At long last, it looks like Spring has come to the Adirondacks to stay. While the snow has (finally) melted, a week ago that was in doubt as a snowstorm hit the area with temperatures falling into the upper 20’s. The leaves are appearing, the birds have returned and are starting to build nests, flowers are starting to appear, and in general things look to be warming. The tourist season starts next week, although trout season is already on us with various enthusiasts lining the local streams trying to catch some nice brook trout or brown trout.
There is a down side though. Spring is also “black fly season.” Black flies (Family: Simuliidae) are emerging in ever-increasing swarms, with the “peak season” coming in about another week or so. From the ecology standpoint, they’re necessary, and useful as indicators of water quality. The better the quality, the better their aquatic filter-feeding larvae do. They provide an important source of food for many fish and other insects, and the adults are popular items with many birds.
When they’re swarming though, all those nice things from an academic standpoint that I know about them go out the window. I start wistfully thinking of massive carpeting of the area with insecticides, and how wonderful it would be to have a species go extinct. That’s because not only do the females bite – they need a blood meal for their eggs – the males also join the swarm, which means lots of trying to not inhale them. We have what’s called the “Adirondack wave” or the “Adirondack twitch” which is the reaction to having large numbers of black flies flying around you and trying to bite. Yes, we do take baths in repellents (marginally effective) and bug nets or suits are mandatory if you’re working outdoors.
In another couple of weeks they’ll be gone, leading to stories of “you have no idea of how bad it is” later on in the year. Next year we’ll be out in the woods, getting swarmed again, being reminded that really, we should find a job that doesn’t mean going outdoors at this time of year. But somehow, we manage.