Friday, May 8

How to beat the blackflies

Majestic forests, shimmering lakes, cool rivers, lush wilderness and beautiful weather.... there must be a catch, right? In a word, yes. The catch is the blackflies.

When spring days grow consistently warm, boasting a nourishing blend of rain and sun, and the fresh new leaves start to unfurl on the trees, we know the blackflies won't be far behind. Such is the case all over Ontario's famed Cottage Country.

Blackflies look like small house flies but, like mosquitoes, they bite. Fortunately they differ from mosquitoes in that if they end up indoors, they give up trying to bite you and just walk the windows trying to get out.

Another upside is they are relatively short-lived, with the season usually lasting from 3 to 6 weeks. And they have one truly redeeming quality: they pollinate the blueberry plants! No blackflies would mean no blueberries, and we can't have that.

So every year cottagers, residents and visitors to Muskoka and Almaugin defy the pesky bugs and enjoy our lovely spring anyway. We have our defenses, and so can you:

Go Unscented
When we first moved here, locals told us the blackflies wouldn't bother us if we were to stop showering. We figured they were just having some fun with us newbies, but it turns out there's some truth to it.

Blackflies are attracted to the sweet scents of most commercial hair and body products. So only use unscented deodorant, shaving gel and lotions. Leave your hair styling products at home (ponytails and hats do wonders for these 'au naturel' hair days!). Do not wear perfume, cologne or scented moisturizer.

Wear light-coloured Clothing
Blackflies are attracted to dark colours, especially dark blue, or so I've heard. Tan khakis and white or light tees and tops might be better options.

Cover Up
Long sleeve shirts and pants, socks, hats... If they can't get to your skin, they can't bite. We provide bug jackets for guests to use during their stay. These are
light-weight hooded mesh pull-overs to wear over your top.

Screen In

Put yourself where the bugs can't get (or at least not many of them). We have a screened gazebo for sitting outside regardless of the insects. We also provide guests with 5' portable screen tents that just pop up when opened and fold down for easy transport. Take it with you for a picnic if you like. You just have to demonstrate you can get it folded back down before you head out in your car!

Keep Moving or Sit in the Wind
I find the blackflies are not too bothersome if I'm walking at a good pace, especially along the Seguin Trail or other open areas. Also, windy days are great because it really keeps the bugs down.

Commercial Repellents
There are many insect repellent sprays and lotions available. Off, Deep Woods, Muskol are all common brands available at department stores. Any that contain DEET will keep bugs from biting. For non-chemical products, check out drug stores or local outdoor supply stores. Avon Skin So Soft bath oil is famous for it's ability to ward off blackflies. Just rub it on any exposed skin before venturing out.

What about Rover?
Your dog's fur is not sufficient protection against bites. The blackflies will target the tender spots like the lower belly and
in the ears. Products containing DEET and other chemicals are potentially harmful as your dog may ingest it while grooming. There are natural products available from your vet or some pet stores. We use something called G-Natural for our dog; it's a repellent spray designed for horses. We also put a bit of Skin So Soft on her ears where she can't lick it.

Last Resort
If all else fails, just stand near me. I am the favourite food of blackflies and they will choose to feast on me above all others!

So this spring when Cottage Country calls and you just have to get out of the city, don't let some pesky little flies kibosh your plans. Now you know how to beat the blackflies!

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