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Boreal Community Media

My turn - Black Flies: An essay by local author and writer John Bragstad

Jun 13, 2023 11:16AM ● By Content Editor
Photo: Michaela Kranich

By local author and writer John Bragstad for Boreal Community Media - June 13, 2023

There are new visitors to the Canoe Country. One can hardly 
meet some friends without talking about them. Perplexed, we try 
out secret recipes. We rely on the old ones.  

Here’s a verse to name them, complain (a little), and remember
what makes their invasion worthwhile for those of us who live
here. And perhaps a bit of perspective.

‘There’s so much about your species that I admire—your tenacity,
for one thing. Not every bug has been around since Jurassic
times. And your diversity—over 1,200 known Simuliidae species
in the world. 

And I can’t get over your immature stages, either. How many
larvae, for instance, could figure out how to stick to a rock at the
lip of a waterfall” Doug Currie / curator of entomology with the Royal
Ontario Museum’s Department of Natural History 


Wicked black 
They arise from running rapid, 
Bubbles bursting into sunlight.

Crazy fever in daylight hours. 
Wind’s stillness, their manic hours.

The wilderness a carnival, 
humankind a playground 
to torment, to steal from.

What recourse to throw against them? 
What turns the battle?  
Mosquitos mix in, legions. 
They whine. The black fly targets.
The torment ends with Cutters, 
with Deep Wood Off? No. 
Some make peace with Essential Oils. They take refuge in citronella but 
Only small victories.

Some relinquish, give up the garden, The welcoming warmth,  
the breezes of early June, 
the moon’s drift across the open sky.

And some say, after the repetitious rhyme 
of the years, never bother. Take it and give
in to curses and miserable company.

Spring teases us. We hold on. 
Dank cold ever presses, and  
cloud becomes our cover. 
Finally, a finish line only 
To begin again.

Life in the North isn’t easy, 
Unrelenting, but it holds  
so many rewards.

We don’t have 
Sharks in our waters.
And we think on,  
to no-see-ums, 
and bees trapped  
between the thwarts  
of our portaged canoes.

About the author

John A. Bragstad has been a therapist, working with couples and individuals, for 25 years. He is self-published and is enjoying retirement. Lake Superior is just off his front porch.

He has written three books: Compass Season, Loon Laughter at Midnight, and Who's Watching Whoo? They are available in Grand Marais at Drury Lane and Lake Superior Trading Post, or at

Related: Meet your Boreal Community Media Freelance Journalist: John Bragstad

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