Bugs & Nature Go Hand-in-Hand

How to enjoy one and deal with the other

Spring is in the air and so are ALL the pesky bugs. There’s no way around it, every spring they will emerge leaving you scratching all through the night.

I can’t speak for anywhere else, but Northern Ontario is home to a few pesky species that we have learned how to deal with over the years.


First let’s identify these species.

  1. Mosquitos–I think most people are aware of the pesky mosquito. Luckily these critters cause the most annoyance at dusk and dawn. However, if you’re deep in the woods come spring, you will undoubtedly find them amongst swamps, bogs, and standing water.
  2. Black Flies–I have heard a variety of names for them but they are by far my least favorite. They are a tiny nuisance that emerge in full force from May to June. Where we live, nowhere seems to be safe from these guys.
  3. Deer Flies–The camouflaged paper airplane is how my kids identify them. These silent fliers are at their worst here in July and August. They are out in the day and their bite has one heck of a sting.
  4. Horse Flies–These flies look like a giant housefly with transparent wings and are most active in June and July.

These are the top 4 that we deal with here in Northern Ontario. Depending on your geographical area, they may be better or worse or if you’re lucky, non existent. Now how do you coincide with these pesky critters?

Bug Spray

The tried and true method that will keep those mosquitos from biting is a DEET-based insect repellent. However, it is not suggested children under 12 should use repellent with a concentration of any more then 10% DEET. Infants under 6 months should avoid DEET altogether. There are many natural insect repellants mixed from essential oils available for children. You can find these now at many baby stores or online. You can even find an essential oils representative to help you. Look for anything with lemon eucalyptus. Keep in mind that most natural repellents are only effective for a short time so be sure to apply often. Unfortunately, we have not found a repellent that will keep the black flies at bay but many of these work great for the others.

Dress For it

Most bites can be avoided by wearing long sleeve shirts, hats and pants. Yes, this can be a warm solution but you pick your poison. It depends on the activity but if we are headed to the bush then this attire is non-debatable unless you want to look like you have acquired chickenpox. Even when we take the kids swimming at the lake, they will usually wear long-sleeve suits.

The best solution for most adventures in the bush is to invest in a bug suit. The ones we have are very thin and breathable. They are similar to a hoody with a hood and netting that zips around your face. It feels and looks ridiculous but it is a lifesaver. You can find them at most outdoor stores. It is also great because you can wear a light T-shirt underneath to avoid overheating. It will keep you safe from all of the above species. I have even been known to wear it gardening in the spring.

The bug suit is also my favorite solution for the kids if they will keep it on. Generally, they aren’t a fan until they can’t handle the constant bugs biting them and then they beg for it. Black flies are their own category of annoying as they will often land and then crawl and bite along the way. You often won’t feel them and they tend to crawl into your hairline biting and creating a mess of itchiness. We have learned over the years to tie up our hair to keep it off your neck. This helps to prevent the flies from harboring under your hair and biting. Hats are also a necessity!

Smoke and Wind

At our camp, we burn pine needles in the campfire to create smoke that works amazingly to keep the bugs at bay. You can also use a bundle of sage or rosemary. There are many safe, flammable products that can help keep the mosquitoes away from your camp including mosquito coils that are designed to burn slowly releasing a bug repellant incense. Obviously this isn’t something you can keep with you as you hunt but they are a great solution to use at your campsite. Citronella candles work well against mosquitos.

The wind is not a predictable solution but if you are able to, plan to be outside on a windy day. This also won’t generally work in the bush but this works wonder in our yard, at the beach, or our camp. The black flies don’t seem to be able to fly when there are is a good breeze, and is the same as most of the other pests.

Soothing the itch

No matter how many precautions you take, bug bites just go hand-in-hand with nature. They are inevitable so be prepared for the “after”. My favorite is Benadryl anti-itch cream. There is no sting to it and it works almost immediately. There are also many natural remedies including Plantain or baking soda with a bit of water to create a paste.

If you’re planning a trip North hopefully these tips will be helpful in preventing a few bug bites for yourself and your family.

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