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.
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.
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.