Dealing with biting insects

by Steve Galea | April 25, 2024
insects biting and swarming

I don’t know any outdoors person who professes a deep and abiding love of biting insects. They
ruin perfectly good outdoors experiences quicker than a hungry bear at a campsite. Here a quick
rundown of the worst offenders and how to deal with them:

Mosquitoes

a mosquito

Active period: May to September, worst at dawn and dusk, or in the shade. They hatch in standing water, including hollowed-out logs, stagnant pools, marshes, puddles, ponds or lakes. Adults live within several kilometres of water.

Blackflies

a blackfly

Active period: April to June. Most active during the day (especially when fighting your PB brookie). They hatch around flowing water including inflows and outflows of lakes and in the woods surrounding those flowing waters.

No-see-ums

Active period: Late spring to summer, especially at dawn and dusk and in the evening (attracted to light). Hatch in and around damp place including ponds, streams, marshes, bogs, and damp woodlands.

Best defence: Avoid areas with standing water. Use a Thermacell unit or insect repellent with DEET (up to 35% for adults and 20% for kids six months and older). Bug jackets and mosquito nets also work. So too does hanging around windy points and using mosquito coils on calm days or in the evening. Smudge fires as fire restrictions allow.

Deer and horse flies

a horse or deer fly

Active period: May to mid-summer, during the day, especially when it warms up. They hatch and live around marshes, streams, lakes, and ponds surrounded by woods, any damp environment near woodlands.

Best defence: Avoid wetlands and damp wooded areas. Bug jackets, sticky patches placed on your hat, and mosquito nets also work. Light coloured clothing is recommended.

Cover as much skin as possible, including your neck. Tuck in shirts, tuck pant cuffs into boots. Thermacell units.

Ticks

a tick

Active period: From early spring to fall, the warm months in areas of the province within their range. Potentially active whenever you are in the area. They tend to inhabit woodlands and areas with tall grass and leaf litter.

Best defence: If there are trails, walk in the centre of them avoiding the edge brush and grasses.

Originally published in the April 2023 edition of Ontario OUT of DOORS magazine.

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