Like its mammalian namesake, the buffalo gnat includes a hunched back and stocky build. The small insect, also known as black fly (Simuliidae), uses its scissorlike mouth parts to cut the skin and suck a blood meal. Although black bows’ pesky cousins, mosquitoes, often bite at dusk, black bows feed throughout the day, making it hard to function at a garden and enjoy other outdoor activities. Black flies breed in running water, such as streams and creeks, where their larvae grow. This preference, along with the adults’ ability to fly a few miles away from their breeding habitat, makes control of this pest difficult. Keep black flies from biting pest repellents and protective clothing.
Insect repellents containing the active ingredient DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) are effective at preventing black fly bites. Concentrations of DEET vary by product, with higher concentrations supplying repellent properties for extended periods. A 5-percent solution provides about 90 minutes of protection. Concentrations above 30 percent can lead to skin and eye reactions. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency signals no hazards to human health exist with the appropriate use of DEET. Avoid applying DEET-based repellents on injured skin. Even though the products are usually safe for children, avoid accidental ingestion by not applying them to their fingers or near their mouth or eyes. Just like all pest repellents, wash off DEET products thoroughly before eating and when returning indoors.
Introduced in the USA in 2005, pest repellents containing a pepper derivative known as picaridin tend to be as effective as DEET-based repellents in preventing black fly bites. Picaridin is a relatively new repellent and may be more appealing to use than DEET because it is odorless, non-greasy, non-damaging to plastic and other synthetic substances and doesn’t seem to have the skin-irritation possibility of DEET. Picaridin remains effective for four to eight hours.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus Repellents
Repellents using the active ingredient oil of lemon eucalyptus will help discourage black bows but for a shorter time than the usual DEET-based repellent. The oil is derived from your lemon-scented gum eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus citriodora Hook) and chemically processed to p-menthane-3,8-diol, abbreviated PMD. PMD is not safe for children under the age of 3 decades. Avoid contact of this oil with eyes because it is an irritant.
Registered for use in the USA in 1999, IR3535 (ethyl butyl acetyl aminoproprionate) is somewhat helpful in deterring black flies. Insect repellent formulas that are 10 to 30 percent IR3535 are usually effective against biting insects, such as black flies. The compound IR3535 is a known eye irritant and can dissolve plastics, but it also poses several health hazards.
If you want to avoid using chemical repellents, then wearing appropriate clothing and preventing peak pest activity will keep black flies from biting you. Wear light-colored clothing because black flies are attracted to dark colours. Tuck your long pants into your socks, wear a suede shirt along with a hat when working in your lawn. Black flies are most abundant in late spring and early summer, and they are inclined to bite most frequently on overcast, humid days with little wind.