Dealing with Insects

Black fly, little blackfly, always the blackfly no matter where you go. If you’re Canadian, you’ll recognize that iconic (and catchy!) verse from Wade Hemsworth, brought to terrifying and accurate life by the National Film Board. Bugs are so prevalent here they’re part of our national identity.

The struggle is real.

So what to do when bugs are wreaking havoc on body, mind and van?

Stage One: Acceptance.
There are literally a bazillion mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies and ticks out there, so knowledge is power. Black flies and ticks seem to be at their worst in May-June, and are more prevalent in rural and remote areas. Common advice seems to be:

  • Wear light coloured clothing
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants
  • Tuck in your pant cuffs
  • Wear bug netting clothing
  • Inspect yourself for ticks after a hike (and if you find one, get a friend with a strong stomach to remove it)
  • Carry tweezers (to remove ticks)
  • Use a repellant

The takeaway is that right when it’s finally hot enough to head outside into the bush, you’re supposed to cover up, wear the most unsuitable colours for wilderness trekking, and look like a giant tool.

This could be you!

Mosquitoes are around all spring and summer and vary from being horrifically bad (rural Manitoba) to laughably powerless (lower west coast BC). The difference between them is size, speed, and what I interpret to be smugness. The Winnipeg variety are fast, smart and strong enough to continue living if they aren’t swatted forcefully enough . By comparison the bugs in Nanaimo are slow and lazy, living on “island time.”

Stage Two: Murder.

Unless you live in Winnipeg where the city officials cover the whole town in a cloud of bugspray once or twice a summer, you have three choices for the elimination of insects around your person:

1) Chemical sprays
2) Non-chemical concoctions
3) Hanging around near me. I am one of those people that attracts bugs so stick with me and you’ll feel like you’ve become a citronella candle.

Not winning any beauty contests today, that’s for sure.

I’m also allergic to insect bites so you know that when I recommend bug repellant, it’s solid advice.

For mosquitoes: Off! Family Care Insect Repellant (Summer Splash!)
For serious situations:  Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellant + flyswatter
And because I still manage to get bitten: After Bite.

In Kenora, Ontario I discovered No-Bite-Me cream by SallyeAnder Soaps which doesn’t contain Deet and is very effective.

Word of warning: You will stink like a hippy.

Bedtime is a challenge because any mosquitoes that made their way indoors will pester you all night. The only thing I can recommend is baiting them with yourself until you can get your flyswatter or a good solid book (I recommend Margaret Atwood) and KILL. EVERY. LAST. ONE. so you can FINALLY GO TO SLEEP! Either that, or wear earplugs. Or sleep beside me (see above).

A preventative measure is to invest in window screens. My in-laws are awesome and bought us a pair of Skreenz but you can also rig something up with mesh netting from a fabric shop and some rare earth magnets or Velcro strips.

Skreenz visible on window. Bug carcasses visible on mirror.

Stage Three: Hiding the Evidence.
Driving along the highway there may come a hideous realization that the sound you’re hearing isn’t rain but the charming staccato of millions and millions of insects meeting their deaths by windshield at 90 kilometres an hour. All of this exploding goo and murk (And blood! Don’t forget the blood!) is going to solidify on not only the windshield, but also on the hood, wipers, mirrors, grille, and all the way up the antennae. Entire dragonflies 4″ long will lodge into your van’s crevasses until you unwittingly pull on a wing and the whole thing tumbles out into your bare hand.

It is vile.

To remove this mess it’s best to tackle it quickly before everything gets baked on. You can use a non-metallic scouring sponge, an all purpose cleaning spray, and then it’s up to you to not puke while you spend the rest of your life in scrubbing purgatory. Rubber gloves highly recommended.

Credits for the Black Fly song: Animated short directed by Christopher Hinton in 1991. Written and sung by Wade Hemsworth with additional vocals by Kate and Anna McGarrigle.

That ducky comic was drawn by Reza Farazmand of (more comics!)