Insects and Bugs

23 March 2011 In The Woods

Carpenter Ant at the Cottage
Do you have problems with insects and bugs at the cottage?
Carpenter ants, mosquitoes, flies, ticks and spiders are unavoidable at the cottage, but there are ways to keep them under control.

Carpenter Ants

These big black ants can invade a cabin and eventually cause the building to collapse. We see them all around the cottage in the early part of the summer and some people find them inside the cabin. They crawl across the floor, over the counter and drop from the ceiling.
Go to our Carpenter Ant Facts page to get information about the ants and tips for getting rid of them.


Mosquitoes drive us crazy at the cottage. Their bites itch. They buzz around our heads at night when we are trying to sleep. And we have to protect our families from being infected by the West Nile virus.

Go to our Mosquito Facts page to get full information about getting rid of mosquitoes, avoiding bites and learning about the risks of getting infected with the West Nile virus.

Black Flies

What are black flies?
Black flies may be small but their bite packs a lot of power. Unlike mosquitoes which make a small hole and draw some blood, the black fly actually takes a chunk out of you to get the blood. The bite often bleeds, becomes itchy and may develop a small infection or even leave a small scar after it heals.

Black Fly

Less than 5mm long. Females bite to get blood for egg development. They breed in streams.

Early spring to mid summer.

They are present during the day with the last few hours before dark being the most active.

Wear long sleeves, light colours.  Use cuffs and collars with elastics or draw strings that can be tightened to keep the flies from getting under the clothing.  Head nets and mesh jackets are effective.

Deet-based insect repellents may help a bit.  Clothing with repellent built-in may be worth a try.

Yard foggers can have a short term effect.

Hi-Tech and Bio
Black Fly Traps
Black Fly Dunks

Deer Flies

What are deer flies?
Deer flies can ruin a perfect calm and sunny day because they are much more aggressive in these conditions. They are notorious for their attacks when people are trying to relax on the dock or deck. Deer flies also seem to target your head a good hat is a must.

Deer Fly

Triangular wings with dark lines and bright green or gold eyes with crossing stripes. Sometimes the eyes appear red. Females feed on blood.
June to early July.

Hot and sunny days with little wind. They like to bite ear, head, neck areas. Attracted to shiny objects, especially aluminum fishing boats.

Long clothing in layers, hats or caps, head nets and mesh jackets. Deer flies can bite through thin clothing that is tight to the skin so try to wear looser fitting clothes that are a bit thicker.

Deet-based insect repellents.

Patches and Adhesive Strips
These attach to the back of your hat. Great for anglers.


What are no-see-ums?
No-see-ums, as the name suggests, are difficult to detect visually. Also known as midges, these flies are no bigger than the point of nail or a pin. But they sure make their presence known when they decide to make you the source of a meal.

Tiny midges 1-4 mm long that are found in swarms near damp breeding habitat. Females feed on blood.

Late spring to mid summer.

Heaviest at dawn and dusk.

Log shirts, pants, caps, head nets, mesh jackets.

Deet-based insect repellents.

Note: Do not mix sunscreen lotions and Deet repellent products as they tend to cancel each other out.


What are ticks?
Ticks are bad news. These eight-legged bugs are members of the arachnid family and cause people and pets alike a ton of trouble. Unlike the flies that hit and run, the ticks are parasites that dig in to feed on blood and can be the source ailments from minor infections to life threatening diseases.

Deer Ticks or Black-legged Ticks

A deer tick is also called a black-legged tick.  It has a black head, red/brown body and black legs. This one is the most worrisome because it can carry Lyme Disease and will feed on people in all stages of its lifecycle. The warmer winters are allowing the deer ticks to move farther north into areas that historically were not part of their habitat.

Always tuck your pants into your socks when walking around the property. Wear long clothes with light colours. Do a thorough search of your body and clothing every day during the tick season before entering the cottage. Avoid hiking through long grass during the tick season.

Use tweezers to grab the tick by the head and gently remove it if it is a new arrival. See a doctor if the tick is firmly embedded.  Use a knife or a sharp object to kill the tick once it has been removed from your clothing.

Deet-based or natural insect repellent may help. A tick remover is useful for the family pet.

Go to the Ticks And Lyme Disease Guide to get more information on how to avoid getting Lyme Disease from deer ticks.

Wood Ticks

American Dog Ticks or Wood Ticks are the more commonly found ticks in the northern regions of cottage country. They are larger than deer ticks and only the adults will feed on people.

Wood Ticks in Northwestern Ontario

A wood tick is brown. It does not carry Lyme Disease.

Wood ticks arrive in late spring and are active throughout the summer.

Wood ticks are found in long grass and wooded areas. They will hitch a ride as you walk past and make their way under your clothes until they find a suitable spot on your skin to feed. Wood ticks can crawl very quickly.


There are dozens of species of spiders that live around the cottage. Coming in all shapes, sizes, and colours, these fascinating creatures intrigue some of us and terrify others.

Dock Spider

As members of the arachnid family all spiders have eight legs.
While spiders serve a useful role in keeping down the insect population, they can also be troublesome when they get into the cabin siding, boat motors, and BBQ’s.

Spiders hang around from early spring until late fall.
They normally hit their peak in late July as the egg sacks burst and thousands of baby spiders invade the cabin, outhouse, dock and sheds.

Spiders will build webs anywhere that seems to be a prime location for catching insects. Most spiders do their work at night, but many are also active during the day.

Removing or destroying the spider web is nothing more than a minor irritant to our eight-legged guest. The next day the spider will have a new one rebuilt.

Ultrasonic repellent products for spiders and are now available.

Dock spiders can be especially difficult to get rid of because you have to catch them when they are out in the open. They are very fast and are comfortable jumping into the water and swimming under the dock to escape.

Go to the Dock Spider Facts page to get in depth details about “fishing” spiders at the cottage.

Go to the Dock Spider Nightmare article written by our editor recounting his horrible experience with a dock spider’s nest.