While ticks and mosquitos are certainly insect-public-enemies #1 and #2 on Long Island (depending on the vector-borne disease news of the day), there is another pesky (but, thankfully, less dangerous) insect that, for those that know it, is the subject of similar ire: the deer fly. Anyone who has visited the Scully Estate during the heart of summer knows them too well. When they're at their peak, the deer flies literally create a swarm around your car by the time you reach the parking lot at the Environental Center. It's an intimidating sight, enough to sometimes keep people in their cars and moving along. We like to joke that they're our first line of security at Scully (it's not a funny joke, of course; we're trying to attract people to the facitly, not scare them away).
Brian Kelder, Seatuck's former fisheries biologist and Scully caretaker, remembers the deer flies at Scully well. Unfortunately, much to his chagrin, he's still dealing with them in his work with the Ipswich River Watershed Association near Boston. This week he sent us a note with some advice for dealing with the troublesome flies that had been passed along by Jim MacDougal, a biologist from Massachusetts. Here's the bulk of the email:
For those of you who work in the woods or are talking to open space managers, there is a way to reduce Deer Flies to manageable levels without using insecticides or repellants. For many years now, when I am doing wood's roads surveys ... in July and August, I don my "fly hat"; I use an old hat, place a piece of tape on it and lightly coat the tape with Tree Tanglefoot, a stick goo (find a good place to hang the hat when not in use, this goo is goey).
It only takes a few flies to make life miserable when you are in the woods. This hat and method uses the flies behavior to your advantage. They like to perch on the highest point of a mammal and they hang around puddles and sun glades along the trail until a moving mammal comes into view. Then they tag along for a while making you miserable. They sticky hat removes them from your life, and theirs. As you walk along, you will notice fewer and fewer flies. Once they are removed, it is difficult for their local populations to recover.
I have taken this method to the next level. I am now placing the tape and goo on the rear-view mirror of the car. And you can see the result. After two days of going in and out of the driveway, I have eliminated the deer flies. I recommend that managers of Parks, Forests, Sanctuaries and other conservation land consider placing these tape strips on their trucks, 4 wheelers and every other vehicle they use in the woods to reduce the number of deer flies along their trails. This also works very well when placed on a biker's helmet. There are many people who have abandoned the woods at this time of year because of the deer flies. This need not be the case with a bit of education and a touch of goo. See you in the wood. - Jim"
Based on Jim's email, it sounds like the deer fly situation in New England is worse than it is here on Long Island. Still, I think I might be worth getting some goo and trying to catch us some deer flies at Scully. Thanks for the tip, Jim.