Bugs in the Boundary Waters

There are bugs in the Boundary Waters and this year is no exception. This spring we have had perfect conditions for bugs to thrive. The late snow melt, wet spring and high water levels have made life for the bugs easy. The cooler temperatures and cloud covered days seem to appeal to these insects and they appear to have very healthy appetites. This is great news for wild blueberries as it will no doubt be a banner year with all of the pollinators in the air.

On a recent outing we were swarmed with blackflies and mosquitos on a wet swamp lined portage. It was a calm, drizzly, cloud covered day and unfortunately the dragonflies have not yet emerged. With long sleeves covering my arms the bugs went to my wrists and face to find their meal. Unfortunately my head net was at home and my hands were occupied by holding the canoe so I wasn’t able to swat them away. My natural insect repellent did little to deter the pests. Blackflies are attracted to lactic acid that we produce on our skin, carbon dioxide and body heat that I’m pretty sure they can sense from miles away.

The good news is blackflies in the Boundary Waters don’t transmit diseases, they just take a bite out of your skin that can cause swelling, bleeding, pain and itching for some sensitive folks. The mosquitoes in our area aren’t known to carry diseases either. One thing I have found to give relief to itching bites is Burt’s Bees Res Q ointment. It comes in a little tin and the green goop works awesome on me.

Until the dragon flies arrive to do their part I recommend wearing light colored clothing, long pants, long sleeves, a head net and using some good mosquito repellent on your next trip into the BWCA.