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After such a long, cold winter, the blackflies and mosquitos arrived later in Northern Ontario this year. But they’ve certainly been making up for lost time. If you’re in an urban area, beating the bugs won’t be too much of a concern. However, if you’re heading to the country or the lake, you’ll want to try and protect yourself.

Various brands of repellent are available in all the stores. Look for those which carry a government-assigned PCP number as they offer the best protection. Chemical repellents are–unfortunately–the most effective. Check the instructions carefully and make sure you apply only to clothes, not your skin. My product of choice is OFF! Deep Woods for Sportsmen and I always carry some with me when I’m out hiking.

If you prefer something more gentle (and less smelly!), you can buy natural remedies made of essential oils, or make your own. I can’t vouch for their success, but they’re got to be worth trying, especially for children, or if you suffer from any skin allergies.  They will need reapplying more frequently than the chemical repellents. Lightweight bug jackets are also a good alternative. I wear one when cutting my grass, although it does make me feel a bit like a pest exterminator.

If you’re relaxing on your deck in the evening, you definitely don’t want to be pestered by bugs. You can burn citronella candles or try some of the clip-on repellents. These claim to repel bugs for “up to 11 hours,” although they were no match for the bugs around my house. If you’re willing to go up in budget, you could invest in some of the heavy-duty “mosquito control” products available at stores like Canadian Tire, although they often receive mixed reviews.

Other tips for when you’re out and about in the summer: Avoid strongly scented shampoos and body lotions and  opt for light -coloured clothing. Believe it or not, mosquitoes are more likely to hone in on dark clothing. They apparently also prefer nervous and fidgety people, so stay calm and you’ll be less of a target. Try and avoid heading outside during dawn and dusk. These are likely to be the worst times for mosquitoes. Blackflies strike during early morning and late afternoon. And watch our for full moons! One study found that mosquito flight activity increased by as much as 500% during a full moon.

Make sure you stock up on supplies of the anti-itch solution, After-Bite (my lifesaver), or make your own with a paste of baking soda and water. The good news is that the longer you’re in Canada, the more immunity you’ll build up and bites won’t affect you so badly. But what if you’ve tried all of these suggestions but you still can’t sit outside in comfort in the summer? In part 2, I’ll be looking at more permanent solutions for beating the bugs and ways to enjoy your deck time completely bug-free!

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