Today’s post was written by Emma Fuller, Discovery guide at Bon Echo Provincial Park.
When planning a summer camping trip, a lot is left to chance. You can’t always guarantee sunny weather, calm car rides, or calm waters for paddling.
However, one thing is for sure if you go outdoors: you will definitely encounter the annoying buzzing of biting insects in Ontario!
The picturesque forests, rivers and lakes that draw us to the outdoors are the same habitats where stinging insects thrive, so it’s no surprise to find them in your favorite park.
Since you know that stinging insects will obviously greet you at the park gate, it is best to accept them as just another aspect of your trip and plan accordingly to tolerate them.
Oh, who bit me?
If you’ve camped, hiked, biked or swam in Ontario parks, it’s probably safe to say you’ve encountered at least one, if not all, of the stinging insects in Ontario.
Let’s get familiar with the four most common mistakes you may encounter:
Black flies are easily identifiable as the smallest biting insects in Ontario. They are about the size of a sesame seed.
Black flies are not usually active all year round. In fact, you’ll probably only find them during the months of May and June.
Mosquitoes are the most well-known biting insects in Ontario.
They will buzz and bite at all hours of the day, but are particularly active at night and are often the source of the loud buzzing in your tent when you are trying to sleep.
You can find mosquitoes from June to September.
Deer flies and horseflies
These insects not only bother humans, but they also tend to bite large wild animals, hence their name!
Both deer flies and horseflies are much larger than black flies and mosquitoes, and cause a more painful bite. Like many other stinging insects, only female deer and horseflies bite. They require proteins found in the blood to produce their eggs.
Deer flies and horseflies usually appear in July and remain throughout August.
Believe it or not, stinging insects are necessary
While insect bites may have put a damper on some of your camping adventures, we can still recognize them as important species as they are critical to healthy ecosystems.
These small insects keep the food web strong by providing a food source for fish, reptiles, amphibians, birds and mammals.
The larvae of biting insects, particularly mosquitoes, are a food source for aquatic fauna. Adults feed many species of birds and bats.
Without stinging insects, many of Ontario’s most treasured wildlife would miss out on their favorite snack.
Stinging insects are also useful pollinators! They not only eat the blood of their prey; Many of them, especially the males, consume nectar from plants and pollinate them while doing so.
How to prepare for your trip to insect country
Even though stinging insects are ultimately good for ecosystems, you still don’t have to love them, you just have to tolerate them.
Bugs will always be a part of our camping trips and outdoor adventures, so it’s wise to learn the best ways to get comfortable with them.
Fortunately, there are many tricks and tools available to help mitigate your interactions with them:
- use insect repellent. There are many options, including eco-friendly and DEET-free, that you can choose from
- use a mosquito net or high-coverage clothing. Long sleeves and pants generally make it harder for stinging insects to find skin to bite on.
- Insects don’t like the scent of citronella candles. Light one on your picnic table to keep bugs away while you eat.
- make a bonfire! The smoke from the campfire will help keep bugs away. Please be sure to check out our alerts page For lighting prohibitions before lighting a match!
- Invest in bug tents or screen shelters. Bugs can’t find their way through the tight mesh, giving you much-needed shelter.
- When planning your camping trip, think about reserving a campsite away from calm bodies of water or thickly forested areas.
Accepting insects as just another facet of the outdoors can be difficult, but it is essential to enjoying the outdoors.
With a new attitude of bug appreciation and some helpful tools, your next trip to bug country will be a breeze!