Deer flies. I can't stand them. They've been very bad this year, and have driven me from running on the trails to running on the roads. Bug spray is ineffective, even with high concentrations of DEET. I think that stuff just makes the little buggers laugh.
I've also tried the dryer sheet method, which consists of pinning a fabric softener sheet to your hat and it's supposed to repel them. Not much luck there either. It might have worked some, and I'm willing to experiment more with it, but the one time I tried it I wasn't impressed with the results.
There has to be another way, and I think I found something that could possibly work. I was willing to give it a try, even if it meant looking like an idiot.
ResearchI googled around, and the research I found on thwarting deer flies was few and far between. Most articles had a defeatist attitude, saying nothing could really be done. However, one piece of information surfaced that appeared to be somewhat of a gem:
Worth noting that since it came from the University of Florida, it was obviously reputable. The school is the birthplace of Gatorade, national champions in football and basketball, is located in my hometown of Gainesville, and is also where I earned my Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications back in 1997. Go Gators!
But I digress.
To paraphrase, Dr. Mizell's article says that deer flies are attracted to bright blue and typically attack the highest point on a moving target (7 mph is optimal). The obvious variable here is that Florida and Maine are two different places, and we could have two different species of deer flies. However, the information seemed pretty consistent, so it was worth a shot.
The HatThe article showed a hat with a blue cup attached to the top, but it didn't say much more about it. It's possible the author could have been joking, but in theory, it could work. Here's the picture from the article:
Looked good. To make mine, I punched holes along the rim of the cup and wove twine through the holes and the rivets on the top of my hat:
The next step was to coat the cup with a sticky substance that would trap the deer flies if they landed. However, a trip to the hardware store for the "Tanglefoot" mentioned in the article or a similar insect goo was unsuccessful. I decided to try my luck with clear packing tape folded over with the sticky side out.
I conducted the experiment along a section of logging road near my house that I've come to refer to as "the gauntlet". The deer flies are traditionally extremely bad during this quarter mile section, and you must run through it in order to get to the single-track that leads into darker woods where the flies are less.
Unfortunately, conditions weren't ideal. It was hot (83 degrees), but the humidity was low and a very strong wind was blowing. Those last two factors would really hinder the experiment, especially the wind.
I donned the blue-cup hat and began running. The flies were indeed out, but in small numbers. Looking at my own shadow, I could see their shadows as they buzzed around my head. They appeared to take to the cup, since they like to attack the highest point, and that minimized them flying around my face. I mused that this at least raised the attack zone (see diagram below).
I ran down the trail and back twice, and anxiously took off my hat to see if any deers had stuck to the tape which blanketed the cup. None. This could be because the tape isn't sticky enough, and/or the fact that the flies weren't too aggressive because of the weather.
Conditions weren't ideal for experimentation today, so I'll have to try it again when the wind isn't as great and it's more humid out. The raised attack zone as observed from the shadows was interesting. It didn't totally prevent them from flying into my face, but it did seemingly lessen them somewhat.
Next time I may try adding a thin coating of maple syrup and let it dry out a bit on top of the tape to make it more sticky, just to be sure. Trapping even a few of those buggers would be considered a big success, in addition to raising the attack zone. I'll do another post after round two.
And no, I won't be wearing this at the Vermont 100 this weekend.