Black Flies Love Bananas

Black flies love bananas. Black flies especially like to sip the blood of people who eat bananas.

Why should black flies love bananas? Clearly, this fruit is foreign to the northern Ontario landscape. Well ask yourself, why do you like bananas? Despite the fact that you have never in your life seen a wild banana growing in the forest, you still like to eat them. They are sweet and creamy, and have a wonderful aroma. Black flies are attracted to wonderful, sweet aromas. If that is what’s emanating from your pores, that is what will bring the black flies close to you, and not to me.

It’s true! Black flies are most definitely attracted to people with sweet blood. They, like most of us, love sweets. And their tiny aroma receptors are keyed into detecting sweetness. This is also why they are attracted to blueberry flowers. We must remember to thank the little critters for helping with pollinating when we pick the berries come July.

The thing that black flies don’t like is garlic. I know this to be true, not just from the reading I’ve done over the past three decades, but from personal experience, as well. I eat a lot of garlic. Fresh, raw garlic is crushed into the salad each night. As soon as the garlic that was planted in the garden last fall appears after snowmelt, I pick the greens and put them into the salad too. Then, just about the time the black flies are emerging from hibernation, so do the wild leeks mature in the forest. I eat as many wild leeks as I can in the month of May.

I am amazed when going on field trips in late May. The black flies near their peak, and most of the sucking flies are swarming around the sweetest folks in the crowd. They are not swarming around me.

Black flies feed by macerating the superficial tissues of the skin with a frightening set of cutting and snipping mouthparts that operate like scissors. The blades are equipped with backward pointing teeth to keep the bugs from falling off our skin during feeding. The scissor-like action of the mouthparts causes a local hemorrhage, and the fly sucks up the blood. Hmm.

That’s why such a small creature can make such a big hole. The black fly saliva has an anticoagulant in it, so it takes a while for our bodies to stop the flow of blood once we’ve been bitten.

With the early spring we’ve had this year, lots of people are asking when the black flies will emerge.  In my experience, black flies arrive at 1 p.m. on Mother’s Day. And I think that will hold true this year, even though I did see a few of them wandering around the garden in the last few days of April…

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