The Star-Herald

Black flies mean nature is restored

Nature has its own ideas of restoring order. Sometimes that reaction can take a few decades to be visible. But when it happens it can bite. It is often the bite that can be misunderstood. 

Such is the case with the bug known as a black fly. What used to be a bane of late summer is now a full summer of swat, swear, and sweat. These creatures join the legion of biting bugs sucking the fun from summer sun. This reality, according to recent published reports, is due to the determination of environmental scientists to restore the natural beauty of our wild woods and waters.

Talk to a few of the proud elders of this community and one will hear the tales of fires in the Presque Isle stream, foam on the water, and the fire department doing hose drills in the river bed to wash down the muck and goo from sewage, industrial waste, and other materials dumped in waterways to remove it. It stank. That was only 50 years ago. Then came the regret. Legislation was written, signed into law and bureaucracy created. The attack on muck began. The goal: bring nature back. Success can suck at times.

The title for this column, “Bug Guts and Beauty,” came from my niece, the fashion designer. When my sister borrowed my niece’s car for a visit home one year, my niece told her not to bring it back with bug guts on the windshield. Beautiful sister, beautiful niece, and column title inspired. 

Living up here and trekking down a country road renders a great bedecking of windshields. Just ask the car wash crew next time you take the limo out for a jaunt in the countryside. Bugs on the windshield, gumming up the wipers. A bath under the jets and cloth brushes, and goodbye bug guts. Beauty shines.

An entomological connoisseur would opine on the variety of bugs and where one visited. Predominant species now present are the black flies from the family called Simuliidae. They leave in moving streams and only the females bite for blood. Males live on nectar. They are very good indicators of pollution problems in waterways. The more clean moving water, the more Simuliidae to bite the unsuspecting neck. Biting bugs are dangerous words, known to cause apoplexy in dowager doyennes of domesticity. They suck. Could we be misunderstanding Nature?

Our efforts to bring back the beauty of our woods and farmlands have succeeded beyond imagination. Our sacred rivers and streams are cleaner, brighter, and regaining the beauty our grandparents knew firsthand. The trout and salmon are thrilled. More food leads to more fish, partridge and other critters. Nature returns. 

So instead of thinking of these flies as blood-sucking fiends — they are — perhaps these are bugs filled with love. Love bugs who can only profess their profound joy at the restoration of healthy rivers and streams done by our own by having a hickey fit on our skin! Sometimes love bites. Nature is thanking us for bringing her back. Kiss and make up.

Orpheus Allison is a photojournalist living in The County who graduated from UMPI and earned a master of liberal arts degree from the University of North Carolina. He began his journalism career at WAGM television, later working in many different areas of the US. After 20 years of television he changed careers and taught in China and Korea.

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