You've probably heard of Maine's pesky biting insects, particularly mosquitoes and black flies, but is their reputation deserved, 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.
Here's what you need to know to win the battle with Maine's biting insects:
Black Flies: What to Know and How to Protect Yourself
- Black flies breed in moving water, like rivers and streams.
- Black flies typically appear in mid-May and hang around until mid-June or later.
- Black flies like woods. They dislike open areas or areas with breezes.
- 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 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 (Compare Repellent Prices), or, for a non-toxic alternative, use a repellent containing Picaridin (Compare Repellent Prices).
- 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 (purchase at Amazon). You'll find it at many stores and even gas stations in the North Country.
Mosquitoes: What to Know and How to Protect Yourself
- Mosquitoes breed in standing water.
- Mosquitoes are most active after dusk and before dawn.
- Mosquitoes love tall grass.
- Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors.
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 (Compare Repellent Prices) to your skin or clothing (don't use DEET products on young children), or use a repellent containing Picaridin, an alternative to DEET (Compare Repellent Prices).
- Avoid wearing perfume or cologne and using scented lotions or other toiletry products when you're planning to be outdoors.
- Empty kids' pools, planters with standing water in them and lawn or deck furniture covers that collect water.
- Keep your grass cut fairly short.
- If you have a birdbath, use a mosquito dunk (Compare Mosquito Dunk Prices). 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 (or Compare Mosquito Magnet Prices at Amazon). 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.