Sportsman's Lodge Kukagami Lake, Ontario
How to Stay Safe from Bugs this Summer

How to Stay Safe from Bugs this Summer

Avoid The Bite and Enjoy Your Summer

Sportsman’s Lodge knows firsthand that Northern Ontario has a lot to offer its residents and visitors alike. It’s the perfect destination for outdoor adventures, abounding with lakes and rivers, and trails accommodating all manner of expedition from hiking, rollerblading, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, or all-terrain vehicles. Regardless of how you wish to explore the stunning landscapes, Northern Ontario guarantees a gorgeous landscape experience, noteworthy for any lover of nature looking to be inspired by its environment and wildlife. However, the wildlife in Northern Ontario also includes bugs who want to devour you when you’re visiting in the summer season, but don’t let that leave you daunted or discouraged!

Residents know how to live agreeably with the insect population. Bugs in Northern Ontario are as much a part of the natural outdoors and we at Sportsman’s Lodge would like to share some useful tips and tricks with you to ensure your visit to Northern Ontario this summer is unhindered, leaving you free to explore and peacefully enjoy our stunning landscapes.

Knowing the Bug Populations is Important

The following are the usual suspects that you can expect to encounter on your trip.


You’re most likely to encounter these pesky little guys at dawn and dusk. They are most prominent from May through September and are mostly present near standing water, and boggy and swampy areas.


There is an increasing problem concerning ticks throughout all of Ontario, and Northern Ontario is no exception. In particular, Public Health Canada warns of a black-legged tick, also known as deer ticks, in the Sudbury area. These ticks can be anywhere from the size of a poppy seed to pea sized depending on how recently they’ve fed.

Ticks love warm weather and are typically found in wooded areas, bushy areas, areas shrouded by fallen leaves, and tall grasses. They transfer themselves to hosts by resting on the ends of grass or shrubs and waiting for humans or smaller animals to brush by. From a host, they can transfer to other surroundings. The rule of thumb is to keep a keen eye for these invasive critters no matter what your surroundings are and always your clothes and body and your pets, thoroughly after being in areas preferred by ticks.

Black Flies

These little guys bite throughout the day. They lay their eggs in running water, so nearby streams and rivers are areas where you’ll be guaranteed to run into these infamous flies. Their eggs hatch in late April and they are most active in May and June.

Horse Flies

These big guys are grey’ish-black in colour, have transparent wings, and are the largest of our pesky nuisances. They are most prominent May through July and will be seen throughout the daytime.

Deer Flies

These flies are larger and sneaky, as they fly silently. They are brown’ish in colour and look similar to house flies. They are most active in May through July and will give you a hard bite that really stings.

Planning Your Trip

If possible, try to plan your trip to avoid the height of bug season, which is April through mid-July. You will still have to deal with mosquitoes, but the flies should be less of a problem by late July.

Using Insect Repellents

Donning a strong insect repellent is by far the simplest way to keep biting bugs at bay. It’s quick, convenient and effective, but you need to remember to re-apply after being in water!

But why do repellants work? Bugs that feed off of humans are attracted to odours in our skin, especially body odours and other secretions such as perspiration. Repellents can “hide” our scent and deter bugs from wanting to get close enough to bite us.

But what type of repellent should you use?


While there may be controversy surrounding repellents containing DEET, a DEET-based product is definitely your best defense. They last the longest and provide the most complete protection, especially against mosquitoes. These insect repellents are very strong and they work and provide protection for up to 5-hours. A DEET-based repellent is recommended as the most effective repellent again ticks.

If you’re considering using a DEET-based repellent, take note of Health Canada’s warnings concerning its use;

  1. Children under 12 should only use a repellent with 10% or less DEET and it should be applied no more than 3 times daily.
  2. Children under 2 years should have a maximum of 1 application per day.
  3. A DEET-based repellent should NEVER be used on babies under 6 months old.

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

If the controversy surrounding DEET is a concern and you want to stick with a natural repellent, you can try an alternative using essential oils.

Look for blends that include lemon eucalyptus oil. This is the only plant-based ingredient that has been approved as an active insect repellent by the CDC, (Center of Disease Control), in the United States.

It’s important to note that these natural, essential oil based repellents do not last long, some less than 20-minutes according to this 2002 study. As a result, be prepared to keep lots on-hand and re-apply often!


Picaridin is a relatively new synthetic version of a repellent found in pepper plants and is effective against mosquitoes, ticks and flies, with maximum protection in formulations containing at least 20% of picaridin. It is said to provide protection for up to 14-hours.

Dress for the Occasion

If you’re going to be exploring terrain where encountering any of these predominant bugs is probable, dress accordingly. The less skin you have exposed limits the opportunity for bugs to bite and feed off of you.

Hats and Netting

Head nets worn over a hat or hat-net combos will keep bugs away from your face and out of your hair.  You can purchase these at any outdoor supply store for only a few dollars. You can tuck the netting into your shirt collar to keep them from getting underneath it.


Wear shirts with long sleeves. If it’s hot out, opt for a cotton shirt which will allow it to “breathe” so that you don’t over-heat. Tuck it into your pants so that ticks aren’t able to climb your pant legs and eventually find their way under your shirt.


Wear long pants and tuck the bottom of the legs into your socks. This will keep ticks from getting under them and gaining access to your legs.

Smoke the Bugs Out

There is a variety of safe products available on the market to help keep mosquitoes away. Our favourites include;

Mosquito Coils

These coils are lit on the outer most end and are designed to burn slowly as they release a bug-repelling incense type of smoke. They are made from a chemical paste of pyrethrum powder, organic compounds typically derived from Chrysanthemum.

Citronella Candles

Mosquitoes hate citrus. Citronella candles contain citronella oil, a plant-based insect repellent, and deters mosquitoes from coming too close.  Burning a few of these candles while relaxing outdoors can help to keep the mosquitoes at bay.

Sage or Rosemary

Adding a bundle or sage or rosemary to a campfire, over hot coals, or on a hot grill is also a great natural way to keep mosquitoes at bay. The aromatic smell that these burning sprigs produce a smoke that bugs dislike.

Keep the Bugs Outside

Keep cabin doors and windows closed. Additionally, check tents, clothing and equipment regularly to make sure everything closes correctly and is in good shape, leaving no opportunities for bugs to enter.

Look After Your Bite

Despite all the precautions you take, it’s still very likely that you will experience at least one bite. Don’t fret, bites happen and can be dealt with via topical applications and simple home remedies.

The primary side effect to a bite is itching. These remedies can help alleviate the itch;

Recommended Over-the-counter Remedies

We strongly recommend some After Bite Lotion, Calamine lotion, or an anti-itch cream.

Home Remedies that Actually Work

If you don’t have a store-bought remedy on hand applying a cool compress to ease the site of the bite. You can also mix a little bit of baking soda and water to make a paste that can be applied to the bite, or dab a bit of apple cider vinegar on it.

Tick Bites – What to Watch For

In the event that you do have to remove a tick that has embedded its head and begun feeding, be sure to wash the area where the tick penetrated with soap and water.

  • To remove a tick that has attached itself, use fine-tipped tweezers and;
  • Grip the tick as close to skin as possible, getting a firm grip on the head or mouth.
  • Pull it firmly and steadily until the tick lets go of the skin.
  • Do not twist or rock the tick.
  • Do not try to suffocate it out with petroleum jelly, or dish soap.
  • Do not try to burn it out.

These methods can make it burrow deeper and release more saliva, which makes it more likely to pass a disease.

Most tick bites are harmless and don’t require medical treatment. Normally, a tick bite will result in a small, red bump similar to a mosquito bite and will resolve itself in a few days.

It is still a good idea to keep an eye on a tick bite however. If you see any the following symptoms develop following a tick bite, seek medical attention for treatment;

  • A “bull’s eye”
  • This is an expanding rash that develops as a ring around the red bump. It will slowly expand from the bite site over several days.
  • Tick Parts
  • If a part of the tick remains in the skin and has not come out on its own.
  • More Than 24-Hours
  • If you suspect the tick was on the skin for more than 24-hours.


If the bite area looks infected (increased warmth, swelling, pain, or oozing)

Flu-like Symptoms

If symptoms develop including fever, headache, tiredness, stiff neck or back, or muscle or joint aches. 

Bugs are just a part of the environment here in Northern Ontario, but in knowing what bugs may impact you, knowing how to keep them at bay, and knowing how to treat any bites you may get, there is absolutely no reason that they should prevent you from having a fabulous outdoor experience.

We hope you love your exploration of Northern Ontario as much as we love being residents here. There is so much beauty to see and enjoy.

Plan your excursion accordingly, be prepared, and enjoy!

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