Adirondacks and Blackflies in May????

I am hoping to make a trip to the ADKs this spring but can’t make it up until about the 10th of May.

I would like to do a trip on Lowe’s Lake and down the Oswegatchie.

My concern…blackflies… Do you think they will be out by then? I imagine there is a good chance this will be since the winter here in northern NJ has been so mild. I don’t know about how it has been up there. I imagine it too has been mild.

If they are out are they bearable, or would I be better off staying at home?

does bug repellent work to keep them away?



No flies yet
We were up at Raquette River and Stony Creek last week and there were no flies yet. The cold nights with 22 degrees in the morning was keeping them at bay. Water was cold so dry suit or wet suits are in order. Only the two of us on the water but even with the cold temperatures it was a great paddle. Have fun.

I would plan on them Matt
Usually they start biting about 3-4 weeks after ice out. That means with the early ice out we now are on borrowed time.

The big factor that might be delaying their emergence is low water. BF need moving water. Mossies need water. But with impending deluges I suspect the bugs will be out after the rain ends.

Bring a bug jacket and something with DEET if you can tolerate it. Long sleeves and pants are a big help. This year I am trying some Sawyers Permethrin spray for camp clothes. You can get it at Wal Mart.

You have a couple of beautiful destinations on your list… try not to let the bugs beat you. They will be worse on the wind sheltered Oswegatchie. There are some island sites in Lows with more breeze exposure to dampen down the gremlins.

They’ll be out
There were some suspicious small things flying around my head doing road marshall duty for the bike race last week, north of here but well south of the 'daks.

just visited the adkforum
and they are starting in the southern part

Don’t be scared off a good trip by flies
Just dress and use chemicals the way Kayamedic suggests, and perhaps chain smoke some Cuban cigars or a meerschaum pipe.

The flies won’t bother you out on wide waters. Portage trails and narrow streams are a different matter. Some folk wear headnets, which are cheap and effective. I don’t. 100% DEET on the hat, face and neck works for me.

I will have to consider this and probably modify my plans at a minimum. Given the situation with the black flies I think that doing the Oswagatchie may be an unpleasant endeavor.

Maybe just a circumnavigation of Lowes Lake would be a good idea.

I would assume that on the water they would not be an issue, but they may be in camp I guess if there is no wind.

do they go away at night?

Is Deet effective at keeping them away? do they bite? I assume they do.

Sorry for so many questions, but I just really don’t want to have a miserable trip



pray for wind and rain

– Last Updated: Apr-22-12 10:11 AM EST –

Matt, I've been to Lows more than 35 times that I can think of... but wherever in the Adirondacks you are during prime black fly season they are bad news. Unless you figure that they keep a lot of unprepared folks out of the backcountry, and crowds are few. You can wear headnets, gloves, and full body nets (those are hot) to keep them out. You can smoke stinky cigars, use DEET, Old Time Woodsman, or other repellents to keep them at bay. In the end it is up to your tolerance level to just accept them and the extreme annoyance factor.

You ask do they bite? Nobody would much care if they did not bite. When they are in force, the words "vicious" and "relentless" are far too mild.

Their peak varies from year to year. I've had wonderful totally bug free Memorial Day weekends with perfect weather. More often they are out in force beginning at least by the second half of May. Given the weather and conditions so far this year, May could be very bad. It all depends on rain and small stream conditions over the next week or so. In most years you can count on them being around through about early-mid July. Mosquitoes and deer flies and no-seeums stay much later.

As of now (22 April) the first crop of black flies are definitely out, the non-biting kind. There are several species of black flies, and the first to hatch do not bite, but they do annoy, as if they don't quite know what to do. They are only a prelude of what follows a week or two later (depending on the weather).

DEET and OTW do work, but work differently for different people. Nothing works for very long without frequent re-application, UNLESS you have a high tolerance level. Don't confuse annoyance buzzing with active biting. Wind is a good friend, but more than a light wind is needed for any real effect on keeping they away. Enough wind to make paddling difficult. Rain is also good for helping to keep the numbers down. Note - there is not much wind with your head inside of an overturned canoe on the 3-mile carry to the Oswegatchie.

Having a tall friend helps. The flies tend to congregate with their buzzing around the highest point of a warm body. A favorite trick is to stand close to a tall friend, making sure you are standing in a small depression to enhance the height difference if possible. While you engage in idle conversation, the cloud of bugs around you will magically be transferred to your now very good friend. Then you can slip away for a few moments of peace before he realizes what has happened.

Being out on the water is usually a little better than on shore, but often not as much better as you would hope unless you are FAR from shore.

They do go away when the sun goes down. That's when the mosquitoes have their turn. But not usually so early in the season unless it has been warm.

Me? I go out whenever I want. I keep moving, which helps a lot whether you are on water or trail. I wear a head net after I cannot tolerate them any more, and use repellent very sparingly after that. And I enjoy the greater solitude with fewer folks out during prime black fly season!

Good post.
Tolerance level is important.

With me, there’s a fine line between “annoyance” and “panic”. When I start inhaling them is when I can sense the threshold. If you’ve ever been bitten on the inside of a nostril, you know what I’m talking about. Honestly, there have been times when I’ve been driven out of the woods and I would have gladly doused myself in Coleman fuel, if I’d thought it would help.

Clothing color helps
During BF season no one wears blue or black…Those are attractant colors…

And a light breeze that dispels CO2 ( they are attracted to it) should be enough. From what goes on here at home with BF I see that when I paddle in a light breeze there are no BF. Yet round to the lee of an island and there is literally a black cloud.

If the wind dies down to calm the little pests will pursue over water.

I’ve discarded many a light-colored
hat that ended up brown and many times their original weight from repeated saturations with sweat and DEET.

I agree that a breeze helps and a smokey campfire will, too, but I suspect the little buggers can also detect body heat in addition to CO2.

Don’t get me started on midges or salt-marsh mosquitoes! It seems the older I get, the lower my threshold.

Just kidding…pretty soon I can have Scarborough Marsh all to myself!

That just illustrates the one good thing about biting flies… their reputation is so fierce that they keep the hordes of people at home if they live in cities and towns.

And we who live in the woods can enjoy a few more weeks of peace…and non competitive paddle camping.

There might be something about aging body chemistry that changes how bugs view you…

I forgot… Bugs are less attracted to dirty unwashed souls. Its true…leave the scented stuff at home and rejoice in grime.

Take Advantage

– Last Updated: Apr-22-12 11:32 AM EST –

Mid to early May gives you the opportunity to take advantage of the situation and make up Black Fly Pie from scratch; a rare Adirondack delicacy.

Start by fileting out 2 thousand blackflys, give or take a few; hundred. This is easy with a sharp knife and a flat cutting surface as the meat is readily available on exposed body parts. I prefer a Nenox 10" chef's knife and end grain bamboo cutting boards. Then mince a red onion, 8 garlic cloves; clean and chop a bunch of cilantro and zest one lime and one orange.

I cheat and use a frozen pie crust in an aluminium pan, but one can make a crust from scratch. Consider doubling the BlkFly filets and going deep dish in a Dutch Oven.

Saute the 4000 blackfly filets with olive oil in an 11" skillet on high heat , turning carefully to brown both sides. Add the onion and garlic, with heat reduced to medium 'till softened, Add ~ 1/3 cup tequila to deglaze the pan, then 1/2 cup unsalted veggie broth with a Tbs of Demerara sugar. Stir and reduce, before adding the cilantro, sugar and lime zest, pouring into the crust and finishing in a reflector oven. Notice no salt is added; your sweat and the tincture of DEET provide enough seasoning. Make or use the second crust from the package for a top covering, carefully vent piercing it with that knife after crimping the edges down.

While this is baking, you may notice the remaining tequila, orange, lime and sugar can be mixed to approximate a Margarita. If you finish the bottle in this manner you will no longer notice the BlackFlies are biting, and maybe you'll find something else to eat before throwing the BF Pie out.

Tough time to be in the woods. I killed several yesterday, which is weeks early, and they won't dissipate until the heat comes on, usually mid June

Don’t let them stop you
I’m always amazed at how people from urban areas freak out over black flies and mosquitoes. They’re a fact of life in rural areas. There are mosquitoes all summer, and they’re no less annoying than blackflies when they gang up on you. The only bugless seasons are the cold seasons. So there’s not much sense in postponing your trip. I’d rather kayak camp in May, when it’s cool, than in July and August when it’s in the nineties. (On the other hand, if you wait until summer you would only have to deal with mosquitoes and PEOPLE, rather than mosquitoes and blackflies . . . )

The most effective strategy I’ve found is to apply a good dose of bug repellent to your hat, including under the brim. They go for the head. I once had a hat that was supposed to repel insects but it didn’t work that well. Unfortunately you probably also need to apply repellent to your face (all exposed skin really). Black flies are also fond of your ears.

A black fly is basically a pair of winged teeth.


BugSuit works well
If you are bushwacking, on/near water, etc. a few dollars

spent on a decent Bug Jacket is worth it.

A great alternative to smearing Deet all over your body

Matt - black flies have arrived!

– Last Updated: Apr-22-12 1:18 PM EST –

Where I live in the foothills of the Adirondacks - they are in the wood and they are in my yard.

Two more recipies:

1. Black flies alamode - simple and elegant, just add local maple syrup to top it all off.

2. Trying to keep these old arteries open, so I
prefer to lightly steam the black flies; gently
fold them into a low fat yogurt, fresh ginger,
melted low fat cheese (your choice) sauce; pour
sauce over vegetable penna pasta; top with
baby arugula and unsalted sesame seeds.

You will fondly remember your planned trip, especially the "Death Macrh from Battan" portage down to the river.

Mike T (part time paddler and full time Adirondack black fly breeder)

I’m always amazed at how people from
the boonies often automatically assume others with differing personal experience must be from urban areas.

Inhaling and swallowing black flies
I used to paddle the Hudson Gorge every May, which is a 16 mile class 3-4 wilderness run. The last big rapid is Harris Rift, an almost mile long continuum of class 3 waves. Just as I entered the top of the rapid, a black fly flew into my open mouth and lodged in the back of my throat.

I was scared.

I had visions of the thing biting inside my throat or pharynx. I had read about people going into anaphylactic shock from black fly bites. I just couldn’t concentrate at all on paddling the rapid while I tried to cough and spit the creature out of my throat.

I began to think I could feel it crawling around, breeding, and pumping those evil worms they carry into my bloodstream. I tried swallowing instead of coughing. I thought my throat was constricting – and it probably was, from the fear of the esophageal insect and fact that I was out of control in the middle of a giant rapid, rapidly approaching pinning rocks and sucking holes.

None of this would have happened if I had just stayed home … or at least kept my big mouth shut.

I survived the fly and the rapid. Great trip!!!

If you are enclothed in a dry suit and booties, the only thing you have to protect are your hands and head, and maybe wear a Hannibal Lecter nose and mouth mask.