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The Awful Truth of Bugs in the UP: Year-Round Advice for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

| Updated Mar 7, 2024

Are you planning a visit to Michigan's Upper Peninsula? Have you heard the horror stories of bugs in the UP?  The truth is that there are a lot of bugs in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, especially in late spring and early Summer (May/June)! But don't let them scare you off.

All that beauty comes with a cost.

And the bugs in the UP bite. The mosquitos are bad enough that some Yoopers call them the official bird of the UP.

That should give you an idea of how big they are.

But the bugs that – forgive me – bug me the most are biting black and stable flies.

And that's what we're concentrating this post about.

Bugs in the UP can be terrible at times!

Technically, we're talking about two kinds of fly species.

Black flies are small, dark flies with a humped back that can give a painful bite. Unlike a mosquito (which sucks up blood through a proboscis), black flies slash the skin and lap up the pooled blood.

Stable flies have dark stripes on their back and a checkerboard-like pattern on the top of their abdomen. A distinguishing feature of the stable fly, visible to the naked eye, is the distinct stiletto-like proboscis of the stable fly, which extends forward beyond the head. This sharply pointed beak is used to pierce the skin and draw blood.

And at times, they will swarm you.

Bugs in the UP are most prevalent along the Lake Superior shoreline

In my book, these two biting bugs in the UP are equally evil.  And whenever you visit in early summer, you'll meet them. They'll find you on the beach, in the woods, at the campground. Inside your RV.

But the thing is, they are not a problem every day. One day they'll be there in hordes. The next day, which weather-and-wind-wise seemed just the same, they are no problem.

Go figure. Bugs in the UP are unpredictable.

When are the bugs in the UP the worst?

Locals – they call themselves Yoopers – tell me not to buy into the Chamber of Commerce spin that there is a season for bugs in the UP.

It's all summer long, they say, from the first frost-free days in May through the first freeze in October.

It's been our experience, though, that from mid-July they noticeably decrease in numbers. In September and October – our favorite time in Michigan's Upper Peninsula – they are not much of a problem at all.

That said, let me stress that we are not Yoopers. We visit there several times a year and while it seems to us that bugs in the UP are not so bad in late summer, that is no guarantee that you won't have issues.

The video shows what bugs in the UP are like up there.

The video above gives you a sense of what to expect about bugs in the UP if you'll be visiting the area. 

But wait, there's more. Another Bug in the UP video!

Still not convinced about how mad the bugs in the UP are? Ok, then watch the video below, shot in July a few years back when Jennifer and I and our dog at the time, Tai, visited the Porcupine Mountain region at the western end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

I brought along all sorts of bug repellants and gizmos that supposedly would discourage the flies. We tested them all out.

The video says it all.

Tips to avoid biting black and stable flies tips and bugs in the UP 

Now, admittedly, if you can schedule your trip before the end of May and after mid-July, you'll encounter fewer bugs in the UP.

But if you are determined to go during those early summer weeks, know that you will still have a lot of fun. You'll still be wowed by the beauty of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

And you won't be bugged all the time.

Here are five tips to minimize the bug problems:

  1. Wear light-colored clothing
  2. Wear long pants or jeans (they tend to bite the most below the knees, especially around the ankles)
  3. Protect your pets (they bite dogs, too)
  4. Use a screen tent to let you get outside but keep the flies and skeeters out. We recently did a review on the five best ones for RVers. See it at
  5. Wear a “bug hat” that has a piece of netting that covers your face and neck. Here's one on Amazon that Jen and I have –

We also have an Ultimate “Bug Off” Shopping List that's worth checking out.

Don't let the bugs scare you off!

Yes, they are a reality of hanging out in some of the most fabulous wilderness you can experience.

Explore a hidden gem – Michigan's Upper Peninsula

The Awful Truth of Bugs in the UP: Year-Round Advice for Michigan's Upper Peninsula 1

This ebook is a seven-stop guided exploration of the Michigan UP. We provide a suggested route and itinerary, links to multiple campgrounds and boondocking spots, and the best spots to see along the way. Don’t plan your trip to the Upper Peninsula without it!


Mike Wendland

Published on 2024-03-07

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

20 Responses to “The Awful Truth of Bugs in the UP: Year-Round Advice for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula”

March 09, 2024at2:21 am, Barbara Longeway said:

Thanks for the warning!! So glad we toured the UP in August 2023. Had no problem with bugs, mosquitos or biting flies.
If y’all are at your beach condo in August, watch out for the little black biting flies along the Gulf Coast. They’re vicious!!


March 12, 2024at12:25 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

August is a great time for the UP – And thanks for the warning about the Gulf Coast black biting flies! – Team RV Lifestyle


March 08, 2024at4:57 pm, Janice Nelson said:

We had black flies in NH. They do bite and it hurts! Try using Skin so Soft body oil by Avon. It helps.


March 08, 2024at7:15 am, RICHARD DURKIN said:

We go to the UP every year. Some years they are worse than ever! The Lake Superior beach areas seem to be worse. Last May 15th or so was heading toward Manistique on US2 and the sky was full of swarms of black flies. They were so thick and black that we thought it was smoke from burning buildings. Almost unbelievable.


March 08, 2024at1:15 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

It is unbelievable! Thanks for adding to the conversation, Richard – Team RV Lifestyle


March 09, 2024at7:46 pm, Scott Mitchell said:

The swarms of flies along US-2 were most likely mayflies, especially while traveling somewhat close to Lake Michigan. I have experienced them so thick that they actually made driving hazardous because of the mess on the windshield and lights of my car.


March 12, 2024at12:30 pm, Team RV Lifestyle said:

That sounds disgusting!! Team RV Lifestyle


June 14, 2022at11:26 am, Daina Higginbotham said:

Good review/testing of bug repellents. I think that I would be scared off, even with all of modern aides of bug-keep-away stuff. Those flies on you at the end is nightmarish. BTW, Ty is simply gorgeous. He looks like a Norwegian Elk hound. Happy Trails from Texas.


June 15, 2022at10:43 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

The bugs are certainly disgusting! Thanks for the encouragement of the review – Team RV Lifestyle


June 14, 2022at8:05 am, Bill Sherer said:

Yellow flies are terrible in early summer in the Florida panhandle and sound very similar. This last May I was told the local ‘Ballpark Moms’ were advocating a suntan lotion as a deterrent – Australian Gold Bronzer. I’m one of these guys where any bugs gravitate to me, but both my wife and I got bit to the point of our legs looking like we had some kind of pox. I tried the Bronzer and, lo and behold, the flies let me alone. I did find that I had to re-apply frequently for it to work. Maybe something like this would work on the UP? Can’t hurt to test.


June 15, 2022at10:42 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Hi Bill – All tips are sure appreciated and we hadn’t heard of this one. Thanks for sharing and telling us how it worked of for you. Team RV Lifestyle


September 05, 2023at2:56 am, Kelli Hawley said:

I would try anything. I live in the UP. And, they are bad. But, especially in Copper Harbor. I don’t understand how they live there at certain times of the year!!! Even if it’s hot, you’d have to dress with long sleeves and pants and wear the head nets to avoid looking like they used you as spin caution! They built through some pants too.. and, through hammocks and chairs!!!


October 30, 2023at6:47 pm, Sylvia Savio said:

are there black flies in Ontonagon in the village ? or rural areas and lake sides ?


June 14, 2022at7:24 am, Jacques Décarie said:

I was told of an all natural FDA approved bug repellent with 0% DEET in it, wont stain clothes and smells kinda woodsy and boy does it work. Used to be called BEST and now goes as Cedarcide Original. Google it and read up. It’s THAT GOOD!


June 15, 2022at10:41 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

We will definitely need to check that out – thanks for sharing! Team RV Lifestyle


June 13, 2021at9:52 pm, Chuck said:

Life long Yooper here who loves being outdoors. In addition to the mosquitos, black flies, deer flies noseeums horseflies and stable flies, you may want to run an article on the latest bane of outdoor people, ticks. Their range is expanding in the UP and can transmit serious diseases. Also, I think the only defense against stable flies is to cover up skin.


May 04, 2021at1:12 pm, Ernie said:

I’m kinda old and slow but typically when you use an acronym the first time you use it you state what it is usually in parentheses. I had to stop and look it up. It wasn’t until later in the article I could figure out where you were. However, I really do like your stuff


May 28, 2015at11:59 am, Knuckles Mutatis said:

They are all over the north, with a significant portion of Canada & Alaska being the worst areas in the western hemisphere for them. Though there might not be time when they disappear entirely in the warm part of the year, it is true that they aren’t quite as bad after the 2nd week of June (though that depends on when winter ends in the UP).
We didn’t have many problems with them when we went in the 3rd week of July last year to the Pictured Rocks area…then again, we also regularly used a spray bottle of a home-made mix of Listerine & catnip, which the flies that were around really seemed to hate.


August 27, 2012at1:20 pm, SheilaTobias said:

Geat job with the blackflies! I do hope you were able to enjoy your stay amongst the flies! Thanks for visiting us. Sheila


July 13, 2012at2:11 pm, Kyle Golembiewski said:

Great video, Mike. Megan and I will be hitting the UP in the 3rd week of August as we start our Journey out West. Hopefully the flies aren’t that bad!


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