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Black fly season is upon us.
As a kid, I was entertained by people telling horror stories about getting caught out in the woods during black fly season and barely making it out alive.
My grandfather — who could tell a story at any time on any subject - used to tell about a trip he took up country years ago during black fly season when his car broke down.
"John," he'd would say, with all the dramatic flourish he could muster, "when that car broke down on the Airline near Meddybemps, we were all just sitting there, trying to figure out what to do. The black flies around the outside of the car were so thick we had to close all the car windows. It was so cramped inside that car that soon we were having trouble breathing. Before long those black flies were all over the car windows and it was so dark inside the car that we couldn't see out."
I admit that Grandfather might have been exaggerating a tad, "only for emphasis," he'd say. But really, it's not that hard to imagine something just like that happening to any of us around here at this time of year.
Grandfather always claimed that black flies were first introduced into Maine as part of a state-sponsored tourist-control program that - like many state-sponsored programs - eventually went haywire. The original idea was to place a batch of black flies where tourists were known to gather, and the flies were supposed keep Maine from being over-run by pesky tourists. Well, something obviously went wrong somewhere because we now have more pesky black flies AND tourists than ever, and both flies and tourists come earlier and stay later every year.
I read an article recently about the life cycle of the black fly. According to famed entomologist Siegfried Thewke, black flies leave their bodies of water only to search for food. Unfortunately, the food most often sought is your basic human blood.
He went on to describe the insect's relatively short life. "A black fly is born, it feasts, mates, lays its eggs and dies," he said.
“Short and sweet,” as they say. But for such a short life, black flies appear to know how to live. And it's kinda flattering to know that on a black fly's short "to do" list the task of biting us comes before mating.
I don't know about you, but I'm flattered.
John McDonald is a humorist and storyteller who performs regularly
throughout New England. John’s e-mail address is
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