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Deer flies

There are some big swarms of biting deer flies this year.

Usually when you go into the mountains or along rivers and lakes, mosquitoes are a problem. Yep, there are plenty of them this year, too. But the deer flies seem to be very aggressive.

Deer flies are about the size of a house fly. Unlike house flies, though, they have bands across their wings and colored eyes. Also unlike house flies, which are just annoying with their buzzing around, deer flies bite.

Only female deer flies bite. The males feed on flower nectar. Using their scissor-sharp mouth parts, a female deer fly makes a cut and drinks the blood from humans and animals. The flies can be so annoying that they will make cows and horses crowd together and not feed. Animals are also sometimes hurt when they try to run away from the annoying pests.

Don’t confuse deer flies with horse flies. Horse flies are much bigger, measuring about ¾ to 1 ¼ inches long. Unfortunately, they also bite but don’t seem as thick this year as the deer flies.

The best ways to avoid being bitten is to wear light-colored clothing that keeps your arms and legs covered. Fine mesh head nets will protect your face. They even make net hoodie-type jackets that cover the entire upper half of your body.

Chemical sprays or lotions containing a repellent like DEET can keep flies off, but a parent or adult should read the directions before applying them to youngsters and only use ones with 10% to 30% DEET. There’s also clothing that contains repellent chemicals. Although the government says such clothing is safe to wear, an adult or parent must make the decision of whether they want to expose their child to such chemicals.

— Brett French, french@billingsgazette.com

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