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Are bugs around Lake Superior bad?
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Alina G
(Alina) - MLife

Locale: Toronto, Ontario
Are bugs around Lake Superior bad? on 07/17/2013 15:17:15 MDT Print View

Hi Guys,
I planning a car trip around Lake Superior starting July 28 and lasting 3 weeks. We will be starting from Toronto, Ontario. It is supposed to be hiking, backpacking and some hotels, towns at times for a change as well. I was looking forward to it but I am concerned about bugs now. I thought that by August the black flies would be gone and mosquitoes not as bad but I did some research and it looks like it might be bad. Also at Superior National Park they told me that it is bad there.
Do you guys have any experiences around that part of the world? Are there areas that are better than others bug wise? Maybe some states are better than others? If it is really bad there all around then where else should we go considering that we have 3 weeks? It would have to be a car trip.
I am not sure now if we should go there or not. We have never been there before so it would be interesting to explore but not if we have to battle hordes of bugs every day. My husband talks about North Carolina but we have been there 2 times already. Unless we were to explore the state more inland as opposed to just the shore.
Any advice is greatly appreciated.

David Noll
(dpnoll) - MLife

Locale: Maroon Bells
bugs around Lake Supreior on 07/17/2013 15:30:40 MDT Print View

Call the girls at the Superior Hiking Assoc office. (218-834-2700) They should be able to give you an update from the border to Duluth.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: bugs around Lake Supreior on 07/17/2013 20:59:21 MDT Print View

We were just at the porcupine mountains last weekend (which, of course, is the southern end of the lake) and in all my travels all over the world I have NEVER experienced Mosquitos as dense, large, and persistent 24 hours a day as we did on that trip. Wind, sun, rain, didn't matter...they swarmed like crazy.

Black flies? Not so bad, surprisingly......

I'd call the local rangers to ask for a real-time update.

Joshua B
(leukos) - F

Locale: Chicagoland
Bad this year on 07/17/2013 22:43:28 MDT Print View

+1 We hiked and camped around the Apostle Islands and also by Pictured Rocks two weeks ago. We were SWARMED by biting black flies and mosquitos. That's the first time in recent history I remember getting bites on the palms of my hands while walking.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Bugs on 07/18/2013 17:36:22 MDT Print View

The bugs are totally manageable - all bugs are - you just need to be prepared. Grab a jacket and pants that are bug proof and fit well (ie. no exposed ankles, jacket doesn't ride up when you bend over, jacket has a good hood) and then bring that with a bug head net and a hat/visor (to keep net off your face). Lastly use deet on the backs of your hands as needed.

I work outside in the country/forest near Thunder Bay and I haven't used bug dope this year. I much prefer a physical barrier and even then it's usually only required in the first few hours of the day and on humid/overcast days. If it's hot and sunny the bugs largely go into hiding.

The mosquito's are dying now. They peaked about 1-2 weeks ago and I think they'll be pretty minimal in another 2 weeks. The black flies were moderate year but mostly gone now. There is a bit of a no-see-um faze going on now, but that'll be gone in another week or so.

Ultimately, if you've got the right gear and right attitude bugs are never a problem, but if you're unprepared or not okay with the occasional bite then you might want to re-think. Like most things, it's 20% being prepared and 80% attitude.

Edited by dandydan on 07/18/2013 17:37:05 MDT.

Alina G
(Alina) - MLife

Locale: Toronto, Ontario
Permethrin on 07/26/2013 00:21:22 MDT Print View

Thank you.
I guess I will keep my plans and I will take it one day at a time.
I am going to spray my clothes with permethrin though. In Canada it is a banned product so I will have to stock up when in the US. I was able to get some permethrin to get me started but it is very expensive here. $20 for 8oz.
What are good places to get permethrin in the US?
Is soaking more effective than spraying clothes? I am thinking of soaking my tent and ground sheet in it as well. Maybe even spraying backpack to get protection from ticks.
Any tips on using permethrin successfully?
Thank you.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Permethrin on 07/26/2013 00:33:10 MDT Print View

Alina, I've used Permethrin on clothing. I purchased a large spray bottle of it, and I sprayed my shirt and trousers so thoroughly that you could call it saturated. Then I let that dry thoroughly. The result was that bugs didn't like the clothing surfaces at all, so they endeavored to attack all openings and exposed skin. A head net helps a lot there. In fact, I had so much Permethrin in the cloth that even I could smell its faint odor. Some people claim that you can launder clothing with that in it, and the effect remains. I did not find that to be the case.

I've never heard of soaking a tent with the stuff. Be careful, it might degrade the coatings on some fabrics.


James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Re: Permethrin on 07/26/2013 05:35:24 MDT Print View

Permethrin is a synthetic insecticide based on pyrethroids from chrysanthemum plants. It is a dyable substance that loosely bonds with a lot of clothing: nylon, cotton, wool, and others. It does NOT bond to siliconized tents, recycled PET(fleece), and many plastics that do not pick up water. It may or may not “stick” to your pack…depends on the material. It won’t do any good on your tent if your tent is waterproof.
Dipping, in higher concentrations or for longer time, is much more effective than spraying. Spraying will last through 6-8 washings on the right material.
It is highly toxic to aquatic life and cats. Fish, amphibians, and insects are targeted by interrupting their nerves. It does NOT break down in a sewage plant. Do NOT pour it on the ground. Any excess you do not use should be placed in a wide pan and exposed to UV (the sun) for several hours to destroy it. It can get into the water table, lakes and rivers if you just dump it.
It is generally safe for humans. The military has been using it for many years. Some people (<1%) are allergic to it.
Dip it for about an hour in a 1% solution.
Hang to dry.
Rinse the excess out, treating the rinse water the same as the original mixture.
Launder normally.
Dipping on nylon pants, for example, will last for a couple years. It will stay through about 50 normal washings.
Once it in your cloths, it will NOT leach out in rain, during stream crossings or laundering. Eventually it will, but 50 washings is nearly half the lifetime of your cloths. If you set aside a special set of hiking cloths, well treated, it may last much longer. I have a set about 6 years old that still protects against bugs.
A certain saturation is reached with each material. You cannot add more, because it just washes out. This will vary with the material.

The past few years, on longer trips, I often pick up fleas/chiggers in my sleeping bag. I plan on doing my sleeping cloths/long johns, but generally you do not do your socks and underwear. I have not had a tick in over 10 years using Permethrin, despite hiking through some known problem areas. I assume it works. You really cannot tell, because insects will avoid it. It works with blackflies, mosquitoes, deerflies, horseflies, spiders, ticks, etc. Like anything else, there is a risk using a toxic substance. I think that risk is offset by the potential for diseases transmitted by the bugs. Make your own decision.

Usually, you can get 5% or 10% Permethrin on line as an agricultural insecticide. They may make stronger versions, but I never tried them. The spray on, for some reason, does not seem to bond that well with clothing based on the manufacturers spec. I agree, it washes out easily.

Note that some heavily dyed clothing will NOT pick up very much. The "bonding" sites are already bonded. Lighter colors are usually easier to treat. Remember to UV all waste. Mosquitoes can bite through loosly woven tops. They will not live, but I think of it as REVENGE!

Edited by jamesdmarco on 07/26/2013 05:54:00 MDT.

Matt Dirksen
(NamelessWay) - MLife

Locale: Mid Atlantic
Re: Permethrin on 07/26/2013 05:42:19 MDT Print View

Please don't spray your tent. It will degrade its waterproofing. Moreover, your tent protects you from insects, so that should be enough.

It may be convienant for us, but keep in mind it is still a pesticide and there is a greater cost to its excessive use.

From the EPA:
"Ecological Risks
Permethrin is highly toxic to both freshwater and estuarine aquatic organisms. Most agricultural, public health, and down-the-drain scenarios modeled resulted in exceedances in the acute risk quotient (RQ) for freshwater and estuarine fish, invertebrates, and sediment organisms. The agricultural and public health scenarios also showed the potential for chronic risks to estuarine and/or freshwater organisms. Further, there is a potential concern for direct effects to a variety of aquatic organisms.

The acute and chronic RQs for terrestrial avian species are below the Agency’s levels of concern. The acute RQs for terrestrial mammals were also below the Agency’s acute LOCs; however, some chronic RQs exceeded the Agency’s LOC. However, the Agency believes the chronic RQs for mammals are based on a conservative estimate of toxicity, and therefore, may represent an overestimation of risk.

The potential for risk to terrestrial and aquatic plants from exposure to permethrin cannot be assessed because toxicity data are not available. However, any toxicity to plants would occur for reasons other than permethrin's insecticidal mode of action because permethrin works as a neural toxin, and unlike insects, plants do not have neural networks that could be affected.

Permethrin toxicity data show that the compound is highly toxic to honeybees, as well as other beneficial insects."

Jeff McWilliams
(jjmcwill) - M

Locale: Midwest
Toxicity on 07/26/2013 06:12:00 MDT Print View

This is all great information.

I had a discussion with a female backpacker the other day who was thinking of treating her tent with the Sawyer Permethrin spray, because she hates dealing with spiders and other creepy crawlies. I tried my best to convince her that she would be fine without the spray - that's what the fully enclosed netting was for.

Regarding the toxicity - any concerns about jumping into a lake, or wading across a stream/river, while wearing treated clothing?

Would Permethrin wash out of the clothing and effect the fish & amphibians?



Jeff McWilliams
(jjmcwill) - M

Locale: Midwest
10% Permethrin on 07/26/2013 06:26:31 MDT Print View carries a product called Martin's Permethrin 10%. 1 pint is $14.96.

After diluting to 10-to-1 to achieve a 1% dilution, this stuff would be about 7x cheaper than the Sawyer spray, which is actually 0.5%

The Martin's product details on Amazon state that it's used as a horse spray.

Still safe for human/clothing use? I can't tell if there are other ingredients in there that would recommend against use on clothing.