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.

A mosquito

Blackflies are not the same as houseflies – they’re much smaller, and they bite!

A blackfly

Horse flies and deer flies are bigger and definitely more annoying than house flies.

A deerfly

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.

A horsefly

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 still
relatively rare in Quebec but it is a serious disease that is increasingly
present 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/

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