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The awful truth of Bugs in the UP: 2021 Advice

Have you heard the horror stories of bugs in the UP?  The truth is there there are a lot of bugs up there, 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.

But if you want to know, that’s a photo of my leg above. Read on….

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 up there – 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 bigs 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 Bugs in the UP video!

Still not convinced about how mad the bigs 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 the UP.

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 the 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 –

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.

Jennifer and I have been visiting Michigan’s Upper Peninsula for more than three decades. We’ve hiked, photographed, camped, fished, and explored every region and the problem of bugs in the UP is minuscule compared to the joy we experience every time we visit!

What to learn more about Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?

The awful truth of Bugs in the UP: 2021 Advice 1

Bugs aside, the UP is our favorite place. So much so that we wrote an Adventure Travel Guides on the Upper Peninsula aimed at RVers.

This instantly downloadable ebook is a seven-day guided exploration of the Michigan Upper Peninsula.

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 UP without it!

You can hit everything in seven days, do a whirlwind weekend tour, or you can take your time and explore the area over a 2+ week period.

Michigan’s rugged and wild Upper Peninsula is one of the most scenic and adventurous spots in North America, perfect for exploration by RV. 

It has something for everyone and all it takes is one visit to make it one of your top destinations. We’ve put together our seven most favorite spots along with maps, photos, links to videos, suggestions on where to stay, what to eat and what to do. 

All you need to do is point the RV north and follow our guide to experience the UP like a Yooper. CLICK HERE for more details


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5 Responses to “The awful truth of Bugs in the UP: 2021 Advice”

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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