Memories, Oh Ja, Wobegon Trail

Deer Flies & Their Ways

We pay good money to watch horror movies, when all we have to do is step outside.

It’s such an innocent act, opening the screen door in the early months of summer to pick some rhubarb or light the grill.

In horror movies, when the next victim turns the cellar door handle or goes upstairs to investigate a suspicious noise, we know that carnage awaits.

Yet we Minnesotans think nothing of venturing outside during the months of May to July.

It’s almost as though, just as we accept the inevitability of seasonal sports and ice fishing, we also accept our deer fly fates. But there are ways to thwart them.

You may think, as others do, that I am unhinged about deer flies. But allow me to share what took me decades to learn so you, too, can evade the bloodsucking little dangits. 

Deer flies target their prey in swarms and will chase you down with the sole aim of feasting on the back of your head and neck.

Basic advice is to wear clothing that protects these areas and (obviously) use bug spray on exposed skin.

When outdoors from May to July, try walking next to someone taller. Deer flies are attracted to the highest moving object and will settle on your tall companion instead of you. Remember, even though you’re a Minnesotan, you don’t always have to be the nice one. Save yourself!

If you are a tall person, be aware of this sly deer fly tip so you can take extra precautions, like those in the videos below.

Deer flies like the color blue so it should be avoided when outdoors. No one told we little Hilsgen girls about this back in the 60s and 70s when we chose our summer swimsuits at JCPenney. No wonder my younger sister and I, who loved bright blue, believed that swarming hordes of deer flies singled us out at all those campgrounds, lakes, and swimming pools. People knew about the color blue and no one breathed a word. I hold a grudge about this.

(There are other reasons to be wary of the color blue when choosing swimming attire. It is true that sometimes ignorance is bliss.)

Deer flies can recognize you. You can run inside and hide behind the screen door but as soon as you step out they will come for you. I knew, just knew, they had this ability but when I voiced my suspicion my father scoffed and said “they don’t care whose blood they suck, yours isn’t special”. It gives me no pleasure that deer fly studies have proven him wrong.

The Bucket of Death: weapon of mass deer fly destruction.

You can build fixed and mobile deer fly death traps using household materials.

Knowing this might have saved we little Hilsgen girls from many nightmare incidents. It’s too late for us, but follow the advice of experts in the videos to spare your own sweet children from the scissoring teeth of the Minnesota deer fly.

I especially like the Bucket of Death from

“Pick up a cheap blue bucket from the dollar store, cover it with Tree Tanglefoot, a sticky substance that’ll trap flies instantly, then wave the bucket in the air (this is the fun part) and watch the deer flies attach themselves firmly to the bucket and not you! Soon the area should be free of the pesky things and you can go about enjoying the great outdoors again.”


Singling out living creatures to ensure they experience a slow, horrific death would normally not sit right with me.

Common methods outlined in the videos trap deer flies in viscous poison spread on duct tape, empty beer cans, or blue objects, whereupon they helplessly beat their wings, unable to escape, for however long it takes to die.

If you are wearing one of these deer fly contraptions, you will feel the flapping of their little wings while mowing the lawn, taking a leisurely walk in nature, or cycling from Avon to Albany or anywhere along the Wobegon Trail. Ish.

But they have no empathy when targeting you, so spare none for them. Take comfort that you are reducing the deer fly population for the good of all, while accessorizing in that pretty deer fly blue.
Accessory innovation in deer fly blue.

In addition to deer flies, Minnesota summers are plagued by the bigger and equally voracious horse fly, chiggers, ticks and stinging hornets, black flies, and June bugs, but these all warrant their own posts, as do bats, leeches, bullheads, and swallows protecting their young.

We have much to look forward to here at

I still shudder when I think of ticks after once watching the school nurse pluck a white one engorged with blood from the belly button of a girl who foolishly didn’t check her navel after walking in the woods near Freeport. This is why ticks need their own post with special avoidance and monitoring advice and evidence-based YouTube videos.

Meanwhile, I have planned my autumn trip to small towns along the Wobegon Trail to avoid the insect seasons. I have packed no item of apparel that is deer fly blue, just in case, but might just buy materials to make that ultimate fire pit accessory, the Bucket of Death.

You can’t be too careful in Stearns County from May until late July, and right through the year.

Photos Christopher Brewer, istock; Annette Larsen, Facebook

2 thoughts on “Deer Flies & Their Ways”

  1. Lois Thielen says:

    My dad always said deer flies were afraid of being under a roof and by extension a hat brim. He always wore a ball cap or hat outside. I ducked into sheds when deer flies got too pesky. They always seemed panicky when they got trapped inside, not their usual arrogant self at all.

    1. Editor says:

      You’re right – I don’t recall ever seeing a deer fly inside!

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