Today’s post comes from Roger LaFontaine, park naturalist and passionate black fly advocate.
Imagine yourself next to a beautiful rocky stream or river in Algonquin Provincial Park.
The idyllic place to ponder life’s mysteries, such as “what does the inside of a kingfisher’s burrow look like?” or “do bioluminescent mushrooms also glow during the day?”
As you enjoy your Instagrammable moments by the stream, you’re surrounded by buzzes, vibrations, and the tickle of tiny feet.
It’s like you’re a celebrity, a guest of honor!
You have arrived at one of Algonquin’s newly established black fly protection zones.
You will soon be overtaken by dozens, then hundreds, and perhaps, if we did our job right, thousands of black flies!
Yes, they’re after your blood, but it’s nothing personal. Females need a blood meal to produce eggs for the next generation.
Keeping it natural (with our help)
Black flies are important connections in our food webs here in the park.
They begin life as aquatic larvae, filter feeding from streams while attached to rocks.
A fast stretch of river is incomplete without black fly larvae
Imagine hundreds of thousands of little arms waving in the current, looking for the opportunity to grab a passing meal of a delicious, finely aged delicacy.
As they grow, they will eventually emerge like a fly and float to the surface in a small bubble. This incredible entrance brings them to the surface of the stream, where they begin their new life as flying adults, and for the females, a diet of sweet, sweet blood.
Newly established BPZ
We are protecting important areas for black flies to ensure that this critical element of natural communities continues to sustain the rest of Algonquin.
Parks are meant to protect natural habitats and the native plants and animals that live there, even small, biting ones.
Two black fly researchers discuss the progress of the fly population at the primary protection site. They visit at the end of August, so as not to distract the adult flies from their reproduction.
The staff is pleased to invite you to see the results of this innovative work by visiting one of the newly established BPZs along Highway 60 this year:
Whiskey Rapids Trail — An area known for its beautiful views of the Oxtongue River, which provides excellent habitat for black flies.
Pog Lake Campground — The river here is an opportunity for campers to see our work in action from their own campsites.
The swift current that inspired the creation of the original Black Fly Protection Zone (BPZ). Larvae need moving water and rocky substrate to feed and grow.
Entire Madawaska River Basin — In an example of a more holistic approach to blackfly conservation, we created the Madawaska River Watershed BPZ, which in the park encompasses countless lakes and popular canoe routes.
And of course the area around Mosquito Lake. Staff considered requesting a formal name change, but admitted it was a prime example of mosquitoes and black flies living in harmony.
Your donation helps our wildlife!
Only a few black flies found this hiker. With improved BPZs, this may change. Photo: Basil Conlin
We are always surprised by the generosity of our visitors. Many want to know how they can help our parks.
The answer will come to you while you are hiking, at your campsite, or trying to perform a task that requires concentration, like setting up your tent or tying your canoe: a swarm of black flies!
Your blood, life-giving blood, will help sustain the next generation of black flies.
I always smile when I see people arrive at the Visitor Center covered in hives and with flies coming out of their hair. That’s true dedication!
These facts may change your mind:
- In our area, black flies do not transmit diseases to humans.
- Males and females pollinate some flowers (they are not a major pollinator of blueberries, as many have heard)
- They provide food for countless other creatures.
- Large hordes of black flies are active and bite only for a short time in spring and early summer.
- There are 42 species on Algonquin alone, and most feed on flower nectar.
- Black fly bites are a permitted form of human-wildlife interaction, and the bites look cool.
Be a good guest to our Black Fly Protection Zones…
…and follow these tips:
One of the benefits of black flies on the landscape. Healthy aquatic ecosystems support all types of wildlife, from algae and invertebrates to incredible fish, like brook trout.
- do not disturb streams in any way, such as moving rocks. This alters the habitat not only of black flies, but also many other stream-dwelling creatures, from insects, amphibians, and fish such as brook trout.
- Wear light-colored clothing and cover up. Light colors are harder for biting flies to detect as there is little contrast between you and the background.
- use insect repellent if you need it. Use as directed. Do not apply in your store
- Consider not swatting black flies when they land on you. This habit is also vegan, although flies are not.
a new rumor
Decades ago, some parks chose to control biting flies through various means to enhance visitor enjoyment.
They wanted all the natural beauty of a park, but with less nature there.
Management activities like this are no longer compatible with the way we care for the parks and now we all have the opportunity to enjoy the results.
Depending on the success and public support we receive this year, the BPZs may be expanded next year.
We are testing this type of enhanced protection in Algonquin; however, there are many other parks where visitors can suggest new BPZs.
Nominate a new area today!
Day of the Innocents!