They breed and hatch near water sources. They're itchy, they're annoying and if you hike around New York, they swirl around you in swarms.

They're black flies, also known as buffalo gnats, and they're about to be in season.

The black flies I'm talking about aren't the giant fruit flies you see in your kitchen when you think of the word "flies." These are tiny, gnat-like insects.

Where and When Black Flies Arrive in Upstate New York

The black flies tend to arrive in late spring, typically in late April or early May. For hikers enjoying New York trails, these bugs can be the absolute bane of their existence for the weeks when the buffalo gnats are hatching in force.

READ MORE: 5 Hardest Hikes in the Hudson Valley

This nuisance isn't limited to hikers. Anyone enjoying the outdoors in New York, particularly near streams, creeks, lakes or rivers, has to deal with these swarms.

This video from captures the persistence of black flies in hilarious fashion.

These flies tend to gather with their buddies and swarm around your head and, yes, they bite. (According to WebMD, the blood sucking is part of their reproductive cycle. Lovely.)

While these flies aren't limited to New York, all of our beautiful water resources near our parks and trailheads make us particularly susceptible to these little guys.

How to Keep Black Flies Away

So how can you keep the black flies at bay? Sure, you can use insect repellent but the harsh chemicals can be a turnoff for many and the natural versions can be ineffective.

What I've found to be the only way to not lose my mind when hiking during black fly season is pretty simple: wear bug netting. Sure, you'll look ridiculous, but you'll be comfortable.

The 29 Most Interesting Hikes In and Around the Hudson Valley

We've made a list of the most interesting hikes in and around the Hudson Valley. This list features hikes with various features: mountains, cliffs, waterfalls, unique areas, and fire towers.

Gallery Credit: Thomas Etzkorn

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