The Awful Truth of Bugs in the UP: Year-Round 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.

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 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 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 –

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.

The Great Lakes Adventure Guide Bundle
(The Great Lake Shoreline Tour & Upper Peninsula RV Adventure Guide)

The Awful Truth of Bugs in the UP: Year-Round Advice 1

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!

Bugs aside, the UP is our favorite place. So much so that we wrote an Adventure Travel Guide 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.

Then we’ve bundled it with one of our newest ebooks on the Great Lakes!

The Great Lakes Shoreline Tour — One of our favorite RV trips has been driving the United States side of the five Great Lakes.

It is a trip of over 4,000 miles and takes you to 8 states!

And it’s filled with beautiful vistas, welcoming towns and villages, and fabulous places to camp, hike, and explore.

Both of these ebooks have something for everyone and all it takes is one visit to make it one of your top destinations.

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

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