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Black Fly Season in the Adirondacks - Tips & Advice

You're likely to encounter black flies if you're hiking or camping in the Adirondacks during spring or early summer. Learn more about how to prepare for black fly season in the Adirondacks below.

black fly on twig

Black flies are often found in swarms, so you may wind up with multiple bites from a single encounter. Before you head outside, be sure to read up on these tips for dealing with these tiny pests.

When and Where are Black Flies the Worst?

Black fly season typically starts in the middle of May and runs through late June or early July. The flies are most active several hours after sunrise and an hour or two before sunset due to the humidity of the air and the position of the sun.

When the air is dry, flies may seek moisture in leaf litter on the ground. Although their bites do not spread disease to humans, they are painful, itchy, and can even cause severe allergic reactions in some people.

The insects lay their eggs in clean, fast-running water - like rivers and streams - that are commonly located in wooded areas. 

marshmallow being toasted over fire

How Can I Avoid Black Flies?

Since it's unrealistic to stay inside until black fly season is over, try the following methods to avoid the pests:

  • Have your outdoor fun in the middle of the day, especially when the weather is dry and sunny, as black flies will be less active during this time.
  • When hiking, avoid trails that run along streams, since that's where black flies lay their eggs.
  • When paddling, explore lakes and ponds instead of rivers and streams. The openness of the area surrounding lakes and ponds is less appealing to black flies, and the wind you'll find in the middle of these bodies of water has added benefits for keeping the flies away.
  • Wind makes it more difficult for black flies to track down a host, so windy days are better for outdoor adventure.
  • The carbon dioxide created by a campfire can also make flies less able to target a host - only start a campfire when it's safe to do so, and be sure to monitor the fire the entire time.
woman applies bug spray to her hand

How Can I Repel the Flies?

Here are some tips for repelling pesky black flies:

  • Wear long sleeves and pants when outdoors
  • Wear light-colored clothing (flies are attracted to dark colors)
  • Wear a hat with attached netting to prevent flies from swarming your face
  • Try natural repellants, like vanilla extract, lavender, and pine branch extract
  • Avoid wearing perfumes and consuming sweetened foods or beverages
  • Use insect repellent, like those containing DEET
  • Light a campfire to disguise your scent (but be sure to tend the fire responsibly)
witch hazel cream

How Can I Treat Black Fly Bites?

Although they are typically slow to heal, black fly bites can be soothed by a number of different remedies.

First, be sure to wash the area with soap and warm water, but make sure you don't scratch or further irritate the bite. Next, apply aloe vera, witch hazel, calamine lotion, or other gentle topical agents that soothe irritation.

If those remedies don't work, or if there are symptoms of an allergic reaction, an antihistamine may be necessary.

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