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Monday, June 27, 2005

'Jaws on Wings' (Black Flies)

OK, we're finally off on our excursion, at (I hope) 9 am sharp. When I was a kid, my dad always expected NASA-type punctuality in departures while my mother was stomping around dilly-dallying (from his point of view), shouting about all the things she still had to do while he wondered aloud why she hadn't done them sooner. I'm a bit abashed to admit I am his replica in this matter.

The five wren eggs in the nail bucket on the back porch will have to be hatched, fed, and fledged without my supervision, and the tons of blueberries on our bushes will ripen and feed the wildlife without our getting a taste.

I can't wait to see what my daughter, Melina, has in store for you. She's promised to feed my blog faithfully every day.

Here's an article on one of the banes of the north country. I'll be back in late July.

Extracted from article by Rachel Zimmerman, the Wall Street Journal, June 9, 2005

They have been called "winged assassins," "kamikaze wretches" and "jaws on wings." Their bites can cause bloody welts, violent allergies, and fever with swollen lymph nodes, nausea and vomiting.

But in this Vermont village of about 400, black flies are a cause for celebration. Adamant's annual Black Fly Festival, held in early May in anticipation of the bugs' emergence, featured antenna-wearing children, a poet reading his verse about a "Taoist mountain recluse" smashing "the little black fly into the hairs on his dirty brown arm," and a "black-fly pie" baking contest. The winning entry had blood-red strawberry filling, a fly-mimicking sprinkling of chocolate chips, and pink sauce that looked like calamine lotion.

With dreaded regularity in northern New England, late spring brings out the biting black flies. Thirsty for blood to nurture their eggs, they puncture the skin with knife-like teeth, inject a substance that prevents clotting, and suck in so much plasma that they puff up like tiny balloons, their bellies turning red.

Naturalists suspect the black-fly problem is growing because the water is getting cleaner.

James West Davidson and John Rugge, in their 1975 book "The Complete Wilderness Paddler," described the black fly as "obsessive, perverted, suicidal, malicious, bloodlusty and inconsiderate of others." That's the kind of temperament that inspired Cindy Cook, who came up with the idea for the Adamant festival three years ago.

"I wanted to celebrate something so noxious," says Ms. Cook, a professional mediator.

South River, a town in Ontario, kicks off the tourist season each year with its annual Black Fly Hunt. It began this year on May 7, when a black-fly piƱata was "beaten to death" by local children, according to Chris Hundley, the mayor.

Roy Warriner last weekend emerged as the 2005 Black Fly Hunt champion, repeating his 2004 victory, by collecting 3,213 flies, almost 500 more than last year. He uses himself as bait to attract his prey, then captures them in a net and collects them in little plastic bags as he works his small farm and sawmill, from dawn to dark. About 10,000 to 30,000 black flies perish each year in the contest.


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