You've probably heard of Maine's pesky biting insects, particularly mosquitoes and black flies. But do these insects deserve their bad reputation, or is it the exaggeration of visiting city folk not accustomed to the rigors of nature and the outdoors?
Let's set the record straight: Maine's mosquitoes and black flies can be downright ferocious. In fact, black flies are so annoying that they even drive moose from the woods in an effort to escape their biting, and Maine humorist Tim Sample refers to mosquitoes as the unofficial state bird. Mainers even joke that the best mosquito repellent is a shotgun.
Here's what you need to know to win the battle with Maine's most irritating biting insects.
- When is black fly season in Maine? Black flies typically appear in mid-May and hang around until mid-June or later. If you want to spend most of your vacation outdoors, try to choose another time of year.
- Black flies like the woods. They dislike open areas or areas with breezes, such as coastal areas.
- Black flies breed in moving water, like rivers and streams.
- Black flies are attracted to dark colors.
- Eating candy or drinking soda outdoors is a no-no if you want to avoid being swarmed by black flies.
To minimize the ugly, swollen, sometimes bleeding black fly bites that can itch insanely for weeks, take these precautions:
- Cover as much exposed skin as possible.
- Wear light-colored clothing.
- Use one of the many insect repellents containing DEET, or, for a non-toxic alternative, use a repellent containing Picaridin.
- You might also try natural repellents like vanilla extract or lavender. You can even try rubbing the sap from young pine branches on your skin.
If you do suffer black fly bites, there's one product you can rely on to immediately ease the itch and sting: After Bite. You'll find it at many stores and even gas stations in the North Country.
- Mosquitoes breed in standing water.
- Mosquitoes are most active after dusk and before dawn.
- Mosquitoes love tall grass.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors.
- A handful of diagnosed cases of Jamestown Canyon virus in Maine in 2017 makes it even more important to take precautions against the mosquitoes that carry this rare but dangerous disease.
To avoid or minimize bites from mosquitoes or no-see-ums:
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts or mosquito netting.
- Apply an insect repellent containing DEET to your skin or clothing (don't use DEET products on young children), or use a repellent containing Picaridin, an alternative to DEET.
- Avoid wearing perfume or cologne and using scented lotions or other toiletry products when you're planning to be outdoors.
- Empty kids' pools, planters and lawn or deck furniture covers that collect water.
- Keep your grass cut fairly short.
- If you have a birdbath, use a mosquito dunk. This floating ring is safe for birds but kills mosquito larvae.
The most effective mosquito control product available is a carbon dioxide emitter/trap such as those made by Mosquito Magnet, available at hardware stores. They're expensive but can make the difference between being trapped inside your house all summer or being able to enjoy your deck, patio or backyard.
Traditional bug zappers that fry the bugs are ineffective. Citronella candles are somewhat helpful in the immediate vicinity if there's no breeze but are ineffective in larger areas.
- Ticks are most commonly found in wooded areas, dense grass, overgrown bushes and leaf piles.
- Infected deer ticks can transmit Lyme Disease or the more dangerous Powassan virus, which is rare but has caused cases of infection in Maine.
- Lyme Disease is very treatable when detected early.
- Lyme-carrying ticks are especially prevalent in the spring and summer months in Maine.
- Print and carry the Tick ID card from the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention with you while traveling in Maine.
To avoid or minimize tick bites:
- Wear light-colored clothing.
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts, especially when hiking in wooded areas.
- Tuck pants into socks.
- Use an insect repellent that contains DEET.
- Check yourself and children for ticks at the end of each day.
If you discover a tick, remove it carefully with tweezers and preserve the tick for possible examination. Contact your physician. Wash the bite site with soap and water and apply an antiseptic.