The Not So Dear, Deer Fly


An excerpt from The Family Camping Guide

The Deer Fly

Then there’s the deer fly. It turns out there are precious few per hectare, but how many aggressive, persistent, razor sharp-fanged flying nuisances does one need before staying indoors?

I’ve been walking along a trail without any indication of mosquitoes or black flies all day, then all of a sudden I’ll get a tremendously painful sting on the back of my head or neck. Swatting at it, my hand comes away with nothing but a smudge of my own blood.

Deer flies are very persistent. They follow you and wait for an opportunity to land on your head or neck. They have very sharp mandibles which they use to slice into your skin to get the blood flowing then they drink deeply. They are the vampires in the bug kingdom.

They act like they’re immune to DEET, (they aren’t) citronella or any other repellant. Movement, such as swatting at them, only allows them to zero in on you quicker.

I have, quite literally, been chased down the trail by a couple of these things. I threw down my pack, kicked off my shoes and wadeed into the water to avoid them. I wasn’t panicking, but I wasn’t waiting around for the bites to come either. The ruddy things didn’t go away! They flew around me and were present when I came up for air. By sheer happenstance, I managed to splash them out of the air so they fell to the surface, where I drowned them by forcing them under water.

So, how can you reduce their influence around the campsite? Well,it turns out they are attracted to the colour blue, like a royal blue. They also like, Tree Tanglefoot insect barrier (a very sticky product that you put around the base of a tree to prevent insects from climbing up). I’ve smeared a thin coating of this brownish goo onto a royal blue plastic bucket I found at a dollar store and set the contraption on a stick driven into the ground outside the dining shelter. It worked! It attracted and killed dozens of deer flies over the course of a week.

Use a disposable piece of wood as a spatula and use disposable rubber gloves, because I promise you, this stuff will stick to everything and it’s difficult to wash off. If you do get it on your hands, use a citrus based cleaner then wash your hands with soap and water.


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