Since moving up to New Hampshire over four year ago, we have become painfully aware of Black Fly Season. Thankfully this is only lasts about a 4-6 weeks long, however, it falls right during the spring planting season. Our growing season is short enough up here, so you can’t let time escape you and put things off.
First off let me tell you a little bit about these most annoying insects. In New Hampshire there are 40 species of black flies and of those 40 there are about 5 species which are the annoying biters. It’s the females who bite, the males are merely annoying and swarm around your head. They bite humans and birds and other farm animals. I read recently that they can also destroy a flock of chickens which being new to chicken farming makes me nervous. The only upside about black flies if you are to look for a silver lining is that “Large black fly populations indicate clean, healthy streams since most species will not tolerate organic pollution.”
“Only two species of black flies in New Hampshire consistently and abundantly bite humans. These are Prosimulium mixtum and Simulium venustum. Simulium venustum, the so-called “white-stockinged” black fly emerges in early to mid-May in southern New Hampshire and remains a pest until the end of May. In the north, it emerges in late May to early June and can remain abundant until the end of June in some areas and even into July in higher mountain localities.”UNH Extension
So what do you do to get things done when you are up against such an enemy? You suit up in a netted hooded jacket, wear long pants and I highly recommend socks. I had just my Crocs on the other day and they found my vulnerable spot and I have been itching both ankles for days now. Given the opportunity, they will find your skin and go for blood – the bitches!
My daughter and I spent a wonderful afternoon together at one of the local nurseries selecting starts and flowers for our gardens. It was a bit of an experience walking into the the greenhouse all masked up, following the directional arrows, maintaining social distancing which was necessary since we were not the only ones who decided to get out and get our plants. But it did feel good to be out and at the nursery among all the greenery. There was one moment when it was just the two of us in the flower greenhouse and for a second we peeked our noses out to take a giant whiff of all the fragrance that danced around us. Psychologically it was a huge boost for us. I could see the sparkle in my daughter’s eyes and tell she was smiling behind that mask as we selected our plants.
Upon returning home, we placed all the flats in the garden and sorted out hers from mine. The black flies were relentless and we didn’t have our gear on since we just arrived home and unloaded. There had been a sight breeze initially so they weren’t that bothersome as we started to sort and I had thoughts of possibly starting to plant, but then the breeze died down and within seconds they started to swarm. We ran inside, it was clear that planting would have to be done in our netting.
Early in the morning, before the sun rises over the eastern ridgeline, there is usually a light breeze and no black flies. This is when I first began to plant the garden this year, or at least place which plants were to go where. Once the sun is up, the black flies come out and it became speed planting time. Even with the netted gear, it’s just not pleasant to be out there being swarmed. I don’t think I have ever planted a garden so quickly. And dealing with planting my seed potatoes in their Smart Pots was so unpleasant thanks to the black flies. Over the course of 1-1/2 days I planted everything up with a little the help from Samantha and Mark -and just like that it was done.
It was nice walking out to the garden the last couple of days, watering the beds after letting the chicks out into their run and feeding them. They too prefer the early mornings when the black flies are less to putter around outside. I’ve noticed they hang out in the hen house during the day, I think to escape the black flies which seem not to follow them inside.
My daughter returned to her home as the states are beginning to slowly reopen. I already miss my time with her but I’m happy for her as she has FaceTimed me twice from her own garden. I talk about my hesitations in my Xine’s Pack post Adjusting to the New Norm. I take solace knowing that I have my own new norm to get used to around here. When I wake up everyday, I have dogs and chickens to feed, the garden to water and am thankful for the breath I can take, even if it is through my netted hood.
Happy gardening everybody!