Bug Net On Hiker


The 10 Best Ways to Attract Black Flies While Hiking

June 1, 2014   |   Tips

Some towns have an Apple Festival, or Chowder Festival, or a Chili Festival. Well in June, most of New England celebrates Black Fly Season – err, Festival. Yup. BFF. Black Fly Festival. Best Friends Forever. It’s a regular mutual admiration society.

Those little critters really know how to put out the welcome mat, too, especially in Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. No sooner do you hit the trail and stop for a break when the little flies come round and kiss you all over. You see, their biological classification is Simulium vittatum, which is (very) loosely translated as: “cute little flies that love people.” They really do love people. In fact we seem to be quite a delicacy to their sophisticated palates.

So, even though I’m now a Midwestern flatlander, I recall with fondness the tactics perfected in 30 years of New England backpacking each June during the black fly month of love. Without too much difficulty, you too can catch the attention of these little buggers faster’n a sneeze through a screen door.

How to attract black flies the easy way:

  1. Go into the woods. Start hiking and work up a good sweat. Then stop and sit for a spell. This is when the real trail magic starts to happen. The black flies will swarm you with love within a minute or so. Sit and soak in the beauty of nature.
  2. If you feel the need to slather something on your skin while you are hiking, use beef marinade. The black flies seem to enjoy as much as the black bears and raccoons do. However, that DEET stuff is a huge no no – it’s bad for you, don’t you know.
  3. Dark colors are their favorite. Research has shown that dark blue or black attracts much better than white clothing. So… wear lots of dark colors.
  4. The benefits of wearing a hiking kilt cannot be underestimated, especially during the Black Fly Festival. In fact, a black and blue tartan kilt would be amazing (see #3) and you’ll look like Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
  5. Tents with that “no-see-um” netting will prevent you from really getting to know these little guys. So why not just use a tarp? This way, you’re taking advantage of every minute you’re in the woods to “bond” with the black flies. Sleep is overrated anyway.
  6. The best place to meet black flies is usually in wooded, wet areas that are protected from strong breezes.
  7. Warmer air makes the black flies feel better about themselves. When you are trying to attract the flies, only hike in temperatures that are warmer than about 50 degrees F. They have to wear tiny socks in colder weather and it’s hard to fly when they’re wearing them.
  8. Try not to hike too high, definitely stay below tree line. It’s just too cool and windy up there and the little critters will have a hard time keeping up with you. Their tiny wings can only flap so fast you know.
  9. For some awesome reason, black flies often swarm around your head because they are attracted to the carbon dioxide in your breath. Don’t be unneighborly by wearing one of those bug nets over your head. That would be like inviting friends to a cookout and then telling them not to come into your yard.
  10. You really can never get enough of the Black Fly Festival in New England. Mark your calendar right now so you don’t miss this experience next year. Bring a friend or two. There’s plenty of black fly friendliness to go around.

Photo by Derek Young


Deacon Kevin Richardson

Kevin is a Catholic Deacon who serves in a parish setting and works with adults and teens, incarcerated individuals, and people who are homeless. He grew up in New England and spent decades exploring, hiking, and camping in the forests of New Hampshire.

Deacon Kevin leads Holy Adventure Outdoor Ministry, located in Central Illinois, and provides unique outdoor programs and retreat opportunities (from several hours to multiple days) to encounter God while immersed in the beauty and simplicity of God’s creation. Programs are Bible based and offer an introduction to a wide variety of wilderness living and survival skills.

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  1. Black Flies are pretty bad; I once got to know their Australian cousins. The only relief we found was swimming in the ocean, since very few can swim.

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