During mid-June, the Lamp lab sampled an ambitious 125 locations for adult black flies throughout our area of interest in western Maryland, with some visits across the river into Virginia and West Virginia. Our sampling spots ranged from state forests to mall parking lots and suburban sidewalks. The large bug net gained us several odd stares, but swinging a net over someone's head is actually a standard sampling procedure. Luckily, residents were very happy to tell us about their gnat experiences once we explained what we were up to.
Several sites we visited had minimal to no flies. These included the majority of our paved locations, particularly those around Hagerstown and Frederick. In our experience flies were more abundant in rural and forested areas. Interestingly, the worst flies by far were found in a small forested lot north of Charles Town, West Virginia. Having forgotten our mosquito hats back at the lab, we were forced to be creative with our fly protection that day.
At each sampling site we also measured meteorological variables such as wind speed, temperature, humidity, and light intensity. These measurements will be used for our analysis later this year, as we are interested in both where the flies are and why they are only a problem in certain areas. The flies from our net will also be compared with the flies collected by resident volunteers, to confirm we are finding the same insects that are truly bothering people in the area. We will be out again sampling for adult flies in both July and August. Feel welcome to come say "hi" if you see us in your neighborhood.