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Cottage Wars


It is WAR people, and it is a bloody one. You can hear the enemy, they’re never quiet, though they do slink away once the cool weather hits. Throughout the warm months as we strive to soak up every minute of summer we are besieged by, you guessed it, mosquitoes, blackflies, deer flies and horseflies. These vampires and werewolves of the bush and beach that drain our blood and take pieces of our flesh. They leave us bloody (who hasn’t smashed that full bug and went ewww), bumpy, and oh so itchy.


I personally would never do well on a survivalist tv show - I would be the one running screaming through the bush, diving into a mud hole, and wallowing like a pig just to evade that first swarm of biting insects. Without bug spray, I would spend every summer as a prisoner of war. Locked in my cottage staring out at the lake with the victors on my window screen taunting/ buzzing back at me. There are people, like my spouse, who seem to have some invisible armour that the bugs just leave alone. These people I call… irritating. What magic do they yield that they won’t share with us?! Selfish BUGgers.


For those of us on the biting bugs menu, we prepare our arsenals. Stocking our weapons of choice, we use everything from netting, bug sprays of every kind (my friend deet), wrist bracelets, things that clip to our pants, citronella plants, and thermacells for our patios. Even foggers for our yards! During the height of black fly season, I have even seen grown men with pantyhose pulled over their heads to cover their head and neck from bites. So, if you’re missing your pantyhose, you might want to check to see if someone in your household has been out in the battle fields.


I can’t tell you which of these measures is the most effective. Every summer warrior has their weapon of choice, depending on the battle ground in question. Do I want to read on the patio or have a campfire at the beach? For campfires, I don the armour of a good deet spray, but for the patio I usually hope for a good breeze and maybe a thermacell.


What I can tell you are three helpful facts regarding bug spray this summer season:


  1. For those of you looking to enjoy a day out on the beach, though, you may want to keep in mind that it’s always best to apply sunscreen BEFORE bug spray and to give it 15 minutes before you spray yourself down with your insect repellant of choice.

  2. The amount of deet in your bug spray indicates the duration of protection, not the strength. You don’t need anything higher than 25-30% deet because anything higher doesn’t add any additional protection. It’s not unreasonable to reapply if you’ve been in the water or you’re sweating as this can dilute your bug spray.

  3. Hate the smell of deet? There are alternatives! Picaridin is a repellent modeled after a molecule found in pepper plants. Spray products with at least 20% picaridin have been shown to work as well as or better than some deet-based products. Another alternative is OLE, Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. OLE is not recommended for children younger than 3 but for those older, a concentration of 30% seems to work well in repelling insects.

Hopefully this information keeps you well armed as you fight the buggy hordes to enjoy our beautiful lakes and rivers this summer. Fellow warriors, as you battle on this summer, I leave you with this famous quote:


“…we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…”


Sorry Winston Churchill.


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