Each year, Washington County in Maryland is inundated with insects called the Black Fly, which bite residents and drive away tourists. New aerial spraying, however, has greatly reduced their numbers giving locals some much needed relief.
Linda Ebersole says that unless you live near the Potomac River, you can’t possibly understand the horror of black-fly season. Ebersole, a resident of Knoxville in Washington County, says the black flies, also known as “buffalo gnats,” are a torment each summer.
“If you haven’t lived with them, you can’t possibly understand,” Ebersole told the Washington Board of County Commissioners at a meeting in Keedysville. “They bite. If you haven’t experienced them, you can’t understand.”
Ebersole and Rohrersville resident Judy Warner were asking the commissioners for help at their annual meeting in Keedysville.
The two women are planning to appear before the Maryland General Assembly to ask the state to spray again next year for black flies over the Potomac River in South County.
Under the Black Fly Suppression Pilot Program, established by the General Assembly in 2016, the Maryland Department of Agriculture and the Department of Natural Resources began spraying for black flies last August. The spray, a Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis-based larvicide, was applied using a helicopter, according to the Department of Agriculture website.
In May, Maryland covered two sections of the Potomac River near Williamsport and from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to Brunswick, Md. The Washington County delegation sponsored the bill to rid the area of the bothersome black flies. Gov. Larry Hogan had allocated $200,000 for the pilot project.
Warner said that the spraying has been largely successful, reducing the number of flies this year.
“We’ve had four treatments this year,” she said. “It worked pretty well. It didn’t work perfectly, but when it started, we noticed (there were fewer flies).”
The women want the treatments to be scheduled next year.
“They really make everybody’s lives miserable,” Warner said.
Commissioner Wayne Keefer said the black flies have had a negative impact on tourism in parts of South County, so he to use funds from the county’s hotel-motel tax to fight the Black Fly problem.
Commissioners President Terry Baker asked the women to keep the board updated on their plans to testify before the General Assembly.
Warner said they will enlist help from the Frederick County (Md.) delegation, since black flies also affect the Monocacy River in Frederick, Md.