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Bug-Free Boating: Keep Lake Flies that Bite at Bay

Bug-Free Boating: Keep Lake Flies that Bite at Bay

Boating is a fun and exciting activity that many people enjoy during the warmer months. However, it can quickly become unpleasant when pesky lake flies start biting. These flies can cause itchy and painful welts, making it difficult to enjoy your time on the water. Fortunately, there are several ways to keep these bugs at bay and enjoy a bug-free boating experience.

Understanding Lake Flies

Lake flies are small, mosquito-like insects that can be found around lakes and ponds, especially along shorelines. They are also known as midges, chironomids, or non-biting gnats. Despite their name, lake flies are not actually flies, but rather aquatic insects that are an important food source for fish and reptiles.

Lake flies are not harmful to humans, but they can be a nuisance. They are attracted to light and can swarm around outdoor lights or other sources of light at night. They can also cling to surfaces such as houses, cars, and telephone poles, making outdoor surfaces look fuzzy.

Lake flies have a short life cycle, usually lasting only a few days. They hatch from eggs laid in the water and go through several stages of development before emerging as adults. During their adult stage, they mate and lay eggs before dying.

While lake flies do not bite, there are other biting insects that can be found around lakes and ponds, such as stable flies and mosquitoes. It is important to take measures to protect yourself from these insects as well.

Why Do Lake Flies Bite?

Lake flies, also known as biting midges or no-see-ums, are tiny insects that are notorious for their painful bites. These flies are usually found near lakes, ponds, and other bodies of water. While they are not harmful to humans, their bites can cause itching, swelling, and redness.

Lake flies are attracted to humans by the carbon dioxide we exhale, as well as our body heat and sweat. They are most active during dawn and dusk, and they tend to swarm in large numbers. Female lake flies require blood to reproduce, which is why they bite humans and other animals.

It is important to note that not all species of lake flies bite. Some species feed on nectar and other plant materials and do not pose a threat to humans. However, the species that do bite can be a nuisance for boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts.

To avoid being bitten by lake flies, it is recommended to wear long sleeves and pants, use insect repellent, and avoid being outdoors during dawn and dusk. Additionally, installing screens on windows and using light traps can help reduce the number of lake flies in and around your boat.

The Impact of Lake Flies on Boating

Lake flies, also known as Mayflies, are a common nuisance for boaters during their annual hatch. These flying aquatic insects usually hatch around Mother’s Day and live for only a few days. However, during their short lifespan, they can cause significant discomfort for boaters due to their biting behavior.

Unlike mosquitoes, which can feed through clothing, stable flies cannot. Therefore, wearing long pants and sleeves can help prevent bites. Additionally, minimizing outdoor lighting and keeping doors and windows closed or tightly screened can help keep them away.

Lake flies can also create visibility issues for boaters, especially during their swarming phase. Their sheer numbers can make it difficult to see and navigate the water. This can be dangerous, especially for those who are not familiar with the area or are inexperienced boaters.

Furthermore, the accumulation of dead lake flies on boats and docks can create an unpleasant odor and attract other pests, such as rodents and birds. Cleaning the affected areas regularly can help prevent this from happening.

Preventive Measures to Keep Lake Flies Away

When it comes to preventing lake flies from ruining your boating experience, there are a few measures that you can take. Here are some preventive measures that can help keep lake flies away:

  • Cover up: Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants can help prevent lake flies from biting exposed skin. Light-colored clothing can also be helpful, as it makes it easier to spot and remove any flies that do land on you.
  • Use insect repellent: Applying insect repellent that contains DEET or picaridin can help repel lake flies. Be sure to follow the instructions on the label and reapply as necessary.
  • Keep your boat clean: Lake flies are attracted to food and other organic matter, so keeping your boat clean can help prevent them from congregating on or around it. Be sure to dispose of any trash properly and clean up spills immediately.
  • Minimize outdoor lighting: Lake flies are attracted to light, so minimizing outdoor lighting can help keep them away from your boat. If you do need lighting, try using yellow or amber bulbs, as they are less attractive to insects.
  • Keep doors and windows closed: Keeping doors and windows closed or tightly screened can help prevent lake flies from entering your boat. Be sure to check screens for any holes or tears and repair them as necessary.

Bug-Free Boating Techniques

When it comes to enjoying a day out on the water, nothing can ruin the experience faster than being bothered by biting flies. Here are some techniques to help keep your boat bug-free:

  • Keep the boat clean: Regularly cleaning the boat and removing any food scraps or debris can help prevent bugs from being attracted to your vessel.
  • Use bug repellent: Applying bug spray or using a bug-repelling device, such as a Thermacell, can help keep biting flies at bay.
  • Cover up: Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants can help protect against bites from flies.
  • Use screens: Installing screens on windows and hatches can help prevent bugs from entering the boat.
  • Avoid cardboard: Bugs like to nest in cardboard, so it’s best to keep as much cardboard as possible off the boat.
  • Use mothballs: If you have a composting head, crushed mothballs or mothball flakes can serve as an effective bug deterrent.

Natural Repellents for Lake Flies

When it comes to keeping lake flies at bay, there are a variety of natural repellents that can be used. These repellents are not only effective, but they are also safe for the environment and for humans.

One natural repellent that can be used is citronella. Citronella is a plant that is known for its strong scent, which is effective at repelling insects. Citronella candles, oils, and plants can all be used to keep lake flies away.

Another natural repellent is essential oils. Essential oils like lavender, peppermint, and eucalyptus are known for their insect-repelling properties. These oils can be mixed with water and sprayed onto the skin or clothing to keep lake flies away.

Garlic is another natural repellent that can be used to keep lake flies at bay. Garlic contains a compound called allicin, which is known for its insect-repelling properties. Eating garlic or using garlic oil on the skin can help to keep lake flies away.

In addition to these natural repellents, there are also a variety of plants that can be used to keep lake flies away. Plants like marigolds, chrysanthemums, and lavender are all known for their insect-repelling properties.

Professional Solutions for Lake Fly Infestations

When it comes to dealing with a severe lake fly infestation, it may be necessary to turn to professional pest control services. Here are some options to consider:

1. Pesticide Spraying

Pesticide spraying is a common method used by pest control professionals to eliminate lake flies. They will use a specialized pesticide that is safe for aquatic life but deadly for insects. The pesticide is sprayed over the water, and the lake flies will die upon contact with the chemical.

2. Introduction of Predaceous Insects

Another method that pest control professionals may use is the introduction of predaceous insects into the pond. These insects are natural predators of lake flies and can help to reduce their population. However, this method may not be effective in all cases and may take some time to see results.

3. Light Traps

Light traps are another option that pest control professionals may use. These traps use light to attract and trap the lake flies. Once the flies are trapped, they will be unable to reproduce, which can help to reduce their population over time.

4. Reassess External Lighting

One way to prevent lake flies from infesting your boat is to reassess your external lighting. Lake flies are attracted to bright lights, so reducing the amount of light around your boat can help to keep them away. You can also consider using yellow or amber lights, which are less attractive to insects.

5. Window Screens

Installing window screens can also be an effective way to keep lake flies out of your boat. Make sure that the screens are tightly fitted and in good condition to prevent any gaps where insects can enter.

Maintaining a Bug-Free Boating Environment

Maintaining a bug-free boating environment is crucial to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience on the water. Bugs can be a nuisance and can even pose health risks, especially if they are biting insects. Here are some tips to keep your boat free from bugs:

  • Keep the boat clean: Bugs are attracted to food crumbs, spilled drinks, and other debris. Regularly clean all surfaces and remove any trash or leftover food. Pay special attention to areas like the galley, dining area, and storage compartments. Vacuum or sweep daily to get food crumbs off the floor. If you eat in the cockpit, clean it daily also.
  • Eliminate food for bugs: Clean up crumbs and galley spills. Wipe the stove area after cooking, once it has cooled. Keep food out of the trash cans and bags: Keep separate sealed containers for garbage (food scraps). Rinse meat wrappers and put in old Ziplocs.
  • Use bug repellents: There are various types of bug repellents available that can be used on the boat. Citronella candles, bug sprays, and bug zappers are some of the popular options. However, be mindful of the toxicity of the repellents and their impact on the environment.
  • Use bug screens: Install bug screens on windows, doors, and hatches to keep bugs out. This will allow fresh air to flow through the boat while keeping bugs at bay.
  • Seal the boat: Make sure all openings on the boat are sealed properly. This includes hatches, doors, and windows. Bugs can enter the boat through even the smallest openings, so it is important to seal them off.


Keeping biting flies at bay while boating on lakes can be a challenge, but there are several effective methods to prevent them from ruining your day on the water.