Black Flies in Maine: The Outdoor Adventure Known as Bug Season

Do the words “bug season” strike fear into your heart? Do you think the Maine woods are haunted by hordes of black flies in May and June, swarming heads and devouring flesh? But you really want to get outside, back on the river, back on the trail, after six months of snow. Would it help if you knew that black flies are a sign of clean, healthy rivers?

OK, that last indicator probably doesn’t help. We all know Maine’s waters are clean. Here are a few tips that will help you enjoy outdoor adventures, with the bugs, in Maine’s enchanted forests.

How to Repel and Outrun Black Flies

Bug Season Survival Skills 101


Get on the River: April Showers Bring May Waters

Spring Rafting | Kennebec River, Maine
Of course the rafting outfitter says the best place to be during the black fly invasion is on the river. It’s true that black flies breed in the river, and the flies might drive you mad at the put-in and the take-out, but you’ll be wearing the greatest bug repellent ever, a wetsuit!

Bug season is also high water season. Running Maine’s rivers for over 40 years we can confidently say that black flies don’t hang out in class 4 rapids. The splashy whitewater keeps the rafts moving moving moving down river, outpacing any flying annoyances… which brings us to the most important rule of black fly adventures.

Keep Moving: You Can Outrun Black Flies

Hiking in the Maine Woods
Raft, hike, bike, you won’t even notice the flies until you stop. Don’t stop. You can bike along the river on The Forks Area Scenic Trail, hike into Moxie Falls, kayak the lower Kennebec (even a float trip outpaces the little suckers.) Just keep moving. You’re in training for all your summer adventures anyway.

Bug Repellent Everything: Body, Clothes, Air Around You

Bug Repellent - No Fly Zone, Flick the Tick
For when you’re not in a wetsuit and you need to stop moving, grab yourself some No Fly Zone Maine-made insect repellent clothing (for people and dogs.) The gaiters are great for keeping ticks out of your pants!

There are essential oil natural bug spray recipes all over the internet, geranium oil, peppermint oil, lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus, … and a personal favorite cedarwood oil (see Cedarcide.) Lots of buzz about Flick the Tick, an all-natural bug spray hand-made in Maine. Most importantly, don’t use perfume-y shampoos and soaps. Instead add a few drops of bug repelling oils to non-scented products. Citronella is my summer scent.

Smoke ‘Em Out: Campfires, Cigars, Whatever It Takes

Maine Campground - Northern Outdoors
In case you need another reason to hang out by a campfire after your day of adventure… smoke out the bugs! I’m pretty sure every variety store in Maine has Swisher Sweets at the counter as smokable bug repellent.

Secure the perimeter of your campsite with Mosquito Sticks to enforce the smokey bug wall. In case it’s not obvious the smoke rule is for camping. The cabins are non-smoking, and maybe a better lodging choice during bug season.

Drink Good Beer

Beer Flight Brewery Tasting
This bug season survival tip seems obvious. Exactly zero scientific studies show that drinking freshly crafted Maine beers makes you less attractive to bugs. We’re not sure where the saying “black flies don’t like bar flies” comes from, or if anyone ever said it.

In conclusion, rafting, hiking, biking, campfires, beer. Like every outdoor adventure, bug season just needs a little planning, a little adaptability, and maybe a little bite relief balm.

Extra Credit: Comment Below with Three More Ways to Beat the Bugs



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4 Responses

  1. Thanks for the warning. We didn’t realize we had booked during bug season. Really good to know to be prepared! See you soon.

    1. Theresa, the bugs are way less dramatic than my post here, but it’s always good to be prepared! Look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful neck of the woods!

  2. If it’s Spring, Summer, or Fall it’s bug season in Maine–start with ticks, next come black flies and mosquitoes, followed by deer flies, horse flies and no-see-ems! You take the pleasure with the pain 🙂
    Great article Northern!

    1. Thanks, Bethany (I think? 🙂 I’m outing you as the Director of the sweetest preschool around, Maine Mountain Children’s House — where the kids play outside whatever the weather, and don’t even notice the bugs! Unless studying insects…

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