Bug battle

Memorial Day weekend, harbinger of the spring season, arrives at a time when there are typically copious amounts of mud and flying insects in the Adirondacks. The addition of thousands of tourists for the long weekend makes it difficult at times, to decide which is element is the most intrusive.

However,tourists usually stick around for less than a week, while blackflies last for months.

Like the return of swallows to Capistrano, the appearance of the first black flies in the Adirondacks is the most reliable indicator that spring has finally arrived in the great North Woods.

This year's significant snowpack, combined with the recent wet weather, promises a heavy year for the "little black devils".

Few creatures stir up a comparable degree of fear, dread and outright anger among local inhabitants. We'll tolerate skunks, black bears and even those damn, Canada geese, without so much as a passing glance.

However,we will all curse black flies in unison. We'll swat them. We'll pray and we'll spray. We'll hid inside and still we'll be inundated and chewed alive.

Outside, there is no escape from these annoying insects They infiltrate our clothing and actually bite a hole in our skin. Their saliva contains an anticoagulant to insure a steady flow of blood, and as it wears off; the bite begins to itch, to offer further irritation to the already abused victim.

Historically, visitors to the region feared the airborne pests and a wide variety of efforts have been implemented to fend off the dreaded 'teeth with wings'.

Woodsman often kept a smudge pot with a potent mix of natural and unnatural ingredients smoldering over a small fire. Guides guarded their secret bug smudge recipes with a secrecy that was usually afforded only to a brook trout pond, or a special, deer run.

In later years, aerial applicator sprayed a variety of insecticides in attempts to control the miserable insects. The most commonly used aerial insecticide, Dibrom 13, was mixed with kerosene as a carrying agent and applied in a fine mist. This toxic mix was deemed nearly as dangerous to humans as to the flies. Dibrom targeted only adult flies, and the continued hatches required repeated applications. It was an unhealthy and expensive process.

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