The curse of Michigan’s UP – Biting black and stable flies

Summer in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – the UP – is stunningly beautiful.

It comes with a cost, however. Summer is black fly season. It’s also stable fly season. I had no idea there were two distinct species tormenting folks up there until our recent visit.

Technically, Black flies are small, dark flies with a humped back that can give a painful bite. Unlike a mosquito (which  sucks up blood through a proboscis), black flies slash the skin and lap up the pooled blood.

Stable flies have dark stripes on their back and a checkerboard-like pattern on the top of their abdomen. A distinguishing feature of the sable fly, visible to the naked eye, is the distinct stiletto-like proboscis of the stable fly which extends forward beyond the head. This sharply pointed beak is used to pierce the skin and draw blood.

I really can’t tell you which is which, or which is worse. In my book, the two are equally evil.  And during our early July visit to the Lake Superior shoreline, we found them everywhere – on the beach, in the woods, at the campground. Inside my Roadtrek.

They would be there one day in hordes. The next day, which weather-and-wind-wise seemed just the same, they were no problem.

Go figure.

Locals – they call themselves Yoopers – told me not to buy into the Chamber of Commerce spin that there is a fly season. It’s all summer, they say, from the first frost free days in May through the first freeze in October.

The video gives you a sense of what to expect if you’ll be visiting the area. If camping, get some fly traps or fly strips. That seems to catch a few hundred every day. You’ll still get bit, but maybe not as much.

Other tips:

Wear light colored clothing

Wear long pants or jeans (they tend to bite the most below the knees, especially around the ankles)

Protect your pets (they bite dogs, too)

Use an insect repellent like Bugzilla intended for biting flies.

The video shows what fly season, aka summer, is like in the UP.

3 thoughts on “The curse of Michigan’s UP – Biting black and stable flies”

  1. Geat job with the blackflies! I do hope you were able to enjoy your stay amongst the flies! Thanks for visiting us. Sheila

  2. Knuckles Mutatis

    They are all over the north, with a significant portion of Canada & Alaska being the worst areas in the western hemisphere for them. Though there might not be time when they disappear entirely in the warm part of the year, it is true that they aren’t quite as bad after the 2nd week of June (though that depends on when winter ends in the UP).
    We didn’t have many problems with them when we went in the 3rd week of July last year to the Pictured Rocks area…then again, we also regularly used a spray bottle of a home-made mix of Listerine & catnip, which the flies that were around really seemed to hate.

Comments are closed.