Metro blackflies poised to bite

  • Article by: BILL MCAULIFFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 27, 2014 - 11:43 AM

Biting blackflies will be more abundant than usual because of the warm weather and rains.

First came the floods.

Now comes the pestilence.

Black flies, the nasty biters that can ruin a picnic even faster than mosquitoes, are about to appear in force in the metro, just in time for the run-up to Independence Day camping and parties.

Also known as biting gnats or buffalo gnats, the flies breed in running water, and the recent flooding rains have left parts of Minnesota awash in high, running water.

Smaller and stouter than mosquitoes, the flies don’t bite with the same pinpoint finesse because they have “more slashing mouth parts,” said University of Minnesota Extension entomologist Jeff Hahn. The flies essentially rip off a piece of their prey’s skin so they can draw blood, which they use, like mosquitoes, to provide nutrients to help them produce eggs. The flies also inject an anticoagulant into the wound, so for the victim it’s ouch, then itch.

“Most people would rather be bitten by a mosquito,” Hahn said.

Several species don’t bite humans, preferring to simply hover around the highest point on people’s bodies. So if you’re lucky they may just drive you crazy instead of biting you.

Because black flies breed in running water that usually makes them easier than mosquitoes to target and control, said Mike McLean, spokesman for the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District. But the floodwaters have changed the equation this year.

There’s been so much excess water that the bacteria mosquito control workers pour into rivers to kill the flies are being diluted into uselessness.

“The amount we’d need [to be effective] is so great, we’d blow the whole budget in one treatment,” McLean said.

High river flows in some areas have prevented workers from getting out in boats to distribute the insecticide anyway, he said.

What’s more, the agency doesn’t really know how bad the black fly outbreak will get because some of the tracking devices it attaches to buoys have been swept away by the floods.

Loons attacked

Black flies were so thick in northern Minnesota earlier this spring that nesting loons were forced into dives to shake off blankets of them. Some of the birds simply abandoned their nests, leaving eggs exposed to heat, cold and predators.

“They get in their eyes and nasal passages, they can’t breathe,” said DNR spokeswoman Lori Naumann.

It’s too soon to say how many loon chicks died. But the losses to the population of Minnesota’s state bird could be eased because loons can lay a second round of eggs in a season, added Carrol Henderson, DNR nongame wildlife program supervisor. While those eggs will hatch in coming weeks, the chicks will need two months to learn to fly, leaving them less time to develop before the fall migration, Henderson added.

The loon-pestering species of black fly prefers waterfowl blood over human blood. That may be one reason campers in the Boundary Waters haven’t been reporting being bothered any more than usual.

“Quite frankly, I think the weather has been the problem for us, more than the bugs,” said Cindy Hansen, co-owner of Sawbill Canoe Outfitters near Tofte.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw 14 FINAL
Chicago Cubs - LP: E. Jackson 5
Boston - WP: J. Tazawa 5 FINAL
Baltimore - LP: D. O`Day 3
Milwaukee - LP: J. Broxton 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: J. Holdzkom 4
Toronto - LP: M. Buehrle 3 FINAL
NY Yankees - WP: H. Kuroda 5
Washington - WP: D. Fister 3 FINAL
Miami - LP: T. Koehler 2
Chicago WSox - WP: J. Quintana 4 FINAL
Tampa Bay - LP: J. Hellickson 3
NY Mets - WP: Z. Wheeler 5 FINAL
Atlanta - LP: J. Teheran 0
Cleveland - LP: K. Crockett 4 FINAL
Minnesota - WP: J. Burton 5
Detroit - WP: J. Verlander 10 FINAL
Kansas City - LP: J. Vargas 1
Seattle - WP: T. Walker 10 FINAL
Houston - LP: B. Peacock 5
Arizona - LP: C. Anderson 3 FINAL
Colorado - WP: J. Lyles 15
Cincinnati - LP: D. Holmberg 1 FINAL
St. Louis - WP: J. Lackey 2
Philadelphia - LP: D. Buchanan 1 FINAL
Oakland - WP: J. Lester 3
Texas - WP: L. Bonilla 12 FINAL
LA Angels - LP: H. Santiago 3
San Francisco - LP: T. Hudson 0 FINAL
San Diego - WP: O. Despaigne 5
San Diego 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Dallas 9/21/14 12:00 PM
St. Louis
Washington 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Houston 9/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Minnesota 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Tennessee 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Green Bay 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Oakland 9/21/14 12:00 PM
New England
San Francisco 9/21/14 3:05 PM
Denver 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Kansas City 9/21/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh 9/21/14 7:30 PM
Chicago 9/22/14 7:30 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 9/25/14 7:25 PM
(5) Auburn 20 FINAL
(20) Kansas State 14
Connecticut 14 FINAL
So Florida 17
Old Dominion 11:00 AM
Troy 11:00 AM
(13) Georgia
Georgia Tech 11:00 AM
Virginia Tech
Eastern Mich 11:00 AM
(11) Michigan State
Iowa 11:00 AM
Bowling Green 11:00 AM
(19) Wisconsin
Maryland 11:30 AM
Tulane 11:30 AM
Hawaii 1:00 PM
Marshall 1:00 PM
North Carolina 2:30 PM
East Carolina
Army 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Virginia 2:30 PM
(21) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 2:30 PM
Rutgers 2:30 PM
Central Mich 2:30 PM
Utah 2:30 PM
Florida 2:30 PM
(3) Alabama
Louisville 2:30 PM
Fla Atlantic 3:00 PM
Indiana 3:00 PM
(18) Missouri
San Jose St 3:00 PM
Texas State 3:00 PM
Massachusetts 3:00 PM
Penn State
Georgia State 5:00 PM
Appalachian St 6:00 PM
Southern Miss
Miss State 6:00 PM
(8) LSU
Northern Ill 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Utah State 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Miami-Ohio 6:00 PM
Idaho 6:00 PM
Ohio U
Ball State 6:00 PM
(14) So Carolina 6:30 PM
(4) Oklahoma 6:30 PM
West Virginia
Ga Southern 6:30 PM
South Alabama
UNLV 7:00 PM
(22) Clemson 7:00 PM
(1) Florida State
Miami-Florida 7:00 PM
(24) Nebraska
New Mexico 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 9:00 PM
Louisiana 9:30 PM
Boise State
(2) Oregon 9:30 PM
Washington St
San Diego St 9:30 PM
Oregon State
Texas Tech 9/25/14 6:30 PM
(25) Oklahoma State
Appalachian St 9/25/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
(12) UCLA 9/25/14 9:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Middle Tennessee 9/26/14 7:00 PM
Old Dominion
Fresno State 9/26/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico
(1) Florida State 9/27/14 2:00 AM
NC State
Duke 9/27/14 2:00 AM
North Carolina 9/27/14 2:00 AM
(22) Clemson
Colorado 1 FINAL
Real Salt Lake 5
Toronto 40 FINAL
Brt Columbia 23
Edmonton 6:00 PM
Calgary 9/21/14 12:00 PM
Ottawa 9/21/14 3:00 PM
Montreal 9/26/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan 9/26/14 9:00 PM
Hamilton 9/27/14 5:30 PM
Brt Columbia 9/27/14 8:30 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question