Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Blackflies aren't all bad. Really!

Spring in Muskoka sometimes requires a sense of humor. Like when winter hasn’t quite loosened its grip and we swing wildly from summer to winter and (hopefully soon) back again. Or when the sun is shining but the lake is still ice cold. Or when spring has finally sprung and everyone wants to be outside but Mother Nature decides that this would be the perfect time to unleash the blackflies. 

Blackfly season is, fortunately, short lived. For the uninitiated, blackflies emerge late in the spring usually from about mid-May to late June. (Our initial blast of warm weather this year has brought the first wave out earlier than usual but our recent snowfall will take care of those.) They look like miniature, hump-backed house flies. And the females bite, often working their way under waistbands, socks and hairlines where they can get their fill of blood unnoticed.

You’ll find plenty of unfavorable opinions about blackflies without searching too hard. To say they’re a nuisance is putting it mildly. But rather than repeat all the bad things about blackflies, we thought we’d share some of the good.

You didn’t know there were any good things about blackflies, did you? Well here they are along with a few other interesting facts:
  • They are tasty snacks for trout when the adult flies emerge in the spring. A healthy black fly population can mean a healthy trout population.
  • They are one of the biggest pollinators of blueberries. No blackflies, fewer tasty snacks for us.
  • They can’t handle polluted water, so a thriving blackfly population is an indication that our streams and rivers are in decent shape.
  • Only the females bite and they use blood meals only for egg production. Both males and females feed on nectar to get energy for flight (which is why they are such good pollinators).
  • The average adult lifespan is just 3 weeks.
  • Unlike mosquitoes, which thrive in pools of standing water, blackflies need running water to breed.
For more about both blackflies and mosquitos, check out this video from Science North:

While we don’t expect anyone to jump for joy the next time a blackfly bites, we can at least recognize them as part of a healthy ecosystem. And that’s what everyone comes to Muskoka to see.

When will we see you next? The May long weekend (the unofficial start of the summer season, even if it's not quite summer yet) is fast approaching. You can see our availability for May and beyond here. We hope to see you soon!

The Howell Family

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