The Biting Bugs!

The Biting Bugs!

         Last week we looked at why insects bite and why we have the physiological reaction to them that we do. This week we will look into greater detail at the individual bugs that bite and how we can attempt to protect ourselves from them!



        Canada is home to over 80 species of Mosquitoes, with only a few species that bite humans. They are delicate insects, with a long slender body and a tube or needle-like mouth part for sipping nectar or blood. Our first alert to their presence might be a whining buzzing like sound made by their wings which beat between 300 and 800 times per second. 

       Mosquitoes are abundant, beginning in mid to late May and lasting usually into the autumn frost. These insects begin their lives as eggs that can sit dormant for many years before hatching under ideal conditions. They are most active around dawn and dusk and tend to be found in cooler, shadier areas, becoming less abundant throughout the night although they do not disappear entirely.

        DEET based repellents work the best whereas citronella containing liquids work for short periods. A constant breeze keeps them away so fans do tend to help. Reduction of breeding habitat on personal property is recommended as this also lowers your chance of contracting the West Nile virus. Covering up with clothing, such as a bug jacket, also offers abundant protection from mosquitoes.

Black Flies

        Canada has over 161 species of black flies that have different life cycles with only 4 biting humans in Ontario. They are compact insects that are less than half the length of most mosquitoes and have a humpbacked profile.

         Most of the species of black flies fly as adults from mid-spring to the end of June primarily during the day. The majority of blackflies actually feed off of birds and not humans! Their activity tends to peak towards sunset. They seem to be most abundant on hot, humid spring days however they are noted throughout their estimated appearance window. Black fly larvae develop in moving water and then emerge as adults and fly. Numbers of black fly larvae in streams can be staggering with up to 100 000 per square meter at lake outlets.

         The best prevention against these insects is covering up with clothing as well as applying insect repellent as advised however this might only offer some deterrent to blackflies biting. Nothing tends to keep these flies from swarming around your head, a screened bug hat, or any hat for that matter tends to help. A steady breeze, even a slight one, deters these poor fliers.

Deer and Horse Flies

         If a flying insect bites your and you yell or scream loud enough to be heard across your property or a small lake, it was more than likely a deer or horsefly. Deer flies and horse flies appear similar to large house flies but they pack an enormously strong bite. Deer flies are just larger than house flies and have colourful eyes and dark – patterned wings. Horse flies are relatively larger, up to 3 centimeters, and are darkly coloured with clear wings as well as colourful eyes. 

        These biters are most abundant during the early summer months throughout the entire summer and fly only during the day. They are visual feeders who are very attracted to motion and tend to circle humans waiting for a good time to land and obtain a meal. Most of these species of fly tend to be more active a few hours after sunrise and a few hours before sunset.

         DEET repellents offer minimal protection from these biting insects when compared to the others in this blog. Covering your head, arms and legs is a good way to deter the bites from these insects. Since deer flies often bite the head area wearing a hat and covering one's neck is advised. Fortunately, they won’t bite in a tent or building. Both of these, however, have love swimmers and windsurfers.

Stable Flies

         If you are bitten by what seems to be a housefly, more than likely on the ankles or feet, you’ve met the stable fly. Stable flies are smaller than deer or horse flies. This species is often noticed by those paddling canoes or those spending extended periods outside, without shoes or socks on, due to their tendency to bite feet and ankles. To kill one of these agile insects you will have to swat hard enough to hurt yourself as they are quite resilient.

         Stable flies are originally believed to be from Europe and have biting mouthparts similar to those of the deer and horsefly. They tend to peak in the warmest part of the summer due to their penchant for bright light and the heat of midday. They tend to only be somewhat deterred by insect spray with DEET. As with all the other bugs, covering exposed skin, especially feet and ankles can help somewhat, however, these insects can pierce thin clothing. They tend to breed in manure piles but also along beaches and shorelines in wet rotting vegetation.

Biting Midges (No – See – Ums)

         If an insect bites you and it is not visible it is more than likely a biting midge or no – see – um or sand-fly. They measure 1 to 4 millimeters in length and are pretty much invisible to the naked eye. These insects are usually active day and night however mostly around dusk and dawn in mid-summer. They tend to be most often discovered by small holes in tents or RV’s. DEET based insect repellant does work against these insects however the best defense is any breeze what so ever as this species is a weak flier.


         Ticks resemble flattened miniature crabs. They are most likely to be found when attached to your body or clothing or dog. The adults of this genus have eight legs making them arachnids and not simply insects.

         Ticks may hitch a ride any time day or night. The time of year when they are active totally depends on the species of tick. The American dog tick adults are far more prevalent from spring to early summer. The adult black-legged, or deer ticks, peak in the fall months.

         To avoid bites from these arachnids stick to trails on hikes and more open areas. Tucking in clothing and using strong DEET based repellent sprayed on pants, socks, and shoes is recommended as well. If you are in an area where ticks are prevalent check your clothing and body daily. If you find a tick on your body or clothing remove it immediately. Removal is done by grabbing the head as close to your skin as possible with blunt tweezers and pulling. If removed in a timely fashion, there is little chance that ticks will transmit disease. However, you should wash and disinfect the area of the bite. If the tick is removed more than 24 hours after possible exposure save it and note the date and location. If symptoms develop over the next couple of weeks see your physician bringing the tick with you for identification. Symptoms include multiple rashes, low – grade fever, neck stiffness, fatigue, and severe headaches. These symptoms can show themselves 2 to 6 weeks after a bite from an infected tick, even if no rash developed earlier on.

         Well, I hope this was an informative blog with information regarding the reasons why bugs bite and why we have the human reaction we do to these bites. Look out for next week’s blog exploring the individual insects in more detail and as all ways stay safe out there from your friends at HRC Insurance.

Since the 1900's...

Born under the name George Hutcheson, Hutcheson, Reynolds & Caswell Ltd. began providing insurance policies in Muskoka since the early 1900s. Bernard Reynolds joined the firm in the 1940s and purchased the firm from George Hutcheson in 1967. Finally, in 1980, David Caswell joined the company's ranks to complete Hutcheson, Reynolds and Caswell. We have grown along with our name and provide the same dedication to superior customer service and top-notch insurance coverage that George Hutcheson was famous for over 100 years ago.