Were government flies released to combat caterpillars?

My bug bites have bug bites. After four days in northwest Michigan near Traverse City, I’m home, inside, and enjoying the air conditioning. One thing is still bugging me, though. The story that my brother, Scott, told me about black flies. Word in the woods is that the flies, which land on you every 3 seconds this time of year, were released by the Michigan DNR (now DNRE) to control tent caterpillars.

Sounds like a rumor. But usually rumors start out as truths, if you get my drift. According to a posting on UpNorthLive, with a Traverse City dateline, there’s an increase in black flies this year due to an increase in caterpillars. Black flies eat caterpillar larvae.

Which makes you wonder, what’s causing the caterpillar population to grow? And would the DNRE admit to releasing black flies for caterpillar control if the project went haywire (as in, annoying the hell out of people)?

David Lemmien, a DNRE unit manager, says his Traverse City office has been getting lots of calls about the fly-caterpillar scandal, but the DNRE hasn’t released flies to manage the outbreak of forest tent caterpillars.

Let’s take David at his word. Other words in this story aren’t as believable, such as “In fact, the DNRE doesn’t even have the means to raise flies.” Really? That’s laughable. Anyone with a checkbook has a means.  The story also circulated in New York in 2007, though, so it seems pretty mythical.

And there is a way to control black flies — a tip that comes courtesy of the nice cashier at the Village Market in Alden. Rub a dryer sheet on your skin and they’ll stop landing on you. It works. Too bad you can’t rub sheets on trees.

— Image via  Fat Man of the Mountains.

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4 Responses to “Were government flies released to combat caterpillars?”

  1. John Covert Says:

    I think a little research is in order before posting something
    like this. The fly usually known as black goes thru an aquatic larval stage emerging as a winged adults. Adults
    seek a mammalian blood meal before reproducing. I was not
    able to establish any relationship with tent caterpillars. A gray fly , Sarcophaga aldrichi, does parasitze tent caterpillars but I don’t think it cares much for humans.
    This reminds me of the myth, currently circulating in UP
    coffee shops, that the DNRE is currently exterminating
    white tail deer to make way for a moose hunting season.
    Things are tough enough for the DNRE without all the
    ill-founded rumors.

  2. jeffkart Says:

    What research is the story missing? It’s a rumor. I was bitten up, though probably not by black flies. Follow the links, too.

  3. 2010 in review « Mr Great Lakes Says:

    […] Were government flies released to combat caterpillars? June 2010 2 comments […]

  4. h_smith Says:

    I recall this same exact rumor from the early 1990s when I traveled up North.


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