Black Flies in New England

Protect Your Home or Business From Black Flies in Boston, MA, CT, RI, ME, NH, and VT

Black flies, commonly called buffalo or turkey gnats, are small biting insects found throughout New England. These flies attack livestock and can also become a major annoyance to residents.

Small in size, the pests are attracted to dark colors and the carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and animals.

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Appearance & Identification

Though their name would suggest that these pests are totally black, this is not always true. Sometimes, black flies can actually be shades of gray, tan, and even yellow. The insects are usually only a fraction of an inch long.

Other distinguishing features include:

  • Robust bodies with an arched or humped thorax.
  • Large compound eyes.
  • Short antennae and a single pair of fan-shaped wings.


Black flies live near moving water such as streams or rivers. The pests often live in and around pastures and neighborhoods near these types of waterways.


Both males and females primarily feed on nectar, though female black flies need blood meals in order to create viable eggs.


These insects only breed in running water and lay eggs on vegetation floating on the surface. Once eggs hatch, the larvae inside attach to immersed rocks, leaves, or other objects. They feed on tiny organic matter that floats by.

Black fly larvae then pupate underwater until they are ready to emerge. The young adults ride bubbles of air to the surface, and then fly away.

Black flies either overwinter in the egg or larval stage. They then hatch and begin their life cycle once the temperatures of the streams and creeks rise in the spring.

Problems Caused by Black Flies

Black flies can be a nuisance, as they tend to swarm and bite, especially when females are ready to lay their eggs. Most species will just fly and crawl around the eyes, ears, and mouth, which can quickly become annoying. Others bite humans to take a blood meal, causing localized swelling or transmitting diseases like black fly fever.

Homeowners with livestock see other problems. The pests swarm and attack horses, cows, and sheep. During these assaults, black flies can spread a variety of bacteria, viruses, and parasites such as nematodes.

In large enough numbers, black flies can suffocate animals by clogging their airways, and in extreme cases, cause livestock to go into toxic shock or die from blood loss.

Signs of Infestation

Black flies are more noticeable during the daylight hours, when they feed. The most likely sign of infestation is seeing the pests swarm.

Need Help with Pests?
Contact Waltham Services Now!


Keeping black flies away without professional help can be difficult. Since the pests thrive in clean, running water, the streams and brooks of New England are perfect breeding grounds.

In order to avoid accidentally polluting drinking water with chemical controls and sprays, contact the trained experts at Waltham Services.

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