Collecting Black Flies for Fun in Maine
ALEX CHADWICK, host:
This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.
MADELEINE BRAND, host:
And I'm Madeleine Brand. A warm, wet spring in New England has brought out swarms of black flies. For weekend picnickers, the biting flies are quite annoying, but for tongue-in-cheek Black Fly Breeders Association, they're tiny, winged cash cows. Charlotte Albright reports from Machias, Maine.
CHARLOTTE ALBRIGHT reporting:
It's a windless cool day in this coastal town in the heart of blueberry country. Perfect weather for black fly breeding. Holly Garner Jackson, a founder of the Breeders Association, says the winged insects are a sign of environmental health because they favor clear, clean running water. The males helpfully pollinate blueberries. The females, she concedes, need human help to nourish their young.
Ms. HOLLY GARNER JACKSON (Founder, Maine Black Fly Breeders Association): When a female black fly bites, she doesn't - it's not like a stinger from a mosquito. What they do is they actually tear out a chunk of flesh and then drink from the pool of blood.
ALBRIGHT: The Black Fly Breeders Association is, in fact, a local charity that sells t-shirts and matchbox sized black fly houses via its website, maineblackfly.com. Last year, a veterinary lab in Arizona bit the bait and asked members to collect a hundred grams of dead specimens for about a buck a gram. Breeders, not killers, the association had to find a hit man.
Mr. WILLIAM "BIMBO" LOOK: Bimbo Look, a black fly hater.
ALBRIGHT: A burly truck driver William "Bimbo" Look figures he's been recruited from behind enemy lines.
Mr. LOOK: The only reason that they're sucking up to me is because I've got my zappers and they collect the specimens out of my zappers and they stay in good standing with me.
ALBRIGHT: Look's zapper is a silent but lethal propane fueled trap that lures the black flies, barbecues them, and conveniently drops them into a little box.
Unidentified woman: Bimbo's going to fire up his magna here.
Mr. LOOK: We're going to get them.
ALBRIGHT: On this execution day, three breeders follow Look and his deadly weapon to a huge swarm along a riverbank. The breeders don't swat, it's against the bylaws. They wait for the trap to fill up. Board members Marilyn Dawling and Jim Wells say if the propane runs out human bait might work.
Ms. MARILYN DAWLING (Black Fly Breeders Association): Black flies love tourists.
Mr. JIM WELLS (Black Fly Breeders Association): Mm-hmm.
Ms. DAWLING: Every once in awhile we have to snatch a tourist and sacrifice them.
Mr. WELLS: Mm-hmm. Yeah. They, in fact, some of the black flies have been known to say send us more tourists, the last ones we had were delicious.
ALBRIGHT: And they need more tourists, because Bimbo Look's trap isn't working. So visitors to Maine might want to watch their backs and their ankles, because the group still lives by its motto, may the swarm be with you. For NPR News, I'm Charlotte Alright.
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