It’s been a long winter guys, let’s be honest, a REALLY long winter, but Spring is finally here and we couldn't be happier! I think it’s safe to say we’re all ready to spend A LOT more time outside catching some rays and getting some Vitamin D. But with the warm breeze and glorious return of all things green, comes the unfortunate reality of….BUGS. (Insert Jaws theme song here...)
Where we live in rural New Hampshire, the ticks come out first in March, then the black flies in April, and finally mosquitos in May. Our game plan? We’re glad you asked. Because we want you to have the BEST outdoor experience possible this bug season, we’ve put together an easy, practical ‘Bug Guide’ to help you be prepared for the inevitable…the war against the blood-thirsty bugs and YOU. When you go to war, it’s good to know about your enemy, right? This guide will give you plenty of bug knowledge and helpful tips, so you can be the hero of your tribe this bug season...
YOUR ULTIMATE BUG GUIDE
WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE: (This example is a female Black-legged "deer" tick, however ticks can vary in size, coloring, markings, etc.)
HOW TO IDENTIFY TICKS IN A NUTSHELL:
- 8 legs, oval-shaped abdomen
- ranges from the size of a poppy seed, to a corn kernel (nymphs are tiny!)
- no eyes, small protruding mouth parts on the head
- crawls over brush, leaf litter, grass, wood piles, bushes, trees
- does not make sounds, does not jump or fly
- usually found "questing" on grass or lower areas, waiting for a host
- found in moist, moderate temp zones
WHEN TICK SEASON BEGINS: Typically mid-March to June is "Tick Season" when they are in full force in New England. (From year to year the exact day or week they become active can change in New England - these dates will vary depending on where you live.) The first wave of ticks usually comes in mid-to-late March when the temperatures rise above 45 degrees Fahrenheit, and lasts through late May or early June. (In southern NH they arrived March 21st this year - the same day that Spring officially arrived - what a wonderful way to mark the beginning of the season!) They especially thrive in temperate, humid conditions like that of the Northeastern United States (NH, ME, VT, NY, NJ, PA, CT, MA, etc.) during the Spring and Fall seasons, but ticks have been found in essentially every state of the union except Hawaii.
PRO TIP: The ticks do NOT like hot, arid climates, therefore they tend to retreat during the heat of summer to avoid being dehydrated – in hot, dry conditions they will ultimately dry out and die. If you put this knowledge to your advantage, you can actually kill off any potential ticks by throwing your clothes in the dryer for 10 minutes after you’ve been in a tick infested area.
There are a handful of different tick species in the United States such as the blacklegged “deer” ticks, American Dog Tick, and Lone Star Tick, which carry tick-related illnesses, but the one we are most concerned about here in the northeast is the deer tick, which is commonly known to spread Lyme disease (not to say the others don’t, in some form or another.) This tick is predominantly found on the eastern side of our country. (The CDC is a great resource for maps showing each species' distribution across the United States. Click here
if you would like to visit the CDC website for further information on the regions where ticks live.)
WHAT TO WEAR: During the “tick season” of March through May/early June, we recommend wearing lighter colors, especially white socks that are pulled up over your pant legs. The lighter colors allow for much better visibility meaning that the dark black-ish brown ticks will be a whole lot easier to spot. Also, tall boots are helpful, with pants tucked in.
RECOMMENDED REPELLENT: A specialized tick repelling formula such as TICK BAN all-natural tick repellent by YAYA Organics. TICK BAN is an extra strength, premium grade tick repellent made from a unique blend of essential oils that are proven to repel ticks, including cedarwood, peppermint, geranium, thyme, rosemary and more. The heart of TICK BAN is cedarwood and peppermint, which will shut down the tick’s nervous system (when sprayed on the tick directly). The essential oils smell amazingly fresh and uplifting, and are 100% natural and eco-friendly. TICK BAN is proven to repel ticks up to 4 hours and is comparable to 100% DEET in lab-testing. We recommend spraying TICK BAN liberally from the waist down, and spraying more often than 4 hours when in heavily infested areas (1-2 hours).
TICK CHECK TIPS: Daily tick checks during tick season are essential. Many people who have Lyme disease do not remember being bitten. When ticks crawl on you, they often do so undetected because they are typically very small (the nymph especially), and even worse, when they start to burrow into your skin, they release a pain-killer called kininases which numbs your nerves locally. This is how they get away with biting you pretty much unnoticed. Regular, thorough tick checks will ensure that you will detect them early and remove them before transmitting any nasty infections. Of course, be sure to check through the hair. (Ticks can be found *anyhere* on the body, but we’ve noticed they often like to go up to the hair.) Convenient times to do tick checks can be before or after a shower, or right before bed. If you have just been through a tick infested area, go ahead and do a tick check right away. One last tip, it’s essential to do tick checks even if you have used a bug repellent when you were outside, regardless of the specific kind, natural or synthetic/chemical.
HOW TO REMOVE A TICK: So, if you find an attached tick on you or a family member, the first thing is don’t panic. Fetch some fine-toothed tweezers as soon as possible. Depending on how long it’s been attached, the area may appear slightly red, swollen, itchy or irritated. (Most people who have been diagnosed with Lyme disease do not report seeing a bullseye rash.) The best practice in removing a tick is with a pair of tweezers by grabbing the tick at the base of the bite, directly where the tick is attached. Pull it out steadily and firmly. Do NOT grab the tick by the abdomen.
If you want to send it away to be tested and analyzed for any possible infections, you will need to preserve the tick securely in a ziplock bag, or sealed jar. If that’s the case, label it with your name and the date. If the tick was not attached for very long (several hours), you should remove it and discard it safely by flushing it down the toilet, wrapping it in sticky tape (which will suffocate it) or drown it in a jar of alcohol. There may be other methods out there, but we're sharing our best practices we know of.
PRO-TIP IN BITE CARE: In the unfortunate case that you get bitten, you will need to carefully clean the area. Immediately wash the area with soap and water and/or treat with rubbing alcohol. Follow with an antibacterial cream, or an antibacterial essential oil such as tea tree, oregano, peppermint, lavender, eucalyptus, geranium or manuka. (If you have very sensitive skin, go for geranium or lavender.)
WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE:
HOW TO IDENTIFY BLACK FLIES IN A NUTSHELL:
- well, they're black (duh!)
- small, sturdy six-legged, flying insect (1/20 to 1/3 inch in size)
- robust, short, stocky abdomen and short legs (compared to mosquitos)
- distinct humpback thorax (like a buffalo, some say)
- roundish head
- females are the biters
- also known as "buffalo flies"
WHEN THE BLACK FLIES ARRIVE: Next on our bug schedule are black flies, which begin emerging from mid-April in southern New Hampshire and last through the end of May. In northern New Hampshire, black flies appear by mid-to late May. (Depending on where you like, the times will vary.) Just as a friendly reminder, the ticks are still out in full force when the black flies come out. There is overlap, the ticks have a longer season than black flies, which are relatively short (thank goodness!!)
GET TO KNOW THE BLACK FLY: Here in NH, we complain about this very aggressive bug’s bites because they HURT, quite honestly. But few people really know much about them, compared to ticks and mosquitos. There are many different kinds of "black flies" but there are only two species that bite humans in NH. They usually show up in swarms, not solo, and they're fast little critters that can keep pace with you as you run away!
Here’s a bit of background about their life-cycle and particular traits from a NH-based writer Karen Finogle, excerpted from her article “Black Flies and Mosquitos…What Good are They?" (View entire article here
“Black flies breed exclusively in running water, both fast moving and sluggish. After a blood meal, females lay their eggs on vegetation in streams or on the water surface. A large population of adult black flies — awful as it is for us — indicates a healthy stream, because the larvae have little tolerance for pollution. A mature black fly larva weaves a cocoon, pupates into an adult and rides a bubble of air to the water surface. Adults mate near the breeding site, and females will leave in search of blood immediately after that. Many black fly species seem to feed only on the blood of birds." (Karen Finogle, "Black Flies and Mosquitos, What Good are They?", published in NH Wildlife Journal.)
PRO-TIPS TO BEAT BLACK FLIES: Black flies are extremely persistent, and their bites (welts, rather) can pack a punch…sometimes people say “it took a chunk out of me!” or “it’s bleeding!”… which can feel quite violating, and rightly so. That being said, we want to share the best practices to keep them at bay. With black flies, try:
- a bug net - a helpful extra layer of protection if you're outside during the day (they don't bite at night)
- an extra strength all-natural bug repellent like SQUITO BAN by YAYA Organics
- it's beneficial to wear light colors such as light orange, yellow or blue. Avoid dark green, brown or red.
- Timing is everything. During the day, their peak hours are between 9am-11am, and 4pm-7pm.
REPELLENT RECOMMENDATION: SQUITO BAN by YAYA Organics
is actually very effective for helping to repel black flies, according to many customers reports, and our own personal experience, although we have not had the SQUITO BAN formula formally tested for repellency of black flies. Since black flies tend to swarm around the head and neck, SQUITO BAN works especially well when it’s sprayed liberally on a hat, around your head, neck and upper body (avoiding the eyes, nose and mouth of course.) It's wise to spray all exposed skin, but the upper body will help significantly with black flies.
WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE:
HOW TO IDENTIFY MOSQUITOS IN A NUTSHELL:
- 6-legged flying insect
- feeds off of blood to reproduce
- makes an annoying high-pitched buzzing sound
- lives near water, reproduces in or near stagnant water
- long proboscis feeding tube in front (the "mouth" that bites)
- round small eyes, long articulating legs
- females are the ones that bite!
WHEN THEY ARRIVE: Mosquitos start coming out when it’s around 50 degrees F. In NH, that’s typically during the month of May (southern NH will see them in early may and northern NH will get them in late May.) They start reaching their peak of annoyance in late May and early June. They thrive in the hot temperatures. You can’t miss them with that high-pitched buzzing and whining sound that makes you want to run for the hills!
DIFFERENT SPECIES: There are between 2,500 and 3,500 species of mosquitoes throughout the world, 43 of which are known to occur in New Hampshire. Of those 43, only 28 species are known to feed on humans, and just 14 of the 28 species are considered to be serious pests due to their abundance.
HOW TO BEAT THEM: It feels like war sometimes, doesn’t it?! You need a bulletproof strategy such as this:
- We highly recommend getting yourself a bottle of extra strength, proven effective bug repellent like SQUITO BAN by YAYA Organics, which is made with 100% pure, plant-based ingredients like clove, citronella, peppermint, cedarwood and rosemary. The heart of this blend is clove and citronella, which are proven to be the most effective essential oils for repelling mosquitos in a published 2005 university study. You can spray SQUITO BAN liberally all over your body (avoiding eyes) without worrying about any risky side effects for you, your family or the environment. SQUITO BAN is proven to be as effective as 100% DEET for up to 4 hours, when used as directed, and it even smells amazing with an herbal-fresh scent!
- Eat garlic. Your friends may not appreciate your bad breath, but hey, the bugs will sure leave you alone!
- Get covered! Wear long clothing if possible, and a hat with bug netting.
- Light a citronella candle if you’re hanging out on the back deck, a pavilion, or similar outdoor area.
- Remove/drain any free-standing water on your property. The mosquitos need water to be able to reproduce, so removing their “nest” area will help cut down the numbers of mosquitos.
- Use an eco-friendly, cedar-based lawn-spray if you live in a mosquito-infested area.
BONUS! How to Protect Babies & Young Children from Bugs
FOR BABIES, YOUNG CHILDREN, SENSITIVE SKIN: For those of us who have more tender, delicate skin, YAYA Organics makes a special, extra gentle bug repellent called BABY BUG BAN. Baby Bug Ban is made with 100% plant-based, non-toxic ingredients including rose geranium essential oil, a soothing oil that's beneficial to the skin, while also packing a serious punch to mosquitos and biting bugs! Baby Bug Ban is proven to repel mosquitos up to 4 hours and is as effective as 100% DEET, yet is extra kind to tender skin and smells floral fresh.
Baby Bug Ban is perfect for:
- babies 6+ months
- pregnant mothers
- nursing mothers
- anyone with sensitive skin
As an extra layer of protection for babies less than 6 months old, you may use a mosquito net over the child's stroller or pram, and/or spray the stroller and bug net with Baby Bug Ban. We believe that Baby Bug Ban is safe to use on babies, however if your child has any medical concerns, please consult your physician.
That's a wrap! Now you're prepared to go to war against ticks, black flies and mosquitos. If you liked this, go ahead and share YAYA's ULTIMATE BUG GUIDE with your friends and family. Be safe and reclaim the great outdoors! :)
-The YAYA Organics Team