How Bad are the Bugs in the Boundary Waters?
The great thing about the bugs found in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota is none of them are likely to kill you with a single bite. If you have an allergy to bees or some other unusual condition then there is a slight possibility of death but for the most part the bugs in the Boundary Waters just “bug” you. This along with the fact we do not have poisonous snakes makes me quite comfortable while canoe camping in the BWCA even if there are insects buzzing around.
I just spent a few nights in the Boundary Waters and was pleasantly surprised with the current bug population(or lack there of it). The way the mosquitoes have been around Voyageur this year made me think I would be lifted away by mosquitoes out on the trail but they were not bad except right at dusk. They appeared for about an hour in the morning at dawn and another hour at night and that was about it. The portages(even though they were very wet) were relatively mosquito free and I had no reason to wear a head net.
The blueberry pollinator(Black Fly) population has also dwindled down to almost nothing. They are usually gone by the first part of July but I thought with the delayed summer we might have them around a little longer this year. Black flies tend to like some people more than others and luckily they don’t like me very much or I don’t react to their saliva like some folks do. These are the small but stout flies that like to swarm around your head and bite you around the neck, behind the ears and on the scalp. Kids or people experiencing black flies for the first time will often bleed or swell up and may even get a fever but for the most part they just annoy you. Unlike other flies they can’t bite through clothing so if you wear long sleeves and long pants then they won’t be able to bite you.
The benefit of rain and wind when you’re out paddling the BWCA is the biting fly(barn fly, stable fly, dog fly) isn’t around to suck your blood. These flies are the ones that land and bite quickly and their bite usually hurts. When you try to slap at them they are long gone but return just as quickly as they departed to bite you again. These biting flies are persistent and don’t seem to mind bug spray, even those with Deet. To protect yourself against them you can wear pants or stay inside as they aren’t normally found indoors. Early morning and late afternoon are peak times as well as during warm periods following rainfall. Catnip oil has been said to help prevent bites and is worth a try if these flies are out in full force.
I’ve been to places where the bugs are way worse than I’ve ever experienced them in the Boundary Waters. When you’re outside in the summertime there are most likely going to be bugs outside with you. You can protect yourself with clothing, repellent or just staying inside during certain times of the day. And if you just can’t be inside and aren’t prepared for bugs the good news is when you’re in the Boundary Waters they might bite you but they probably aren’t going to kill you.