You've been bitten by black flies and your skin is crawling... you're going crazy wanting to take your fingernails and scratch away -- but you hear Mom's voice in your head: "DON'T SCRATCH!"
Black flies don't carry disease, but leave behind bleeding skin and a painful, itchy bite that can sometimes get infected. The female black flies are the ones that bite, drawing blood they need for egg development.
Once the human or animal target is located, the black fly cuts a hole in the skin with its sharp mouthpart and draws the blood. What makes those bites itch so much is the anticoagulant in the black fly saliva, which makes the blood flow more freely.
If you are unfortunate enough to be bitten by black flies, here are steps you can take to minimize the itch:
1. Wash the area with soap and water.
2. Put a cool compress or ice cube over the bite to reduce swelling.
3. Apply any one of the following to the bite area:
- Benadryl ointment
- Baking soda and water, mixed into a paste
- Calamine lotion
- Hydrocortisone anti-itch cream such as Gold Bond
- Rubbing alcohol
- Witch hazel
- Apple cider vinegar
Yes, as Mom drilled into your brain, you should definitely avoid scratching or touching the affected area to prevent infection. The good news is the heavy black fly season is mercifully short -- about 3 weeks.