As the warm summer weather draws quarantine-weary residents outside to parks and gardens, many are finding they are vastly outnumbered by a relentless pest.
The black fly, often referred to as a gnat, is all too eager to swarm ears, eyes and mouths of those who venture outdoors.
“It’s really crazy. They’re swarming all over you,” said Wyoming resident Jack Smiles, 70, who was playing a pickup game of baseball with other retirees at Kirby Park on a recent morning. “You keep doing this (swatting) or some of the guys have cigars. Some of them have punks, wave your glove. They’re biting my ankles. Having glasses and a hat helps.”
Another park user, Meagan Everhardt, 43, of Hanover Twp., was at the park with her husband Chris, who was flying a drone. She said the flies swarming at the park and near her home seem worse than normal this year.
“They’re all over,” Everhardt said. “I’m probably not going to stay out as long because they’re just so very annoying.”
Everhardt is not alone in her thinking.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection has been inundated by complaints about the blood-eating pests.
An online complaint form on the department’s website contains a map indicating the vast majority of complaints in the state have been lodged from the Scranton area extending south to Hazleton.
“We’re getting a lot of complaints about black flies in the northeast — hundreds,” department spokeswoman Colleen Connolly said.
According to the department, warm temperatures and the amount of rainfall the area has received in recent weeks has been conducive to black fly breeding.
Luzerne County is one of 35 counties participating in the Pennsylvania Black Fly Suppression Program, which uses a naturally occurring soil bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis to kill black fly larvae. The bacteria is toxic to black flies as well as mosquitoes, but is not harmful to mammals, birds, other insects, fish and plants, according to the department.
The department treated the north branch of the Susquehanna River from Bradford County to Luzerne County on Wednesday in an effort to control the larval population.
However, the department noted that adult black flies that are already in the air are likely to survive for their natural life span of 20 to 30 days.
In other words, those venturing outdoors will likely continue to be swarmed for at least another month.
“You just put up with it,” Smiles said. “It is terrible though.”
Tips for dealing with black flies:
- Apply bug spray containing DEET before going outdoors.
- Wear hats or head nets over your face to prevent gnats from entering your eyes and nose.
- Wear long-sleeved clothing to protect your skin.
- Try some non-traditional methods to ward gnats off such as Vick’s vapor rub, punk sticks, lavender oil or lemongrass oil.