The battle of the bugs in Michigan’s UP

bugsI have a serious bone to pick with whoever calls Michigan’s Upper Peninsula a paradise. Not this trip. This RV adventure was a battle of the bugs.

And while it looks pretty out the window of the motorcoach, venture outside and you are fair game for swarms of insects that see you as smorgasbord.

The mosquitos and biting black and stable flies of the Lake Superior region of Michigan’s UP are the worst they’ve been in years. Locals blame it on the unusually wet spring and summer we’ve had this year.

Indeed, the night before this video was shot in early July, the area in the western Upper Peninsula around Gogebic County where we were staying in the Porcupine Mountain State Wilderness Area got drenched with three inches of rain.

That said, I came prepared. I had bug spray, fly strips and a clip-on contraption that runs a miniature fan for 12 hours on three AAA batteries and is supposed to emit a personal cloud of protective repellant.

Jennifer also brought along Avon Skin So Soft and even some vanilla extract, as suggested by blog readers.

Then she stayed inside the Roadtrek all afternoon, relaxing and reading while Tai and I tested all the bug and fly fighting tools.

They didn’t work. Nary a one. We only caught a paltry half dozen flies with the strip.

Tai’s nose is all swollen from mosquito bites and he is giving me very dirty looks.




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  • Campskunk

    mike, you have to come back out west – that eastern wilderness is infested with vermin 😉

  • Laura Robinson

    OH NO! will they be gone in 2 weeks? Very funny video (for the viewer… maybe not for you!)

  • Laura

    Sorry to hear about your bites… instead of sites! Those flying things can be vicious.

  • Jeff

    Poor Tai looks miserable

  • bobbi

    It’s raining right now but it has been gorgeous here in Sleeping Bear Dues National Lakeshore.

  • Mike Wendland

    The flies are an annual event for the UP, worse along the Superior shore. Mosquitos are bad everywhere this year. The problem varies day by day, often hour by hour. If you can get in a breezy place, that’s always best. And wear long pants and shirts and a hat when the bugs are bad.
    I was rewarded for all that yesterday by getting some great shots of a mother loon with seven baby chicks on her back riding the Lake Superior waves. The photo and memory was worth the bug swatting!

  • Rob

    Great video & blogging on the UP. And we were just talking about heading up that way. We travel in a 99 Winnebago Rialta.

  • Dave

    We enjoyed your visit! All of our flies disappeared about the time you arrived Hi Hi. It is an annual thing for about a week and a half so we find other things to do. Jennifer has the right idea. Keep on camping, Bigfoot Dave

  • Mary Kay

    Hubby and I are newbies with Roadtrekking. We’re planning on a trip to Pictured Rocks, MI sometime yet this summer. Sure hope the bugs are gone by then. The mosquitos were really bad when we camped in Iron County, WI , (not too far from the Michigan border) last weekend.

  • Bill

    Hopefully those bugs will be gone when we visit the U.P. mid-September in our loaner Roadtrek.

  • Greg Plapp

    We traveled to the UP this spring, before bug season got too bad and it is beautiful. Upon returning I talked to my avid fly fishing neighbor who goes to some of the worst mosquito areas and he uses ThermaCELL. We tried it last week and were able to enjoy the outdoors again with no bugs. Refills are pricey, either Amazon or Walmart is the best source. It did work for us, at least so far, no noise, no odor, no bugs. We have had over 60″ of rain so far this year in NC so it was a good test.

  • Gary S,

    Mike, Been there done that !! We have been there when the only thing that allows you outdoors is complete netting. Yet, we have also been there when the bugs were mild and the UP was just beautiful !

  • Rande Mathers

    Our one and only camping trip was to the UP Michigan. My husband and I and our three small children (6,5&2yrs.) thought we would try our hand at camping…it sounded like a fun adventure. We had borrowed equipment. I guess our first mistake was going the first week of July. The biting flies had us wearing long sleeves and long pants even though the temperature was in the nineties. We tried to go on a hike but even though my husband carried our two year-old on his back, our son ended up with heat stroke. Trying to cook outside while keeping the flies from the screened in tent area was not for the inexperienced. I kept forgetting stuff and had to unzip the screen, step in, zip the screen, get what I had forgotten, unzip to go out, and quickly zip it again to keep the flies from getting in our tent.

    That night it stormed and our tent leaked…all of our sleeping bags got wet. After two days we decided we had enough and left for home towing all of our wet gear in a fishing boat we never got to use.
    It was July 4th and we could not find a restaurant open in any of the small towns we drove through on our way back to Minneapolis.
    The kids were starving, not having had any breakfast ( we broke camp quickly that morning, thinking we could soon stop for something to eat)…We finally found a place to eat. It was busy to say the least; we waited an hour for our food. The pancakes tasted sour but I figured they were just sourdough pancakes. All three kids got sick in the car before we got home.
    Five hours later, when we did finally arrive home, we all took showers and collapsed from exhaustion.
    The next day i discovered lice on one of the kid’s heads.
    That was our first experience with all of the above.
    I told my husband the next time we go on a fun adventure, it better have four or five stars behind it.
    We never went camping again. Now, we have a motorhome and love to travel in it. Like Jennifer said, it’s nice to have a bug free zone when you need one.

  • We are up in Calgary Canada, and after the flooding, they are having a horrible time with the mosquitoes. We traveled on into Banff and thought it wouldn’t be so bad there, wrong! It was just as bad. Guess it’s just “the season” and it doesn’t seem to matter where you are!

  • If you want Northern Michigan’s best you need to visit Leelanau County (Sleeping Bear Dunes). We don’t have any of these flying, biting nuisances. Our guests are active and enjoying the outdoors day and night – they all call it an “outdoor paradise”. Safe travels.

  • Where r u?

  • Skip those and go to a Thermocell

  • We really want to visit the UP, but the bug stories are scaring me off. Hoping that fall is a better time with less of them. We’re in MN and last night killed the largest black fly we have seen in our lifetimes, while relaxing outside on the early evening. Maybe this just isn’t the year.

  • We are heading there from So Cal August 1st. I found room to store a Coleman instant screen room, it sets up with 2 people in 60 seconds and the first time I set it up in my driveway it went right back into it’s case with no hassle. We bought Magnetic screen for the front door windows and now are working on a magnetic screen for the rear and side doors.

  • We were there in the middle of June, couldn’t sit outside at the campground, the bugs were so bad

  • We were there in the middle of June, couldn’t sit outside at the campground, the bugs were so bad

  • Just ignore shower/bathing for 30 days! Lol

  • Try konk works good

  • Thermacell rocks

  • Please inform us….what is Thermacell?

  • Love Avon skin so soft, for repellent

  • Garlic and cayenne pepper. Eat lots.

  • Ah, come one! Yous guys are all wusses, doncha know! 😉 Have lived in da UP 20 years with my Yooper hubby. Tain’t that bad! Bless your hearts, maybe just grow a little thicker skin, eh?

  • Stay in the sun if your river rafting in the U P BECAUSE OF THE BLACK FLYS… THEY BIGHT AND IT HURTS LIKE HELL…..They are relentless …Trust me!!!!!!