Simple Precautions to Avoid Black Fly Bites

May 03, 2018

Avoiding Black Fly Bites

For more information, contact Kim Papich, SRHD Public Information Officer (509) 324-1539 or kpapich@srhd.org

SPOKANE, Wash. – Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD) recently experienced an uptick in calls pertaining to black flies here in Spokane County. Although the flies do not spread disease, their bites can cause bleeding, pain and itching. To avoid these nuisances, the health district is urging people to take steps that reduce their chances of being bitten.

Black flies, also known as buffalo gnats, are small, biting flies that irritate people and animals living, working, or playing near running rivers and streams. They are sensitive to weather conditions and are most active on cloudy, humid days with low wind. Take these simple steps to avoid their bites:

  • Stay away from areas where black flies are active during the day, especially at dusk and dawn.
  • Wear light-colored long pants and long sleeves, especially whites and tans. Also wear a light-colored hat.
  • Consider using insect repellent.

If an individual is bitten, they should clean the bite and apply topical products to reduce itching. Avoid scratching to reduce chances of infection.

These flies are typically dark in color and some species are also referred to as “punkies” or “no-see-um’s.” They attack around the eyes, ears, scalp, and occasionally on exposed arms and legs. They crawl into sleeves, under neckbands, around boot tops and access other vulnerable places, especially favoring the head just beneath the rim of a hat. Bites can cause swelling and numb soreness for many days. 

To suck blood from animals and people, black flies cut a hole in the skin. The blood, pain and itching associated with the bite is the body’s response to the fly’s saliva.

Again, although black flies are a nuisance, they do not transmit disease, and therefore are not considered a public health risk. More information can be found here: https://srhd.org/health-topics/environmental-health/black-flies. SRHD’s website also offers comprehensive, updated information about Spokane Regional Health District and its triumphs in making Spokane a safer and healthier community. Become a fan of SRHD on Facebook to receive local safety and wellness tips. You can also follow us on Twitter @spokanehealth.