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Boating Safety 101: How to Avoid Biting Lake Flies

Boating Safety 101: How to Avoid Biting Lake Flies

Boating is a popular recreational activity among many people, especially during the summer months. However, it’s not always smooth sailing on the water. One of the biggest challenges boaters face is dealing with biting flies, which can be a major annoyance and even a safety hazard. In this article, we will discuss some tips and strategies for protecting yourself from biting lake flies while boating.

Understanding Lake Flies

Lake flies, also known as non-biting midges, are small, flying insects commonly found near bodies of water. They are often mistaken for mosquitoes, but unlike mosquitoes, they do not bite and do not transmit vector-borne diseases.

Lake flies are attracted to light, and they tend to swarm around boats, docks, and other structures near the water. They can be a nuisance for boaters and other water enthusiasts, but they do not pose a significant health risk.

Lake flies go through four stages of development: egg, larva, pupa, and adult. The eggs are laid in water, and the larvae feed on organic matter in the water. The pupae eventually emerge as adults, which live for only a few days.

Lake flies are an important part of the aquatic ecosystem, as they serve as a food source for fish and other aquatic animals. However, their swarms can be a nuisance for humans, and they can also create a mess on boats and other structures.

Identifying Biting Lake Flies

Biting lake flies can be a nuisance for boaters and beachgoers alike. These tiny insects can leave painful bites and cause itching and discomfort. It’s important to be able to identify the different types of biting lake flies so that you can take appropriate measures to protect yourself.


No-see-ums are tiny flies that are difficult to see with the naked eye. They are most active at dawn and dusk and can be found near bodies of water. No-see-ums can leave small, itchy bites that can become infected if scratched. Wearing long sleeves and pants and using insect repellent can help protect against no-see-ums.

Yellow Flies

Yellow flies are larger than no-see-ums and are most active during the day. They are attracted to movement and can be found near water and in wooded areas. Yellow flies can leave painful bites that can swell and become infected. Wearing light-colored clothing and using insect repellent can help protect against yellow flies.

Oak Leaf Gall Mites

Oak leaf gall mites are not technically flies, but they can cause painful bites similar to those of biting flies. These tiny mites drop down from oak trees and can be found on the upper body, including the head, neck, shoulders, and upper torso. Avoiding areas with oak trees and wearing long sleeves and pants can help protect against oak leaf gall mites.

The Importance of Boating Safety

Boating can be a fun and exciting activity, but it can also be dangerous if proper safety measures are not taken. It is important for boaters to understand the risks involved and take steps to protect themselves and their passengers from harm.

One of the most important safety measures is wearing a life jacket. Even strong swimmers can quickly become exhausted or injured in the water, making it difficult to stay afloat. The National Safe Boating Council promotes boating safety by encouraging boaters to wear life jackets any time they are on a boat, motorized or non-motorized.

In addition to wearing life jackets, boaters should also be aware of their surroundings and follow all boating regulations and laws. This includes understanding navigational lighting, speed limits, and right-of-way rules. Boaters should also be prepared for emergencies by carrying a first aid kit, flares, and a fire extinguisher on board.

Another important aspect of boating safety is understanding the weather and water conditions. Boaters should always check the weather forecast before heading out and be aware of any potential hazards such as strong winds or rough waters. It is also important to know how to properly handle the boat in different weather conditions.

Boating Safety Basics

When it comes to boating, safety should always be a top priority. Here are some basic boating safety tips to keep in mind before setting sail:

Required Safety Equipment

All boats are required to have certain safety equipment on board. The exact requirements may vary depending on the size and type of boat, as well as the local laws and regulations. However, some common safety equipment that should be on board include:

  • Life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) for everyone on board
  • A throwable flotation device
  • Visual distress signals (such as flares or flags)
  • Sound-producing devices (such as horns or whistles)
  • Fire extinguishers

Weather and Water Conditions

Before heading out on the water, it’s important to check the weather forecast and water conditions. High winds, rough waters, and storms can all pose a danger to boaters. If the conditions are not safe, it’s best to postpone the trip.

Navigation and Rules of the Road

Just like on the road, boats have their own set of rules and regulations that must be followed. Boaters should be familiar with the navigation rules and understand how to read nautical charts. They should also be aware of the rules of the road, such as yielding to larger vessels and maintaining a safe speed.

Safe Boating Practices

In addition to the required safety equipment and knowledge of navigation rules, there are some general safe boating practices that all boaters should follow. These include:

  • Never boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Keeping a lookout for other boats, swimmers, and obstacles in the water
  • Avoiding distractions such as cell phones or loud music
  • Maintaining a safe speed and distance from other boats and objects in the water
  • Staying alert and aware of changing conditions

Protective Measures Against Lake Flies

When boating on a lake, it is important to be aware of the presence of biting lake flies. These pesky insects can quickly ruin a day on the water, so it is essential to take measures to protect yourself and your passengers. Here are some protective measures to consider:

  • Wear protective clothing: Wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, and hats can help reduce the amount of exposed skin and make it more difficult for flies to bite. Light-colored clothing can also be helpful as it tends to attract fewer insects.
  • Use insect repellent: Applying insect repellent to exposed skin can be an effective way to ward off biting flies. Look for products that contain DEET or picaridin, as these ingredients have been shown to be effective against a variety of insects.
  • Install screens: Installing screens on windows and doors of your boat can help keep flies out while still allowing for ventilation. You can also use mesh netting to cover open areas of your boat, such as the cockpit or bow.
  • Use fly traps: There are a variety of fly traps available on the market that can help reduce the number of flies in your immediate area. These traps use a variety of methods, including sticky paper, UV light, and pheromones, to attract and trap flies.
  • Avoid peak fly activity times: Lake flies are most active during the early morning and late afternoon, so it may be best to plan your boating activities for midday when fly activity is typically lower.

Choosing the Right Protective Gear

When it comes to boating safety, it’s not just about wearing a life jacket. Protecting yourself from biting lake flies is just as important. Here’s how to choose the right protective gear:


Wearing the right clothing is crucial. Long-sleeved shirts and pants made of lightweight, breathable fabric can help protect your skin from insect bites. Avoid dark colors, as they tend to attract bugs. Instead, opt for light-colored clothing. Tucking your pants into your socks and wearing a hat with a wide brim can also help keep bugs away from your face and neck.

Insect Repellent

Insect repellent is another important tool in protecting yourself from biting lake flies. Look for a repellent that contains DEET, which is effective against a wide range of insects. Be sure to apply the repellent to all exposed skin, including your face and neck. Avoid applying repellent to your hands, as it can be transferred to your eyes or mouth.

Protective Netting

If you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the water, consider investing in protective netting. Mosquito netting can be attached to hats, clothing, or even the sides of your boat to create a barrier between you and the bugs. Be sure to choose netting with a small enough mesh to keep out even the smallest insects.

Other Protective Measures

In addition to clothing, insect repellent, and netting, there are a few other protective measures you can take. For example, consider using a fan to create a breeze, as bugs have a harder time flying in windy conditions. You can also try using citronella candles or other insect-repelling devices to keep bugs at bay.

By choosing the right protective gear, you can enjoy your time on the water without worrying about biting lake flies. Remember to always wear a life jacket and follow other boating safety guidelines to stay safe and have fun.

Maintaining Your Protective Gear

Protective gear is essential when it comes to protecting yourself from biting lake flies while boating. However, it’s equally important to maintain your protective gear to ensure its effectiveness. Here are some tips for maintaining your protective gear:

  • Wash your clothing regularly: Sweat and dirt can accumulate on your clothing, reducing its effectiveness. It’s important to wash your clothing regularly, preferably after every use, to remove any dirt, sweat, or other contaminants that may have accumulated on it.
  • Inspect your clothing before use: Before using your protective clothing, inspect it for any holes, tears, or other damage that may have occurred during storage or washing. If you notice any damage, repair or replace the clothing as necessary.
  • Store your clothing properly: Store your protective clothing in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Exposure to sunlight can weaken the fabric and reduce its effectiveness.
  • Replace worn-out clothing: Over time, protective clothing can become worn out and lose its effectiveness. It’s important to replace your protective clothing when it becomes worn out to ensure that you’re adequately protected.
  • Check expiration dates: Some protective gear, such as insect repellents, have expiration dates. It’s important to check the expiration date on your protective gear and replace it if necessary.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Boating can be a fun and exciting activity, but it also comes with inherent risks. One of those risks is being bitten by biting lake flies, which can cause discomfort and even serious health issues. It’s important to know when to seek medical attention if you or someone you know has been bitten.

If you experience severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, swelling around the bite site, vomiting, or spasms, seek medical attention immediately. These symptoms could indicate a severe allergic reaction, which can be life-threatening if left untreated.

It’s also important to seek medical attention if you develop a fever or other signs of infection after being bitten. Infection can occur if bacteria from the fly’s mouth or the surrounding environment enters the wound. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, warmth, and pus or other discharge from the wound.

If you’re not sure whether you need medical attention, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and seek advice from a healthcare professional. They can assess your symptoms and determine the best course of treatment.

In general, it’s a good idea to clean the bite site with soap and water and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling and pain. Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen can also help alleviate discomfort. However, if you experience severe symptoms or signs of infection, don’t hesitate to seek medical attention.


In summary, protecting oneself from biting lake flies while boating is crucial for a safe and enjoyable experience on the water. By following the tips and strategies outlined in this article, boaters can minimize the risk of being bitten by these pesky insects.