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      Problems with stable flies (aka ankle biters or boat flies)     
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Jaywalker
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07/30/2020 11:17AM
I spent a few days on Perent last week and was pretty surprised by they large number of stable flies. Saw this Star Tribune article about an explosion of the little buggers along the north shore. Wondering if anyone else is seeing a lot of these pests in the BWCA?
 
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inspector13
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07/30/2020 11:44AM

Maybe it is a localized thing. I haven’t seen a single one at my place by the Gooseberry River, but I’m inland a ways. I can’t comment on BWCA locations since I haven’t visited this year.

 
naturboy12
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07/30/2020 11:47AM
Also can't help with BW/north shore, but when we were along the Michigan UP border of Lake Superior (Black River area) the week leading to the 4th of July, there were areas where you could not be outdoors because of them without pants/long sleeves (and it was in the upper 80's to 90 that week). Getting out of the vehicle would result in 10-20 flies being on you in seconds, and they were in a biting kind of mood. Hundreds on the vehicle when parked in the sun. Other areas only a few miles away they were in the "tolerable" level. It also varied from day to day quite a bit.
 
07/30/2020 11:59AM
Yes. Just out a couple days ago and they were a bit annoying. Had to wear socks!
 
4keys
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07/30/2020 12:52PM
They were a big problem for our wet dog on Ogish. Especially in the canoe when we were trying to fish. I even stopped fishing and had her sit between my legs in an effort to keep the flies off her. Eventually the flies won, it was just too stressful fishing with a dog that could not sit still.
 
mjmkjun
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07/30/2020 01:32PM
Thanks for the post. Newcomers, stay away from Perent Lake! Clouds of stable flies swarm there cuz its a swampy area. :-|
 
Jaywalker
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07/30/2020 01:35PM
4keys: "They were a big problem for our wet dog on Ogish. Especially in the canoe when we were trying to fish. I even stopped fishing and had her sit between my legs in an effort to keep the flies off her. Eventually the flies won, it was just too stressful fishing with a dog that could not sit still. "
Just curious - how long ago was this? I've got two dogs to try to keep the flies off - that's ten ankles to protect. A fly swatter helps, and my dogs have learned when I swat them not to take it personally.
 
mjmkjun
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07/30/2020 01:37PM
Suggestion: bring a spray bottle of Permethrin (diluted) to spray directly on the dog's coat, legs & feet. Maybe a freshly soaked handkerchief around the dog's neck?
 
07/30/2020 03:36PM
Definitely. Last weekend I had about 20 in the canoe. They were crawling up my boots and pant legs to bite me.
 
Jaywalker
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07/30/2020 04:57PM
egknuti: "Definitely. Last weekend I had about 20 in the canoe. They were crawling up my boots and pant legs to bite me."
Where were you? I'm also trying to get a sense of how localized this issue may be.
 
07/30/2020 06:42PM
I’m at a cabin on Lake Superior near Tofte and there were hundreds on the car, porch, my kayak, etc. it’s been brutal! So bitey too! I’ve been kayaking in pants, socks, long sleeves, etc. Seems marginally better today though. It was much better in Grand Marais when we went in for groceries today.
 
4keys
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07/30/2020 09:46PM
Jaywalker: "4keys: "They were a big problem for our wet dog on Ogish. Especially in the canoe when we were trying to fish. I even stopped fishing and had her sit between my legs in an effort to keep the flies off her. Eventually the flies won, it was just too stressful fishing with a dog that could not sit still. "
Just curious - how long ago was this? I've got two dogs to try to keep the flies off - that's ten ankles to protect. A fly swatter helps, and my dogs have learned when I swat them not to take it personally. "


We were there July 17- 22. On land they weren't too bad, mostly just in the canoe.
 
4keys
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07/30/2020 09:48PM
mjmkjun: "Suggestion: bring a spray bottle of Permethrin (diluted) to spray directly on the dog's coat, legs & feet. Maybe a freshly soaked handkerchief around the dog's neck?"

Have you tried this? I thought Permithron was not to be used on human skin, so I would think it would be bad for a dogs skin / coat also, especially if they lick themselves.

I know years ago there was a spray we used on the horses, but I don't recall the ingredients or name. Maybe something like that would be safe for dogs.
 
07/30/2020 10:48PM
Jaywalker: "egknuti: "Definitely. Last weekend I had about 20 in the canoe. They were crawling up my boots and pant legs to bite me."
Where were you? I'm also trying to get a sense of how localized this issue may be.
"
I was in the Isabella area. Mosquitos were pretty bad during the day as well.
 
Canoearoo
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07/30/2020 11:11PM
 
naturboy12
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07/30/2020 11:32PM
Canoearoo: " "

Just added a reminder to pack a small can each of white and black paint. My son will be thrilled with this work around. Thank you!
 
straighthairedcurly
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07/31/2020 12:12AM
Canoearoo: " "

Time to shop for black and white striped socks :)
 
Canoearoo
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07/31/2020 12:49AM
Patagonian needs to come up with a new line of clothing ;)
 
mjmkjun
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07/31/2020 04:09AM
4keys: "mjmkjun: "Suggestion: bring a spray bottle of Permethrin (diluted) to spray directly on the dog's coat, legs & feet. Maybe a freshly soaked handkerchief around the dog's neck?"


Have you tried this? I thought Permithron was not to be used on human skin, so I would think it would be bad for a dogs skin / coat also, especially if they lick themselves.


I know years ago there was a spray we used on the horses, but I don't recall the ingredients or name. Maybe something like that would be safe for dogs.
"

Not for use on human skin but fine on dogs & horses. Spray on a rag to carefully wipe on the face so doesn't get in dog's eyes. Don't let dog lick it's coat until it's dried. Suggest an application before starting on a portage so the dog is involved and distracted with activity. verify
edit: a word of CAUTION. If you've just dosed your dog with frontline or equivalent just before your trip to the BWCA then it would be best to get a pro's feedback. To be safe, ask your vet if you can apply permethrin after a dosage of frontline/or the like. Gotta be careful not to double dose flea and tick medications.
 
WhiteWolf
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07/31/2020 07:31AM
One thing I found that helps for just 15 mins or so (which is a major break when they are thick is Picardin. Last year in early June they were the thickest I've ever seen them and it was 90F. Exposed legs you would swing with palm and kill 3-4 and within seconds you leg was speckled with 10-20 of them. Deer was worthless, Picardin worked until it wore off in about 15 mins. Much better than nothing. Was on Stuart earlier this year and again Picardin worked.
 
07/31/2020 07:35AM
Not sure why Lake Superior shoreline gets'em so bad...but it does. Sandal wearers worst nightmare!
 
mjmkjun
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07/31/2020 08:17AM
WhiteWolf: "One thing I found that helps for just 15 mins or so (which is a major break when they are thick is Picardin. Last year in early June they were the thickest I've ever seen them and it was 90F. Exposed legs you would swing with palm and kill 3-4 and within seconds you leg was speckled with 10-20 of them. Deer was worthless, Picardin worked until it wore off in about 15 mins. Much better than nothing. Was on Stuart earlier this year and again Picardin worked."
I hired an old-timer to cut a tree on the property. He cuts firewood for extra income since he's retired and often goes deep into the woods at times. I gave him a spray can of Picardin. He stopped by the following week to tell me he'd never found anything as effective. Bugs stay away. I'm surprised it held off stable flies for only 15 mins. Picardin doesn't damage (melt) techie fabrics as deet can do.
 
rmp46
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07/31/2020 08:22AM
My wife's solution: two extra headnets, one for each lower leg. What can I say, it seems to work.
 
Jaywalker
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07/31/2020 08:52AM
BeaV: "Not sure why Lake Superior shoreline gets'em so bad...but it does. Sandal wearers worst nightmare!
"

That is truly frightening, BeaV. Was that a recent shot by chance?
 
07/31/2020 10:30AM
Jaywalker: "BeaV: "Not sure why Lake Superior shoreline gets'em so bad...but it does. Sandal wearers worst nightmare!
"

That is truly frightening, BeaV. Was that a recent shot by chance? "

Not recent...3 years ago about this time of year. On the North Shore near the Canadian Border. The worst I've ever seen boat flies. A friend and I went to shore to dump water out of canoe after a thunderstorm passed and was greeted by these guys. We didn't linger. Looked like it would have been a wet dog's worst nightmare!
 
coffeetalk
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07/31/2020 10:36AM
Just got back from Wood lake --> Basswood falls solo with dog. Yeah they were bad. Biting me through my socks and up my pant leg but far worse for my dog. The poor dog wedged her snout up into the bow with her paws over her face in desperation. Her permethrin-treated bandana seemed to have no effect. Picaridin may have been working for me I don't know (spraying it on wet feet and legs?) because Peggy had it so much worse. I didn't know if it was safe to apply any to her fur so I didn't (plus she's always wet if that matters). The buggers had both of us looking forward to portages where they would vanish, then reappear in droves as soon as we launched again. I talked to a guy who said he wears three pairs of socks - not a bad idea but I don't think my day shoes would fit.

On the plus side with all the wind mosquitoes weren't much of an issue, buffalo gnats are long gone for the year, and the deer flies (my eternal nemeses) are winding down - still buzzing my head but not as bitey and fewer in number. We enjoyed mostly bug-free camping. I'm going to try the picaridin rag wipe on my dog for my next trip next week.
 
nofish
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07/31/2020 11:30AM
BeaV: "Not sure why Lake Superior shoreline gets'em so bad...but it does. Sandal wearers worst nightmare!
"


Our canoe looked like that last year when paddling through the south end of Horseshoe. They were all over us on that paddle. They were particularily annoying to my wife in the bow. My daughter sitting duffer and I kept telling her not to turn around so she wouldn't see the hoards of hitch hikers we had picked up. They stayed with us until we hit the portage to Caribou. Once back on Caribou we were rid of them almost entirely.

My daughter still asks to make sure we aren't planning on going through that spot again on the next trip.
 
Jaywalker
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07/31/2020 12:57PM
Canoearoo: " "
What splendid luck! My new Afternoon Paddling Suit just happens to be black and white striped.

 
jillpine
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07/31/2020 02:29PM
That new suit is stunning.
 
mjmkjun
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07/31/2020 04:35PM
jillpine: "That new suit is stunning.
"

HaHa! Jaywalker might just be THE fun tripping partner. It's hideous but that may be the very reason it works.
 
07/31/2020 04:41PM
WhiteWolf: "One thing I found that helps for just 15 mins or so (which is a major break when they are thick is Picardin. "

I was getting some fly bites on my hands while paddling LIS in June. At the next portage I applied a 20% Picaridin spray and didn't have any more flies on my hands. Picaridin has become my favorite bug spray.

What is the life cycle of these flies? Will they be gone by September? Is it weather dependent?

I saw that they like swampy areas.
 
yellowcanoe
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07/31/2020 04:43PM
jillpine: "That new suit is stunning.
"


add a hat with these and voila your perfect outfit
stable fly tape
 
Jaywalker
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07/31/2020 05:10PM
yellowcanoe: "jillpine: "That new suit is stunning.
"



add a hat with these and voila your perfect outfit
stable fly tape "

Of course I'll wear a hat. As the photo shows, I have a fair complexion.

I have that tape and love it for deer flies which are larger, slower, and like to bite the back of the head. Not sure how it would work for stable flies, which love to go for ankles.

 
Jaywalker
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07/31/2020 05:23PM
rdgbwca: "What is the life cycle of these flies? Will they be gone by September? Is it weather dependent?

I saw that they like swampy areas."


This is an excellent question about the lifecycle - does anyone know? Also, it made me think that I usually have trouble with them in the afternoons, but I can't recall if they every come out much in the morning. Again, anyone know?
 
thefourofus
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07/31/2020 05:30PM
Repel Lemon Eucalyptus. This is the only thing that I’ve found works for these flies. It only lasts an hour or two, but it works. It does not work well for mosquitoes though. The link is for a spray, but the cream works better if you can find it.

Repel
 
jillpine
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07/31/2020 05:45PM
Jaywalker: "rdgbwca: "What is the life cycle of these flies? Will they be gone by September? Is it weather dependent?


I saw that they like swampy areas."



This is an excellent question about the lifecycle - does anyone know? Also, it made me think that I usually have trouble with them in the afternoons, but I can't recall if they every come out much in the morning. Again, anyone know? "

Here is science-based information to accompany the svelte suit.
NIH link
 
marsonite
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07/31/2020 07:29PM
Jaywalker: "yellowcanoe: "jillpine: "That new suit is stunning.
"




add a hat with these and voila your perfect outfit
stable fly tape "

Of course I'll wear a hat. As the photo shows, I have a fair complexion.


I have that tape and love it for deer flies which are larger, slower, and like to bite the back of the head. Not sure how it would work for stable flies, which love to go for ankles.


"


I tried the tape without a lot of luck. I put it in the canoe on the side, and I think I also tried it on a pack. They just didn't land on it enough. It only takes a handful of those devils to make you miserable.
 
dogwoodgirl
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08/01/2020 12:22AM
they were pretty bad on Sag yesterday...dog was unhappy, for sure
 
Jaywalker
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08/01/2020 01:57PM
jillpine: "Jaywalker: "rdgbwca: "What is the life cycle of these flies? Will they be gone by September? Is it weather dependent?

I saw that they like swampy areas."


This is an excellent question about the lifecycle - does anyone know? Also, it made me think that I usually have trouble with them in the afternoons, but I can't recall if they every come out much in the morning. Again, anyone know? "

Here is science-based information to accompany the svelte suit.
NIH link "

Well that was a dense, meaty article on stable flies. And if it wasn't enough for anyone, it actually was review of 89 other primary research papers. Wow.

To answer a few questions about lifecycle, here's a few points I learned:
- Both males and females bite.
- If they can (if host is available) they will feed 2 - 3 times per day
- Eggs are deposited in moist, decaying organic matter, such as lake weeds washed up on shore.
- The overall lifecycle is fairly short. Once eggs hatch, it takes 7-26 days to reach adulthood. Adults start mating about day 5, laying eggs about day 8, and on average live about 2 weeks.
- Females will lay eggs multiple times, requiring additional blood meals each time.
- They generally fly about 40 inches above the ground, and prefer open areas to woods.
- They are easily blown with the wind, which may account for their being out on the lake - there is no good other reason to be there. Your canoe provides both a needed rest and blood meals. They have been known to move up to 100 miles in 24 hours.
- Lower temperatures (like under 60º) inhibits their maturation process and biting behavior. I got the sense we will have these guys until we get a stretch of cooler weather.
 
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