Mosquitoes, black flies, horse flies, deer flies, no-see-ums… During the warm season in Quebec, we’re never truly alone! It can be difficult to calmly remember that all of these biting insects are truly essential for a healthy environment. Dragonflies, frogs, birds and many others eat these little critters. Here are some hints and ideas of how to survive and even live well with these insects, even as they beckon us to
contribute to the food chain! The summer is short in Quebec, and our parks and natural areas are beautiful – hence the need to find ways of taking advantage of it!
First of all, there are some differences between these various insects. You’ve probably already encountered mosquitoes.
Blackflies are not the same as houseflies – they’re much smaller, and they bite!
Horse flies and deer flies are bigger and definitely more annoying than house flies.
In general, in cities, there aren’t many blackflies, horse flies or deer flies, and there are usually only « reasonable » quantities of mosquitoes. Amounts of biting insects vary widely depending on the region. The further north, the more insect life, in general. There can be a lot of mosquitoes near wetlands and streams, even in cities.
Some times of the year are worse than others. June is usually the most intense, depending on where you are. If you want to go camping for the first time in Quebec, let’s say in the Laurentians, I’d recommend aiming for the month of August. Since it’s still nice out, yet evenings
are cooler, there are usually much fewer bugs.
Mosquitoes tend to congregate in early morning and the evening. They’re often less active during the day.
If you keep moving, usually you’ll get bitten less (for example, while hiking). However, as soon as you stop, the bugs will catch up! Often on the water or exposed to wind there are fewer (or no) insects and life is good! It’s a good idea to choose your activity and also your campsite
based on this!
To protect yourself from insect bites, the very best is to dress for it! Wear lightweight, light-coloured long pants that aren’t too tight, that you can tuck into your socks. Mosquitoes can bite through tight clothing, and many bugs are attracted to dark colours. Wear a lightweight,
light-coloured, loose-fitting long-sleeved shirt as well – same reasoning. When there are really lots of bugs in the evening, I like to wear shoes with thick socks, or even 2 pairs of socks.
I often use bugspray too. When I am only mildly annoyed at the bugs, I can get away with natural products such as those containing citronella. Many people swear by all sorts of natural remedies including vitamins that apparently allow you to repel bugs naturally.
When there are really a lot of bugs, personally I move on to semi-toxic products containing DEET. Toxic but effective. Examples include « The Great Outdoors » by Watkins, or « Deep Woods » by Off. If you can get away with just putting these products on the outside of your clothing, that’s great. If you need to use a bit on your skin in strategic places, avoid your eyes, nose, mouth and fingers, because DEET stings and tastes really bad. I put a bit of cream on the outside of my hands and then attempt to rub it onto my wrists, around my ears, forehead and neck without actually touching my fingers. You’ll need to reapply any of these products every few hours. They come off in the water so don’t bother putting any on before swimming (this will also avoid polluting the water).
DEET is bad for our physical health and the environment, but is good for our mental health in the outdoors…
I tend to avoid wearing anything scented – perfume, or fragrant soaps or shampoos – during the buggy season.
When there are really clouds of bugs, I like to wear a bug shirt or bug hat, made of mosquito netting. I like to wear a baseball cap under the net, so it doesn’t touch my face. These things are hot, though!
A bug shirt
You can also set up a mosquito tent beside your regular tent, where you can prepare meals and eat without being attacked!
When you get home, there are all sorts of anti-itch creams, though I’ve never found them that effective myself. Try hard not to scratch too much as scratching will only make the bite last longer! With time, your body will react less and less.
Never fear, you’ll find ways to manage bugs and enjoy yourself! Happy outdoors and camping! Get in touch if you’d like to participate in an introduction to camping activity or other fun introductory outing!
Ticks and Disease
Recently, certain mosquitoes and ticks in Quebec have been found to transmit diseases.
In particular, certain tick bites can infect us with Lyme’s disease. This is a serious disease that is starting to be present here due to climate change, especially in southern Quebec.
Typical rash that can appear long after being bitten by a tick infected by Lyme’s disease
To avoid getting bitten by ticks, wear long pants tucked into your socks, and a long-sleeved shirt tucked into your pants. Avoid walking through tall grass. Use DEET. Inspect clothing, backpacks and your body after your outdoor activity and take a shower. Ticks like to hide in hidden, warm parts of the body. If you find a tick attached to your body, use tweezers and very carefully remove the entire tick without squeezing it or damaging it. Avoid leaving the head of the tick under your skin. Keep the tick and consult a doctor rapidly to see if you are eligible for a preventative treatment. In the weeks and months following the tick bite, keep an eye out for typical rashes and symptoms. Please consult this website for more detailed, up to date information: https://www.quebec.ca/en/health/health-issues/a-z/lyme-disease/