • The only sure-fire protection is a “Bug Jacket” or “Bug Head Gear”.They are light to carry and an absolute must during bug season.


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