Thanks so much to Tim for the tip on this video.  Hilarious!  I especially like the way in which the black flies even attack the National Film Board Logo.  Make sure you watch to the end so you don’t miss the soft shoe bit.

From the video: “The black fly song was written in 1949 by Wade Hemsworth after working in the north woods of Ontario, Canada.”  The recording is of Mr. Hemsworth and the McGarrigle sisters.

“‘Twas early in the spring when I decide to go
For to work up in the woods in North Ontar-i-o;
And the unemployment office said they’d send me through
To the Little Abitibi with the survey crew
And the black flies, the little black flies,
Always the black fly no matter where you go;
I’ll die with the black fly a-pickin’ my bones,
In North Ontar-i-o-i-o, in North Ontar-i-o.”

Posted by Gwen Pearson

Writer. Nerd. Insect Evangelist. Have you heard the good news? BUGS!


  1. And the black flies, the little black flies,
    always the black fly no matter where you go,
    I’ll die with the black fly picking my bones,
    In North Ontario, i-o,
    In North Ontar-i-o.

    In North Wisconsin too. Anywhere in da Nortdwoods really.

  2. Oh ya, ain’t dat da truth, eh?

  3. Glad you liked it. I first heard this song when a local guitarist sang it in a restaurant/bar downtown, probably 15 years ago. Ever since, I haven’t been able to resist singing the refrain whenever attacked by black flies (which is frequently). But I didn’t see the video until a couple of years ago, when The National Film Board of Canada started making at least some of their films viewable online for free.

    They’ve got “Rise and Fall of the Great Lakes”, too.

  4. Wonderful song. I wish I’d known about it when I was teaching Med-Vet Ent. My wife tells me it used to be shown as filler on Canadian TV to help make the ‘Canadian content’ quota. That’s a gas too.

    The McGarrigles are/were great musicians. I was sad when Kate died last year and I’m not sure what Anna is doing. The Wainwrights carry on the tradition in a somewhat different way.

  5. Yep… they used to toss this one in between cartoons on a Saturday morning when I was growing up. The NFB had a bunch of these little cartoons, the blackflies being a fav. “The Cat Came Back” and “The Log Drivers Waltz” were also tossed in there for good measure.

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