The great outdoors, full of blackflies

Gardening in the bug jacket

This is me, weeding the Manse’s flower garden and dressed to kill in Raymond’s bug jacket. It looks pretty ridiculous, but it saved me from the blackflies. (Photo by Raymond Brassard)

Longtime readers might remember that in the first spring that Raymond and I were owners of the Manse, back in 2012, I wondered whether the blackflies would be as bad as people told us they would be. In response to that post I got no end of comments assuring us they would. And while I had no reason to doubt those assurances, Raymond and I somehow managed (through sheer dumb luck) to schedule what were then only weekend visits to Queensborough so that we by and large missed the blackflies, not only that year but also last year.

Ah, but all that has changed this spring, because now we live here in Queensborough full-time, and not in Montreal. Now we get the not-so-delightful opportunity of experiencing the blackflies full-on. And man oh man, it is something.

As I‘ve reported before, Raymond is a) allergic to blackfly bites (in that they swell up and are generally a lot more bothersome for him than they are for most people); and b) incredibly attractive to biting insects of all sorts. (I am sure it is because he is so sweet.) So let’s just say he has not been spending a lot of time out of doors of late.

But there’s work to be done on the Manse’s lawn and gardens, and somebody has to do it. And since I generally rather like that kind of exercise, and was initially labouring under the delusion that the blackflies couldn’t be all that bad (could they?), I took it on. My illusions were utterly shattered on a warm afternoon a couple of weeks ago, when I raked up the last of the winter debris from the back yard – my head surrounded by a black cloud of blackflies the entire time. It was horrible! Good lord, you expend as much energy trying (in utter futility) to wave the bugs away as you do actually doing the work you’re there for!

I dove into the swarm again today when I undertook some overdue weeding of the front-yard flower garden. Of course they found me within five minutes – and I realized that I was going to have to cave, that I couldn’t do the work unprotected. A few days ago, Raymond had bought a bug jacket at the Madoc Farm Supply store – a one-piece black mesh thingy that covers your head, arms and the top half of your body. And even though it’s size XL and I’m not, I threw it on. My head was still surrounded by clouds of blackflies – and, much as it pains me to say it, a few mosquitoes – but it gave me great pleasure that the little buggers couldn’t get at me:

Blackfly gear

Now, I’ve said before and I will say again that I am certain the blackflies weren’t this bad in Queensborough when I was a kid growing up here at the Manse. People around here scoff at that notion, saying basically ’twas ever thus when it comes to blackflies. But the last time I spent a spring in Queensborough (before now) was 39 years ago, and 39 years is a long time. It seems to me that if people have been enduring blackflies like this for, say, 35  years, or even 25, it might seem like forever. (I can see why it would.) But my mum and other members of my family back me up on my contention that blackflies were not such a pestilence then. They were – as they are still – up at the Sedgwick family’s ancestral farm in Haliburton County, which is a fair way north of here. But (in our collective recollection) not so much here. And I have heard other people say that blackflies (in monster quantities, not just a few flying around) have moved further south than they used to be. Could that be because of climate change? It is maybe because there are no longer lots of bats flying around Queensborough (as there were in springtime in my childhood here) to eat them up? Is it because Queensborough is less populated and busy than it once was?

People, I don’t know what’s going on. What I do know is this: the Madoc Farm Supply can probably expect to make a sale of a size-small bug jacket in the fairly near future.

10 thoughts on “The great outdoors, full of blackflies

  1. I think the fashionable bug net for spring is quite attractive. Mine is really too large and I have to put a belt around my middle because the little buggers find there way up inside. I really think there are things on earth that should not be here and one of them is a blackfly! But I am happy to report that the dragon flies are out and soon all those juicy blackflies will be gone. O and just a little suggestion if you don’t have a flat bird feeder. You should get one and fill with black sunflowers each day. Just enough to feed the beautiful Red breasted grosbeaks. I have two that just sit all day and eat out of the dish. We call them our Rouges. lol Welcome Summer to Queensborough. 🙂

    • Thanks for the good advice (on the bird feeder) and the good news about the dragonflies, mk! Do dragonflies eat the blackflies, or is it just that their appearance means that blackfly season is almost over?

  2. I agree – loose is good, as long as the bottom of the jacket fits snugly around your hips. And don’t forget to tuck your pant legs into your socks. The first day I wore a bug jacket 7 years ago I ended up with a line of red bites all around my legs where socks met skin! An a little insect repellent sprayed around your head keeps them from swarming quite so closely.

    • That all sounds like wise words and the voice of experience! The bug spray is particularly interesting, because I find that even if I know they can’t get at me behind the net, the sound and sight of them all there swarming around my head is quite distressing. Thank you!

  3. Blackflies seem to be attracted to dark colours. I find it best to wear light colours when
    gardening. Some say that when the hot sun comes, the blackflies will dissapear. Good
    Luck Gardening !!

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