I am a northern Minnesota deer fly. I live in the northland almost all summer long. I have been here a long time. A time even before humans stumbled across the landscape.
I belong to the insect genus called Tabanidae. I am described as having green stripes across my eyes, a shiny green body and I'm recognized for my knife-like mandibles. The females among us tend to want to feed on blood. The males like to eat plant pollen. Our natural enemies include dragonflies, hornets and sometimes a bird called a killdeer. I've somehow avoided most of them during my peak time of year.
Those who have lived in the Northland for sometime know me. They know that when the hot winds of late June and July waft across the boreal forest, I will come alive. Dormant during the cold weather months, the increasing warmth of the summer sun sets me free. I start slowly, but finish with a flourish in mid-August.
When mature, the females of my family start looking for a blood meal. We are called deer flies for a reason. The whitetails that inhabit our bit of the north woods are our first target. The heat of their bodies and the flicking of their ears and white tails attract us. We love the color white. We can fly at the speed of forty-five miles-an-hour and no deer can outrun us. Their only hope it to dive into a pond of water or a lake to keep us at bay. The deer that we have targeted have been known to swim from one shore to another just to avoid our bites.
We used to have the woods of the north to ourselves. We only fed on the creatures that were natural to the area. That was before humans arrived on the scene. Unknown to those first travelers to the area, we were waiting in the forest for the next fine dining meal. The native Indian people simply moved to the points and open areas of the lakes and lit fires that smouldered daylong to keep us at bay. They slathered themselves in bear grease and other natural salves to keep us from draining them dry, and for the most part that worked.
We deer flies have evolved since then. Although we still retain our green-striped eyes and knife-like mandibles, we have found an easier target. They are called tourists and newcomers to the forested areas of our land.
Without a thought, these fine folks toss a canoe or a kayak into a river or lake and are excited to take that float down the river or the paddle across the lake to a hidden island. They have usually packed a lunch and if the weather is summer warm, they are usually wearing a tank top and a pair of shorts. Just the kind of attire we like.
Our flight plan is not to threaten these water journeyers as they revel in the crystal blue water of a northern Minnesota lake or a river that winds its way to the Mississippi. No, we wait on the shoreline, in the bushes and overhanging trees, for we know sooner or later one of those parties will choose a place to enjoy a picnic among the pines.
We usually let them set up camp and light the fire before we start to buzz around their heads. At first there is just a mild swinging of the arms to deflect our early sorties. As time passes, the waving becomes more frantic and soon we can see our visitors breaking off branches and flailing through the air to dismiss our engagement.
Since our very survival is based on securing a blood meal for our progeny, we don't give up. As the traveling party rushes back to their canoes or kayaks, we follow in numbers too high to count. We don't quit there. We will follow these easy meals all the way back to their cars in the parking lot and the last of us will be dispatched inside the vehicle on the way back home. It's been know that those attacked have actually left their picnic lunch on the shore to be devoured by a night raiding raccoon.
We deer flies have no honor in who we bite.We bite politicians, mothers of the young, macho men who would bow to no one and to anything that moves through the timber in July. We've been know to send some folks to the hospital suffering from our bite.
We are deer flies. If you venture into our domain in the Northwoods anytime in July, you'll come to know us well. We will crawl back into our off-season phase in early August and you'll barely know that we are there, waiting for the next summer.
But, those of you who have experienced us will be sure to remember us. I am a part of the north country landscape. I am a deerfly.