Sunday, August 7, 2011

Enjoying the Heat, but not the Deer Flies

Deer flies normally are just a July annoyance. This year they were a July nightmare that is continuing into August. You can’t walk in the woods without dozens of them swarming your head.

The really bad news is that repellents, including DEET, do little to stop them. They are attracted to dark, moving shapes and typically go straight for the head and neck in search of blood. They are among the fastest fliers in the insect world, so there’s no point trying to run from them.
Photo credit: Howard Russell, MSU Diagnostic

Aside from a full head net, the best protection is a ball cap, which keeps them off your head. Also, you can buy sticky patches for the back of the ball cap. These trap the pests as they dive bomb your head, and they actually work.

They deliver painful bites and drive us crazy with their relentless buzzing about the head, but deer flies actually are pretty if you get one to sit still for a few seconds. They are the size of a house fly, have brilliant striped gold-green eyes and delta wings marked with dark patterns.

They are related to horse flies, which are larger, even more persistent, but fewer in numbers.

Wind and cooler temperatures reduce their activity, but hot days are expected to continue through most of August in many parts of the continent.

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