Living in New England: Blackflies

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There are many aspects of life here that are so unique from other parts of the country, and I want to share those things with my family, and perhaps with you- if you have never been here. I thought it might be helpful to do some posts called : "Living in New England" that highlight quintessential New England sights, events, situations, and experiences.
I also know of many people who have lived here, in New England, their entire lives and perhaps don't realize that some of the events and sights that I will describe don't happen elsewhere in the country. Or, maybe you are originally from New England, but have moved away... I hope these posts will bring back some fond memories for you. In any event, I wish to share New England with you through the eyes of this Southerner.

image via wikipedia

While it is common knowledge that New England has the great fortune of having four glorious seasons throughout the year, what might be lesser known is that it also has "bug" seasons.   The first bug season is the dreaded blackfly season- this typically runs from Mother's Day to Father's Day.   These small gnat-like flies pack a mean wallop!  Unlike the mosquito that sucks blood, blackflies literally slash the skin and then lap up the pooled blood.  One bite can produce a welt the size of a small orange, and depending on the individual welts can last from days to weeks.  These dreaded insects can cause fear even in the bravest of men!
These are nasty little buggers that have you donning a net hat to do gardening since they are seemingly not deterred by deet or insect repellent. 
This blackfly season has been fairly mild compared to the last several years due in part to our lovely, coolish early summer.  That is why when I went out to plant about a dozen new plantings a couple of evenings ago I thought I would be in and out of the garden in no time and didn't need to vaporize myself in Coleman 40% deet insect repellent that we usually use in an attempt to keep them at bay. 
Two bites on my eyelid later I woke up the next day to a totally swollen-shut eye!  It was not pretty.  I had to wear sunglasses for the next two days so I wouldn't scare people.  Benadryl seemed to help. Now, after reading my next sentence half of you (Southern women) will say "well, of course you did, why wouldn't you?!",  and the rest of you will think its the strangest thing you've heard today ...!
Being a good Southern girl I did put makeup on the good eye!!! :) :) 

Next up is "mosquito" season.  (I can hear those of you in the South chuckling that there is a mosquito "season" since mosquito season in the South generally lasts all year!)   We're expecting a bumper crop since we had such a rainy spring and early summer.  Unlike the Southern mosquitoes that can carry off a small child ;), and by the time you go to swat them they have bitten two other people,  New England mosquitoes are big and fat and slow.  They too, pack a mean bite and can carry the West Nile virus and EEE, but at least you can have the satisfaction of whacking them after they do!
We have a SkeeterVac that works well to keep mosquitoes at bay around the house, but last summer we never even put it out since we didn't have a big crop.  This year will probably be a different story.

I would love to know if you've had any luck with an organic, or non-deet product to keep mosquitoes off as we head into the next bug season!

(To read other "Living in New England" posts visit here!)