Let's set the record straight: Maine's mosquitoes and black flies can be downright ferocious. In fact, black flies are so annoying that they even drive moose from the woods in an effort to escape their biting, and Maine humorist Tim Sample refers to mosquitoes as the unofficial state bird.
Here's what you need to know to win the battle with Maine's biting insects:
- Black flies breed in moving water, like rivers and streams.
- Black flies typically appear in mid-May and hang around until mid-June.
- Black flies like woods. They dislike open areas or areas with breezes.
To minimize the ugly, swollen bites that can itch insanely for weeks, take these precautions:
- Cover as much exposed skin as possible.
- Wear light-colored clothing.
- Use one of the many insect repellents containing DEET (Compare Prices), or, for a non-toxic alternative, use a repellent containing Picaridin (Compare Prices).
- Mosquitoes breed in standing water.
- Mosquitoes are most active after dusk and before dawn.
- Mosquitoes love tall grass.
To avoid or minimize bites from mosquitoes or no-see-ums:
- Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts or mosquito netting.
- Apply an insect repellent containing DEET (Compare Prices) to your skin or clothing (don't use DEET products on young children), or use a repellent containing Picaridin, an alternative to DEET (Compare Prices).
- Avoid wearing perfume or cologne when you're planning to be outdoors.
- Empty kids' pools, planters with standing water in them and lawn or deck furniture covers that collect water.
- Keep your grass cut fairly short.
- If you have a birdbath, use a mosquito dunk (Compare Prices). This floating ring is safe for birds but kills mosquito larvae.
The most effective mosquito control product available is a carbon dioxide emitter/trap such as those made by Mosquito Magnet, available at hardware stores (or Compare Prices online). They're expensive but can make the difference between being trapped inside your house all summer or being able to enjoy your deck, patio or backyard. Traditional bug zappers that fry the bugs are ineffective. Citronella candles are somewhat helpful in the immediate vicinity if there's no breeze but are ineffective in larger areas.