MidwestWeekends.com — Your Travel Guide to the Upper Midwest

The buzz on bugs

Summer is here, and so are the pests.

The giant mosquito in Effie.

© Beth Gauper

A 6-foot metal mosquito resides in Effie, Minn.

June is the cruelest month for bugs.

Mosquitoes hatch everywhere there's standing water. Black flies bedevil campers in the Boundary Waters and along Lake Superior, especially in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Ticks are crawling all over the place.

Black flies are hardest to avoid, since they attack the face and are nearly invisible. Either buy a head net, stay in a breezy place or wait until they go away.

The common wisdom is they'll be gone by the Fourth of July. But it's not the only time they come out. Once, in late July, we were staying at the Big Bay Point Lighthouse B&B near Marquette, and the flies were so bad you couldn't be outside.

They can hatch and fly around for a day or two any time conditions are right, such as when there's a lot of moisture in the air and no breeze.

But don't let the specter of black flies, also called no-see-ums, scare you away. Another year, I did the Circle Tour of Lake Superior in prime fly season, late June.

I got a few bites on the Keweenaw Peninsula in Copper Harbor, while playing tennis, and while taking in the view on Brockway Mountain Drive. That was it.

Try to hike or camp where there's a breeze. Look for someplace high: When we hiked the clifftop trail in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in late July, partly in deep woods, we weren't even bothered by mosquitoes.

Clothing with Insect Shield technology keeps bugs away from the body, and it lasts through 70 washings. It's expensive, so look for sales online and at outdoors stores.

Ticks are more than an annoyance they're dangerous if they're carrying Lyme disease. Keep them away with skin repellent or Permethrin clothing repellent, which kills ticks on contact.

And here's an ingenious idea from Border Route Trail founder Ed Solstad of Minneapolis, who credits a Panamanian tour guide:

"Wrap a strip of duct tape, sticky side out, around your cuffs to keep ticks from crawling up your legs and arms. I also wrapped duct tape around my collar as a last line of defense to try to keep them out of my hair. We tried this and it worked quite well. I had an impressive collection at the end of the day.''

For more, see Preventing Lyme disease.

And mosquitoes? Repellent with DEET works. And to get away from them almost completely, head for the karst country of southeast Minnesota, which has no standing water, just fast-flowing rivers.

It's a great place to camp, tube and ride bikes.

For more, see Where to find mosquito-free camping.

As a last resort, wait for August, which tends to be drier and relatively bug-free. This is a good time to visit the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness; not only are the black flies gone and the mosquitoes tolerable, but the water is warmer for swimming.


Last updated on April 30, 2014