Black Flies!

Black Flies!

They’re here! Black file season has officially begun for us. We spent Friday and Saturday at the Rideau Camp. Friday was cloudy, and not terribly warm. We kept busy all day, Attila finishing the camp fire pit, and me burning wood and broken bits of brush in the camp fire pit. We had our usual lunch, grilled cheese sandwiches over the embers of the camp fire. I managed to go for a walk with Attila around the periphery of the property, it is pretty hard going in some places, lots of rocks, fallen trees, and hills. The day was a long one, just couldn’t tear ourselves away, so many interesting things to do.

The black flies were noticeable, but not too bad, we had no trouble tolerating them.

Our camp fire pit, finished. This is best camp fire pit I have ever used or designed. In the picture at the bottom of the pit is the air trench, this trench allows air to be sucked up from below the level of the burning fire, oxygen! On either side of the burning wood are two large pieces of granite, between which the fire burns. The granite rocks circling the fire pit prevent logs from rolling out, and helps to channel the wind into the burning fire. The air trench faces in the direction of the dominant wind flow, so that the wind blows in through the trench, hits the taller rocks across from the trench and creates a draft parallel to the predominant wind. This fire pit is so effective that I have only needed to use one match, a sheet of newspaper, some dry kindling and some sticks to get it going. It burns the wood completely and keeps the burning wood well confined. When I want to cook I put the grill across the two large granite rocks inside the ring, and I am all set up. Over the course of the weekend I burned all the wood from two of the dead trees that Attila felled last weekend.
Camp fire pit
The trilliums are out in full bloom. We are careful not to tread on them as we hike through the bush, but sometimes it can’t be helped, there are just so many of them. We have a few of these Red Trilliums on the property, so pretty. The Trillium is Ontario’s official Provincial Flower (white Trillium).

Saturday I wanted to walk down to the waterfront to which we have deeded access. It was a bright sunny day, perfect for a little walk. We observed something on a beech tree that neither one of us had seen before, and we still haven’t identified what we were looking at.

We looked up into this 60 foot high beech tree on our walk to the waterfront yesterday. The objects attached to the branches of the tree look ominous, we don’t know what they are. If anyone can identify what they are I’d love to know. I couldn’t get a closer picture, with more detail, because they were so far up.
Nests in tree

The waterfront is not idyllic, and it is obvious that the ownership is shared by many. There are discarded tires lying under the water, old boards and lumber pushed into the bush along the driveway, and the dock is literally falling apart, I won’t venture out on it. The shoreline is mucky, with a sand bottom further out. It is shallow, so that one might launch a canoe or small boat, but nothing larger. The view is lovely. I think Attila and I will eventually put in a bit of time cleaning things up down there, bit by bit. It doesn’t look like anyone else really cares. Most of the properties sharing this access point are waterfront properties, so they don’t really use it.

Our waterfront. We have deeded access to this waterfront, which we share with many others. It is shallow, and quite mucky along the shore, but I think we would enjoy bringing a picnic down here during late summer, when the bugs have died down. I don’t see us boating, although we may eventually get a small aluminium or fibreglass boat for fishing. We both like to fish. I used to canoe, but the arthritis in my coccyx makes it difficult to find a comfortable sitting position in a canoe, and my wonky knees mean that kneeling on my knees isn’t much fun either. Paddle boats work for me, but are too bulky to move around on land to and from storage. Wading is a good option on a hot day!
Water access

Attila had a look at the neighbouring property, and he says the view from the hill is lovely, but I would have trouble getting up there with my knees being what they are. Perhaps when bug season is over I might give it a try, wearing my knee brace. I tended the camp fire, burning the last of the dead trees that Attila felled last weekend. I also sprayed the weeds on the core area of the driveway with the vinegar/epsom salt/dawn detergent mixture. It worked right away with some of the weeds, and not at all with others. This will be an ongoing project. I also planted many clover seeds around the open area where we park, hoping it will grow as ground cover.

The black flies became more numerous as the day went by. By the time we left at 7 p.m. they were swarming around our heads. May and June are usually months when biting bugs are at their worst in Ontario. We won’t be doing as much work at the Rideau Camp for a few months. There is lots to be done at home, and Iris is waiting for attention, to ready her for the camping season, which we hope will begin in July and extend into October.

We headed home tired and happy after our day in the bush.

On the drive home we observed another phenomena that neither of us had seen before. It was a short rainbow in the sky, just a short straight line of faint colours, high above and to the right of the setting sun. It wasn’t raining.

Today, Sunday, we stayed home. It was raining when we got up this morning, making a day out of doors less appealing, particularly when the temperature was only going to rise to 9C. So Attila spent his time organizing the garage so that he can get the lawn more out, it will soon be needed. I spent the day making croutons, cooking vegetables for my meals this week, and baking Blueberry Squares for Attila’s lunches.

A dreary looking day out there today, but our little world needed it. The grass got greener as the day wore on, and the gardens are looking happy.

Worldly Distractions


Date: 4:23 PM EDT Sunday 1 May 2016
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 101.7 kPa
Tendency: falling
Visibility: 3 km
Temperature: 8.5°C
Dewpoint: 7.4°C
Humidity: 93%
Wind: ENE 11 km/h


“Peace is when time doesn’t matter as it passes by.”
Maria Schell


  1. Sandy, thank you! I don’t know if it is the Beech Bark Disease, but having the contact info for the invading species group I am going to write to them and send them an image to see what they say. We have some great beech trees on our property and I don’t want them to die!

  2. Sandy

    Sounds good Maggie. I would think tree disease experts would know right away by looking at the pictures. My fingers are crossed it’s something benign.

  3. I hope so too Sandy! I will post anything I find out. I wrote to them, but couldn’t send an image via the web contact form they provide. Hopefully they will get back to me next week and then I can send them the picture.

  4. Hi, Maggie! You and Attila are troopers, making it through a day of black flies. I don’t think I’d do nearly as well.

    Your pic of the beech trees really has me wondering. They appear to be some kind of nest or gall that fits around the branches, but gosh that would be a huge gall! I was really wondering if it was some kind of wasp nest too, though I’m not sure if there are any wasp nests that fit around branches.

    Your pic of the waterfront actually looks quite pretty. I think I’d have a tendency to clean it up a little for easy use and access, too.

    The short rainbow in the sky is called a sun dog. Sun dogs are reflections of sunlight off the ice crystals of high thin cirrus clouds (I believe).

    DH and I love finding sun dogs and actually see them rather often. I bet you see them more often now too, now that you’ve seen your first one.

  5. After a little looking around I’m wondering if your ‘nests’ might be cocoons of the cercropia moth. They appear to have large cocoons for groups of moths together that attach along branches, and beeches are one of the trees they favor.

    Just a direction for you to look at.

  6. I have no idea about those tree pods. Cocoons sounds plausible to me rather than a disease.

    A question: You listed “bygone” blogs over on the right… and listed “Sil” — I was friendly with Sil in Corea, was that the same person? Has she passed away? I never heard anything about that. She was/is an amazing lady and I would like to know if she has. Thanks!

  7. I loved to hear about the fire pit, the trilliums and the waterfront—the black flies, not so much! We don’t have them here, but I remember them well from my childhood in Northern Canada. Like mosquitoes, they are hard to take, and I’m glad you haven’t found it too difficult yet! Big mystery about the beech trees, they look as if they are under attack. I hope some readers can identify the growths, if that is what they are.

  8. Teri, Black Flies are a bit of a terror, some people get hysterical when they get swarmed, but since I spent my childhood playing in the bush, and used to come in at night for supper with a crust of blood all around the back of neck, they just seem annoying. They crawl into clothing and into hair to bite, and I am finding the the permethrin sprayed clothing keeps them from crawling into my clothes, and I am using bug spray on my head and hair to keep them out. When they get really, really bad, as they do in the north, and they did at our country house, nets are required. I am curious to see if they get bad enough at the Rideau Camp so as to necessitate waring head nets.

    Sun Dogs! Yes Teri, that is what we saw, thanks for identifying the phenomena. We hadn’t seen one before, the sky was not visible at the country house, too many trees, so I seldom saw the sky unless I was outdoors and looking straight up. Now we see lots of sky, and still have lots of trees, best of both worlds.

    I looked for pictures of the cercropia moth cocoons, and didn’t find anything that looked like the sight we saw, it is a possibility though. 🙂

  9. Thanks Joan, the view is south west, so one evening I would like to see what kind of sunset can be viewed from there. It will look completely different in a few weeks time, after the leaves come out on the trees. Always something interesting happening with the seasonal weather in Ontario.

    I too hope what we saw on the beech tree turns out to be nothing ominous.

  10. Bex, yes Sil is Sil in Corea, lovely person isn’t she. As far as I know she is fine, still living and teaching in Korea. It is her blog that has fallen by the wayside. She hasn’t posted for the longest time. I don’t have any personal contact with her. I think of her often and enjoyed her blog very much.

  11. Thanks Diane! The black flies are something to contend with. When we watched the BBC tribute to the Queen, it showed Prince Charles and the Queen were watching a home movie about their visit in July of 1970 to the Northwest Territories, prime Black File season. Charles laughed and said it was the worst two days of his life, and it was commented that, as the home video showed waving fans who were wearing bug nets over their heads, “they didn’t give us nets.”

    The Black Flies in the north are significant enough to influence the way of life there.

  12. TopsyTurvy (Teri)

    Forgot to say, with the sun dogs there will often be a second one – a mirror image – on the opposite side of the sun, if the conditions are right.

    I definitely don’t have the heart to stand up to black flies unless I was completely covered against them from head to toe.

  13. TopsyTurvy (Teri)

    Hey, Maggie. I was just reading that the same bacillus thuringensis that’s used to kill off mosquitoes also ‘suppresses’ black flies. The bacillius is successfully used in Pennsylvania for black fly suppression.

  14. Teri, the mirror image is something I will look for when I see a Sun Dog again. They are pretty, and interesting.

    Black flies are extremely unpleasant. Attila was a geologist, and worked in the Northern Ontario bush when he was younger. He was working at a site in the bush with a partner, and on the afternoon of the first day his partner started calling him Chuvalo. He couldn’t figure out what he meant until he looked in the truck mirror at then end of the day. He had so many black fly bites that his face was extremely swollen, making him look like George Chuvalo the boxer. Attila has no trouble ignoring black flies. They command respect.

    I haven’t had a chance to source the Mosquito Disks, they don’t have them at the local stores. Good to know they have an effect on black flies too, although it is the mosquitoes who harbour disease and so are a serious threat, while black flies are a benign misery.

  15. TopsyTurvy (Teri)

    Did a quick scan as long as I’m online. What I’m seeing is the Bti mosquito tabs can be found in the water garden section of most garden stores. Hth

  16. What a great idea Teri. I wouldn’t release them though, they would just find their way right back into the house. I wouldn’t capture and release black flies and mosquitoes, and I wouldn’t capture and release mice.

    That trap would inexpensive to make, so we could have a lot of them! You could even add a jingle bell in the plastic bottle, to let you know that there is a mouse in the trap.

Comments are closed.