Mosquitoes: They Suck

Tips for preventing and treating bug bites on your next outdoor adventure

Don't let the thought of pesky mosquitoes and black flies keep you from enjoying your summer vacation in Algoma Country and Northern Ontario. Bugs are a natural part of living here, and definitely a nuisance, but you shouldn't let them stop you from having the best wilderness vacation ever. It takes little effort to prevent mosquito bites – read our handy guide below to help you plan and pack what to bring on your outdoor trip.

Bug Bite Myths

There are a lot of myths about mosquitoes and black flies. Some are true, some have been debunked, and others are just plain silly:

1. Wearing light-coloured clothing is best – TRUE. Wear colours like white or yellow.

2. You can wear sunscreen and insect repellent together – TRUE. Apply sunscreen first then the repellent.

3. Electronic Devices repel mosquitoes – This depends on what study you read. Some say it works, others say it's false.

4. All mosquitoes carry disease – FALSE. There are different species of mosquitoes, many of which don't spread disease and don't bite humans.

5. Mosquitoes are attracted to beer drinkers. This may be true, depending on which research story you read. Mosquitoes can smell carbon dioxide and body odours of humans up to 70 feet away.

 6. Garlic wards of mosquitoes – FALSE. Garlic only wards off vampires.

agawariver guidedtrip fishing
Fishing on the shores of the Agawa River during a guided canoe trip. (Photo credit: James Smedley Outdoors)

When Do The "Bugs" Come Out?

This is the most popular question I get from visitors.

Black Flies: Mother Nature's meanest little fiends in her bug-biting arsenal start mid-May, and last until the end of June. Black flies can bite any time of day.

Mosquitoes: the "fifth season" in Northern Ontario starts in mid-May and can last well into August and September, depending on the region and weather conditions. These tiny pests can be out any time of day, but they are at their peak at dawn and dusk, and make their homes in areas that are heavily forested and swampy/marshy.

Smart Ways To Prevent Bites

  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, closed shoes, and hats when mosquitoes are at their most active. Start a new fashion trend – wear all your clothes tucked in, and try tucking your pants into your socks. This helps to keep your new bug friends from getting inside your clothing. Be sure to take a photo and post it on Instagram or Facebook to show everyone your keen sense of style.
  • Use a screened dining tent. This will help keep your new uninvited bug guests from dining with you.
  • Use insect repellent. Only apply insect repellent to exposed skin.
  • Avoid using fragrances: scented deodorants, soaps, cologne, makeup, and perfume. Use unscented soap and deodorant.
  • Mosquitoes are attracted to lights, so try to keep those turned off as you enter and re-enter your cottage or tent at dusk and dawn.
  • Do an equipment check to ensure there are no holes in the screens, where mosquitoes can perform break your tent or cottage.
agawariver guidedcanoe camping
Photo credit: James Smedley Outdoors

Insect Repellents

There are many different repellents available, each with different ingredients and different levels of repellence which can last anywhere from 30 minutes to hours. It's important to read the label of any product you buy and follow the directions to ensure the best results.

Repellents that use DEET – Diethyl-meta-toluamide (DEET) provides longer protection. Health Canada provides concentration levels for age ranges of adults and children. Reading these levels before applying this product to yourself or young children is a good idea. You can find that information here: www.canada.ca/en/health-canada

Citronella is an oil and plant-based low-level insect repellent. Citronella candles are available and are best used outdoors when sitting outside in the evening to ward off mosquitoes. Note: Health Canada removed Citronella-based bug sprays from Canadian shelves at the end of 2014, though the government backtracked and rescinded the ban. The decision is now under review. For more information on citronella oil-based products visit www.canada.ca/en/health-canada

Natural Insect RepellentsThe Self-Sufficient Living blog offers advice on home-grown insect-repelling plants here.

Soybean Oil – protects for approximately three hours from mosquitoes and up to eight hours from black flies.

Mosquito Pic – or mosquito coils – is a repelling incense that can burn up to five to seven hours. It's usually made from a dried paste of pyrethrum powder (dried heads of chrysanthemums, a natural insect repellent). This product is typically used indoors. Just like a candle, you should never leave pic burning unattended.

No matter what type of repellent you choose, if applying it to your face using your hands to apply it, don't spray it directly on your face. Spray in well-ventilated areas and away from food.

agawariver bonfire
Photo credit: James Smedley Outdoors

Safe Repellents For Children And Pets

Most insect repellents are safe for children, but always ensure you read instructions on products for the best results.

Pets: Never apply DEET products to your family pet. While there are products available for dogs and cats, the best advice is to avoid outdoor activities with your furry friends when mosquitoes and flies are the most active.

For the latest information about insect repellents, visit www.canada.ca/en/health-canada

Reducing The Itch To Scratch – Ways To Treat Mosquito & Black Fly Bites

Black Flies – these bites are not nice. Often they are painful and very itchy. Treat it as you would a mosquito bite.

Mosquitoes – these bites are usually mild, and may or may not need to be treated. It depends on the person and how much immunity they've built up to mosquito bites. Usually, the bites will go away on their own.

You can treat bites with a topical lotion (like hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion) or an oral antihistamine. AfterBite (for children and adults) is an essential thing to pack.

Baking Soda & Water – trTryy mixing baking soda and water to make a paste and apply it to the bite. Sodium bicarbonate can help bring down inflammation.

For more natural ways to relieve the itch read this list from the Huffington Post: 14 Ways to Ease the Itch

Five Interesting Facts About Mosquitoes

  1. Mosquitoes have been on Earth for more than 100 million years.
  2. Only female mosquitoes bite humans and animals; male mosquitoes feed on flower nectar.
  3. A mosquito's wings beat 300 to 600 times per second.
  4. Mosquito mates synchronize their wing beats to perform a lover's duet. (How romantic!)
  5. "Mosquito" is a Spanish word meaning "little fly."
About Heather Bot

I'm a staff writer for Algoma Country and I hope my articles entice you to plan your next vacation in Algoma. Our beautiful area has everything you need for a true outdoor adventure: fishing and hunting, epic touring routes and breathtaking outdoors. We are home to many awesome places to eat, cool places to shop, museums and galleries, festivals and events. 

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