Insects and Arachnids
While parts of Michigan lie along the migratory route of the stunning monarch butterfly, the state also has its share of pesky insects. There’s a reason you spot those corny T-shirts proclaiming the mosquito as the Michigan state bird. The first hatch of mosquitoes usually occurs in early June (depending on local weather conditions), and the little buggers immediately discover their love for humans. They won’t seriously injure you, but their sting will cause a small, itchy lump. Most populous in woods and low-lying wet areas, and most active at dusk, mosquitoes can persist all summer, but tend to be less of a problem as the season wears on, especially if conditions are dry.
Your best way to avoid them is to stay in a breeze, and wear long pants and long sleeves. Many people swear by repellent; the stuff with deet is most effective, but studies have linked it with various health risks. If you choose to use repellent, be sure to wash your hands carefully before eating, and read the label warnings, especially before applying it on small children. Some people also swear that eating a lot of garlic makes one less attractive to mosquitoes. (Probably to your hiking partners, too, but hey, this is about survival.)
Black flies can be an equally obnoxious travel companion. Like mosquitoes, black flies don’t pose any health risk but have a nasty bite—somewhere between a mosquito bite and a bee sting on the pain scale. Black flies look like houseflies on steroids. They tend to be worst in the deep woods and in early summer. U.P. black flies can be the stuff of legend; anyone planning time in the backcountry there would be wise to carry the nastiest repellent they can find, and pack a head net, too.
The wilds of Michigan are also favored by a variety of beetles, including the multicolored Asian lady beetle, which was imported in the early 20th century to control other insect pests. You might also encounter spiders on your hikes through the Great Lakes State. Be especially careful of the black widow and the extremely rare brown recluse; the bites of both are poisonous and painful.
by Laura Martone from Moon Michigan, 3rd Edition, © Avalon Travel