Blackfly Season in New England
New Englanders take a perverse pride in their blackflies — claiming them as their state “bird,” naming softball teams after them — but behind the bravado is a certain dread. As a birder, I note that blackflies return to our backyard almost to the day that barn swallows return to our barn. One is a favorite species; the other is endured with a sense that you can’t have one without the other.
Wildlife species — whether mammal, bird, or insect — hatch their young when their favored foods are most abundant. One of the earliest nesting birds, the great horned owl, for example, hatches its young when rapidly multiplying rabbits and mice are out and about. A few months later, when insects emerge, migrating birds return to begin their breeding season. Then as our summer bounty ripens, fruit-eating cedar waxwings hatch their young.
When we swat at blackflies or mosquitoes, or steer clear of wasps under house eaves, it’s easy to forget that human comfort isn’t the point. We’re just one part of a complex, interdependent system. Perhaps those blackflies pollinate the blueberry blossoms that produce the berries that attract elegant cedar waxwings to your backyard … a very pleasing silver lining.
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