Wet conditions bring onslaught of mosquitoes, biting flies across Minnesota

Mosquito
Trapped mosquitoes are seen at the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District lab in St. Paul in 2013.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2013

After a relative reprieve from mosquitoes and biting flies due to drought conditions last summer, Minnesotans are facing an onslaught of those pesky insects this year.

Northern Minnesota's snowy winter and wet spring created excellent conditions for insects to proliferate.

Residents along parts of the North Shore say the mosquitoes so far are mostly tolerable; they fly slow, and a good breeze will scare them off. Rather, it's an epic crop of black flies that've causing the most headaches this season.

"I work outside 75 percent of the time in the summer so I can take it — but without a bug net it will literally drive you insane," said Tom Spence, a carpenter and photographer from Tofte.

Dave Cizmas is a Lake County forester who's been out in the woods repairing mountain bike trails.

"There's literally hundreds around your head," he said of the black flies, also called sand flies by some. "You know, I was looking down the trail to kind of look for some other damage, and I literally have to wave them out of the way in order to be to be able to see through them because they're so thick."

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Stores on the North Shore have had a hard time keeping bug nets in stock. And in other parts of northern Minnesota, mosquitoes are out in full force, too.

Susan Hill of Bloomington traveled north recently to go mountain biking along the North Shore. Along the trails, she said, "if we were to stop at any point on the trail, of the 21 miles that we rode, there would be a swarm of about 400-plus mosquitoes around our head." She referred to them as "personal trainers" — giving motivation, in their own buzzing way, for the group to keep riding.

Bug spray didn't help, Hill said. She also went rock climbing in Sandstone and cut that stop short because of the mosquitoes.

In the Twin Cities, officials with the Metropolitan Mosquito Control District told KARE 11 that mosquitoes are back in numbers above what was seen in 2021 — but not as much as in 2019 and 2020. Black flies are down in the metro compared to last year, KARE reported.

Whether mosquitoes or black flies — or both — are causing problems in various parts of Minnesota, Spence offered some advice for anyone hoping to get outdoors this summer.

"Cover your head, cover your sleeves, you'll get used to 'em," he said. "You still got to get outside. It's one of the most beautiful times of the year — you'll see the most wildlife, you'll catch the most fish. It's one of the tradeoffs."

And the silver lining, Spence said, is that wet, buggy years usually mean a bumper blueberry crop later in the summer.