Early June I will be doing my first BWCA solo trip. The bugs are said to be worst early in the spring. I am trying to be prepared mentally as much as anything, therfore,if it is very still, are the bugs bothersome on the water as well as in the timber? Can a guy expect any relief from them, or should I prepare for the worst?


On open lakes, mosquitos were no
problem, but blackflies were nasty. I wonder whether those trick sticky patches, worn on top of the head, would intercept some? We were often bitten on the legs, under the seat, where we couldn’t get at the flies. Maybe those new repellent pants would help, plus repellent applied to socks. However, we found blackflies were not that impressed by DEET. The old 6-12 seemed a little better.

prepare for the worst
and you will be pleasantly surprised if the bugs are not a problem. 10 of my 11 trips to the BWCA/Quetico have been in June and can think of only 3 or 4 times that I was really “bugged” and that was only for a short time or in one particular location.

The black flies can be terrible in camp and on portages, but not over the water, at least on bigger lakes. They go down at night. Careful about wrists, ears, neck line. They will chew you bloody and then you swell. They are quite variable from year to year. When you swear at them remember that they pollinate the blueberries.

Mosquitoes can also be bad in June, day and night, land and water. Again, their abundance is variable from place to place, year to year.

I carry deet and use it only occasionally. I carry a headnet and have only used it on one swampy portage because I was breathing in a lot of mosquitoes and choking. Thats only once in 136 June days.

Pick campsites for the breeze. I wear long pants and long sleeve shirt all the time. Put deet on cuffs, around collar on ears and hat.

June is my favorite time to be there, so I put up with what June has to offer. Watch the weather. If the wind comes from the east off Lake Superior it usually lasts for 2-3 days and can push temps below 40F with a driving rain. This is especially bad in the eastern part of the BWCA and moderated a bit in the west. Make sure you have adequate clothes for that kind of event.

Although I had solo backpacked a lot in my life I finally did a solo Quetico trip when I turned 50 in 2002. As I was paddling out on Saganaga the 10th day I was considering how many days I could make my left-over food last if I turned around. Hope you have the same experience.

Be prepared.
Never been to BWCA but in Quetico & Wabakimi regions, as of June 1st the buggers are out, and in force for a while. One trip in Quetico I’d have shot myself to end the misery, if not for lack of a pistol. We encountered HORDES of ticks, misquitos, black flies and horse flies. It was friggen insane for a while. I would HIGHLY recommend at least DEET and a head net. Better yet would be an ‘Original Bug Shirt’. Those things are the bomb and stop most anything from getting in. Mine has saved my sanity on many trips in Ontario and in Saskatchewan. I don’t mind sqeeters too much, but black flies are my downfall. I’ve swelled-up to an unrecognisable state in the past from their frequent devouring of my fleshy parts.

prepare by reading
If getting mentally prepared by reading a book is what you have in mind, “The Complete Wilderness Paddler,” by Davidson and Rugge, has a fun chapter on dealing with bugs. The book is technologically out of date (early '70s) but spiritually still right on.

– Mark

early June
I’ve been to the BW many times in early June. Black flies are a daytime problem sometimes. Big lakes keep them blown away, but sometimes on smaller lakes they will be out on the lake getting you in addition to being land based. Not everywhere though. One trip one of them got behind my wife’s glasses on in the middle of a lake and she rubbed and the glasses ended up on the bottom of the lake. Forever. They like dark colors so wear earth tones if possible. I suspect they see dark colors and go to join their bros nd sises. They can be scattered or thick as a cloud. Then again, they might not be a problem. It depends on the weather. Wear long sleeves and pants, high neck collar or bandanna, hat, maybe a head net, and I hang a bandanna down from the sides of my hat to cover my ears and cheeks (facial). Deet doesn’t bother them. Remember, as the black flies bite you, they are pollinating the blue berry plants. Their bites itch and last a long time (compared to mosquito bites). Mosquitoes get going not too long after the black flies have been going for a few days. They get worse as June moves on. They hate Deet. Like sweating bodies an extra lot. They can be real friendly from sunrise to sunset at camp and on portages. Camp on breezy points. Personally, I’ve had a lot of problems with both in early June and not have many problems in early June. Now, I take what comes along and move on. I don’t consider them a problem anymore (but, I tend to be an optimist). You might get one of those lightweight nets (just nets that roll to the size of a big softball when packed - no poles) that you can hang from bush branches or drape around you. Campmor sells them. Also, after a couple of days of dirt both tend to ignore you more.

Bugs as Condiments
Sprinkle them on the oatmeal in the morning. It makes for a very satisfying meal!