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Where Have All the Greenheads Gone? SCRATCH THAT!!!

Reports are in from local residents. Greenheads are here! Despite the newspaper's recent article (see below) we are experiencing annoying greenhead encounters. Check the Trustee's daily condition report before visiting the beach.

Trustees of Reservations Crane Beach Report:
Thursday, 8/6, 10:15 am. It is greenhead season and no refunds will be given. Yesterday, greenheads were on the beachfront. In our opinion, they were light to moderate. They are the worst at the main gate and in the parking lot. Greenhead season usually runs from mid July through the first week in August. Greenheads are most prevalent at the front gate and in the parking lot. Greenheads are also most active in the morning from 9:30 - 11:00 and again later in the afternoon from 3 - 5. Greenheads are less active in the middle of the day. Avon Skin-so-Soft, sold at the Snack Bar, has been found to be helpful as a deterrent for greenheads.

Where have all the greenheads gone?

Wed Jul 29, 2009, 12:00 PM EDT

Ipswich -

The late July air is usually filled with the slow, fat greenhead's buzz, the slap! of hand on skin swatting the voracious flies to crumpled heaps and unprintable exclamations as yet another fly hits home with its bite.

This year? Silence. No buzz. No swats. No expletives.

The bane of the North Shore summer, the greenhead fly, has seemingly disappeared.

Normally, gatekeepers at Crane's Beach put up a warning sign during greenhead season that reads: "Greenhead season. No refunds." Sometimes they even draw greenheads on the board, rating the severity of the flies whose bites can leave welts the size of a European principality. One fly -- not so bad. Up to five flies -- don't even roll down the car window to pay.

This year the Crane gatekeepers have put out the sign just once.

"I've been here since 1977," said Peter Pinciaro, the Trustees of Reservations general manager for the beach and the Crane estate. "This year sets the standard for lack of greenheads. It's got us scratching our heads."

Walter Montgomery, director of Northeast Massachusetts Mosquito Control -- his department puts out the black box greenhead traps -- agrees. There simply aren't many greenheads around this year. But even he isn't exactly sure why.

Montgomery does have two, or maybe two and a half, theories as to why the greenhead has all but disappeared this year.

Unfortunately none of the theories involve a permanent reduction in greenhead populations.

Theory No. 1 says the lack of greenheads is merely the result of a natural cycle.

Theory No. 2 says the cold, wet June disrupted the greenhead life cycle, which could either mean the pests have merely been delayed this year or they died before they could mature due to the weather.

Theory No. 2 1/2 is combination of the first two.

Montgomery rules out one reason: The tides.

Though the greenheads generally last between the full moons of July and August, their life cycle has nothing to do with high or low tides, said Montgomery.

"It's just their natural life cycle," he said.

The female greenhead lays eggs in the top of salt marsh grass.

"They hatch, move down and then burrow 8 inches into the ground and come out the following season," said Montgomery. "Typically, that's what happens."

But the cold, wet June may have prevented the flies from maturing this year, killing them before their first bite.

The lack of greenheads won't affect other species, such as bird populations, which feed on them, Montgomery said.

"There's plenty of other things for birds to eat," he said.

"Almost all insect species go through cycles," said Montgomery. "They build and build and build and then suddenly drop. This could be a combination of the cold, wet spring and it being a low cycle of the population."

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