Buffalo midges are back

JACKSONVILLE – If you’ve been outside a lot of time lately, you may have encountered buffalo midges.

Buffalo midges, also known as black flies, are small black hump flies that are 1/16 to 1/8 inch long. Both males and females feed on nectar. However, like mosquitoes, females must feed on blood to produce eggs. Females will use their scissor-shaped mouthparts to bite. These bites can be painful and cause itching, swelling, red marks, and allergic reactions in some people (due to the saliva of the flies).

In addition to their painful bites on humans, buffalo midges are known to kill poultry and other birds when their populations are high. The toxins from their bites can kill birds, or they can be so numerous that they can suffocate them. Buffalo midges also feed on fine-haired areas of dogs, cats, and horses, such as the ears and underside.

Adult buffalo midges can fly for more than 10 miles in search of a meal, but they are most often found near water sources where they thrive (usually around half a mile). Buffalo midges are attracted to the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and animals, and to sweat, scents, and dark moving objects.

They are most active on calm days just after sunrise and just before sunset. Individual adults will live for several weeks. Fortunately, once the water temperature hits the mid-1970s, the eggs will stop hatching and the adult populations will begin to decline.

Avoiding infested areas, especially when they are most active (early morning and at dusk), is the best way to prevent bites. Like mosquitoes, they don’t fly particularly hard, so using fans outside can help reduce bites.

Covering your skin as much as possible will also help reduce the number of bites you receive, such as wearing long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Since buffalo midges are attracted to dark objects, try to choose light-colored clothing. If you live in an area where buffalo midges are particularly prevalent, head nets can be helpful.

Although many believe that insect repellents containing DEET are not effective, studies have shown that DEET repellents provide the most effective protection. Many people have reported that vanilla is also an effective repellant. Fortunately, buffalo midges won’t bite through clothing like mosquitoes, so only exposed skin will be attacked.

Good Growth Factor of the Week: It may appear that buffalo midges populations have increased over the decades. This is probably due to cleaner water bodies. Since our waterways have become cleaner, we have seen an increase in their population.

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