An ill wind: Biting flies on the Boardwalk explained

An ill wind: Biting flies on the Boardwalk explained

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Black flies have been plaguing us recently and I see that they are a hot topic of discussion for Ocean City beach goers this week. I did a little research and found that our writer, Tony Russo, addressed this topic almost exactly 4 years ago.    Here’s some of the biology of flies and why a west wind bodes ill for beach-goers who are likely to attract the blood-hungry insect.  Enjoy — and hope for a change in the wind direction!

 

Originally published September 9, 2016

Although black biting flies are a rarity on the boardwalk their occasional appearance isn’t unknown, although it always is unwelcome. I spoke with Ginny Rozenkrantz, who runs the lower shore University of Maryland Extension offices. She has a good handle on the fly problem and its (fleeting) solutions.

West wind is a factor

“Whenever you have a land breeze, you have a lot of flies,” said Rozenkrantz. The sea breeze traditionally keeps these flies on the mainland, but without resistance flies have no impediment. In fact, the wind actually helps them to cover larger distances than they normally would cover.

A perfect storm

The deluge of last week brought out the worst in the flies, the larvae of which grow in moving water. Big storms in the fall, as we’ve been having, tend to encourage flies to join in in what the birds and bees are mostly known for. There were a bunch of flies around anyway. It’s been a less-than-great year for Assateague beach goers who don’t really dig the flies, so although Ocean City usually is immune, there already were a ton of flies active before last week’s storm.

Autumn is crunch time for flies

The female flies feed on blood before laying their eggs. All of their biological clocks are ticking at deafening levels. So when given the opportunity they find their food where they can. People on the boardwalk in the still, or westward wind air are a perfect target. Moreover, they look to the untrained eye like normal flies until they’re inflicting an irrationally disproportionate level of pain on your arms and legs.

Technically invincible

When the flies come to Ocean City’s Boardwalk there is no solution but to wait for the wind to change. Most pesticides prevent larvae from maturing, but once they mature there is little to be done. If bug spray is your thing (and it totally is mine, I’ll have the extra DEET version, thanks) use it generously. It works on Assateague, so it ought to work in Ocean City. Beyond that, just be patient and keep your eyes on the flags because when the wind changes it will disperse the flies.

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5 Comments on this Post

  1. Terri Mangan

    We left for OC on Monday September 5 2016 the weather was great the whole 4 days we were there.Only problem were the biting flies,the storm had passed and we had a wonderful time.

    Reply
  2. Cool info …
    But I have found no amount of Deet (I usually use 98%), Skin-So Soft or natural repellents work on Assateague. Yesterday I tried layers. Natural first, then 98% Deet and used an OFF Clip-on. I still got swarmed … PLEASE let the wind change soon!

    Reply
  3. I was just there for the week 5th thru the 9th. It was awful!! Nothing worked! Ruined a lovely time at the beach! There were swarms of them attacking us!

    Reply
    • We were there also during those days and I agree Angela. Never in 50 some years have we had that many flies biting us so badly. I love being on the beach, but it ruined the rest of our week from Wednesday on. Came home more down than usual when I have to leave the beach. Missed relaxing on the beach and looking at the ocean. Sad for both of us!!!

      Reply
  4. Yes we also were there that whole week from September 5 and by Wednesday it was unbearable to sit on the beach. Nothing can work when your up against a dozen flies at a time attacking and sucking your blood.

    Reply

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