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Black flies swarm northern Wisconsin this springSubmitted: 05/11/2016
Story By Stephanie Haines

Black flies swarm northern Wisconsin this spring
NORTHERN WISCONSIN - Many people come to the Northwoods this time of year to relax by fishing on a calm, quiet river or lake, but that's hard to do when you have flies constantly swarming your face.

Some people say the black flies are pretty bad this year.

Black flies come around every spring and live for only a few weeks. There are almost two dozen different species of them just in northern Wisconsin alone. That's why it may seem that they live a lot longer. 

The flies can become so aggressive that it impacts wildlife populations.

"If you have a year with a very large batch of black flies, they can get bad enough that they can make loons essentially abandon their nests for a period of time, and the birds may try nesting again a little while later," said Extension entomologist P.J. Liesch with the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "But if the black flies are bad, they can have a significant impact on bird populations."

Liesch said most black flies feed on birds, but they can also feed on other wildlife and humans too. He said there's no way to predict how bad they'll be from year to year. But they certainly thrive in fast-moving water sources.

"And so, in a way, black flies are a little bit of a good thing because they need very high-quality water sources to live in, rocky-bottom streams and the like," Liesch says. "If all our waters were polluted, we wouldn't have black flies, but we'd have polluted water, so it's kind of a trade-off."

This week was a little bit cooler, so fishermen said the flies weren't as bad, but last week when it was hot, they were swarming.

The wind can carry the flies miles away from water as well.

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