The Original Bugshirt Company

The Original Bug Shirt Company

Increased Mosquito Populations

(mosquito laying eggs in water. Photo: US EPA)

All across Canada and the US we are seeing historic rainfalls, which sometimes, tragically, leads to flooding. These increased rainfalls signal a huge boon for one species though: mosquitoes! 
Entomologists are warning that mosquito populations could be 2-3 times their normal levels, in some areas, because of increased rainfall and standing water. 
Mosquitoes’ eggs need water to hatch. When mosquitoes lay their eggs in places that dry out before hatching, these eggs do not die, but go dormant awaiting the opportune time. When these dormant eggs hatch and combine with the increased hatching rates of a wet season we see population booms. 
Increased mosquito populations don’t just mean camping will be more pesky. Urban centres like Toronto and Montreal are predicting that it will affect them as well. 
I live in a small city of 125000 near Toronto: not a place that I would normally don my bug shirt to garden in my backyard. However, yesterday I did just that. Regular populations of mosquitoes in the city don’t generally bother me as I was raised in Northern Ontario and I know what bad bug seasons are like. 
This year, though, I got several bug bites in the first few minutes of gardening. I headed back inside, put on my bug shirt and finished my urban gardening in peace, preventing the booming mosquito populations from feasting on my blood yet again. 
I am not looking forward to the increase in mosquitoes, especially living between two rivers that run through my city. I know, however, that I will be able to enjoy my backyard in peace with my bug shirt. 

Cherries White – Black Flies Bite

I am up in Northern Ontario visiting my parents, helping out with garden bed preparation. One of the things I like best about living in Guelph is the distinct lack of black flies. I often schedule my visits up North to coincide with NOT black fly season as their particular brand of bites drive me crazy!

However, this year was a different story and I was “privileged” enough to come just as the black flies were making their first drowsy circles around our heads.

There is an old folk saying of “cherries white, black flies bite” meaning when the cherry blossoms come out the black flies will start biting. This year, at least, it seemed to hold true.

On Monday evening when I arrived, the black flies were out but still just buzzing, not biting yet. Tuesday morning as I started my work in the garden they were swarming my head, at least 50 at a time, but made no attempts to bite my hands which were unprotected (the rest of me, of course, was protected with the Original Bug Shirt).

After a delicious lunch of locally, hydroponically grown salad, my dad called us all over to look out the window, where, lo and behold, the cherry tree closest to the house was in full blossom. That afternoon, out in the garden again (this time fully protected with gloves), the black flies were devouring our lovely dog Badger, as he tromped around the garden, keeping me company while I dug compost and manure into the beds to prepare them for the coming growing season.

Despite having great protection, when I see black flies swarming around me, I can feel phantom flies crawling on my hairline. It makes me eagerly await the wild irises that, again according to folk-lore, signal the end of the black fly season: “flags of blue, black flies through”

First Hike in April

Spring! It’s my favourite time of year. I live in South-Western Ontario and the magnolia trees are in full bloom, along with countless bulbs exploding their colourful life into the world.

It’s the time of year where I take any opportunity to get out of the city and explore one of the many hiking trails in the area. We are lucky to live close to the Niagara Escarpment and the 885 km Bruce Trail that runs along it.

Last weekend, the family and I decided to explore a new space: the Silvercreek Conservation area. The drive there was an exciting, winding journey up and down the escarpment on steep, narrow, dirt roads. Though we were only an hour from Toronto, the biggest urban centre in Canada, we felt that we were in some distant backwoods.

We parked our car on the side of the road, behind all the others and noticed a trail opening up, so we decided to explore. This particular trail was a side trail of the main Bruce Trail. It took us along the side of the escarpment’s cliffs, bringing us down rock staircases, to discover beautiful views of the valley below with majestic turkey vultures riding the wind currents up and down the gorge.

The birch trees were putting out their long, worm-like catkins and the maples were flowering. All of my favourite spring woodland flowers were coming into bloom: bloodroot, trout lilies and wild ginger. Plants were not the only things waking up.

We also saw our first mosquitoes, buzzing lazily down the path, not yet embodying the blood-thirsty bane of any hiker. My nine year old commented how the first mosquito is not as big of a deal as the first mosquito bite and we joked about how, this early in the season, we could still outrun the mosquitos.

Once at the bottom of the trail we heard a gurgling sound. We explored the limestone rocks to find the spring thaw dripping into tiny pools in the leaves, creating a watery symphony.

The walk back up is never as fun for the legs, but we discovered some limestone caves, a hallmark of the Escarpment that made the journey worthwhile. My partner and my daughter explored them but only because the spiders are still tiny, as my daughter was quick to point out.

We headed back to the car with much complaining. At nine, my daughter’s patience for hiking with her mom is fairly low and an hour and a half is about her limit. As there were many more trails to explore in the area, my partner and I will go back for the day without my daughter, but definitely with our bug shirts.

How we do business, and why

When we started The Original Bug Shirt Company in 1991, as a response to the heavy infestations of biting flies and mosquitoes which plague our remote home in northeastern Ontario, we had very little business experience. As a result, much of our ‘business plan’ was based on our personal beliefs on how a business should be run as a part of a local and eventually a larger community, rather than on how best to “make money”.

Our ‘plan’, and our company were built on the following beliefs: our products should be durable enough to last through hard and/or continuous use; our products should be effective as advertised without using potentially toxic repellents; there can be no compromise in quality or effectiveness (our products may not be the cheapest but they will be the best and most effective on the market); we will manufacture locally in Canada; we will ship orders quickly; we will treat our customers fairly; and will personally respond to any customer concerns as quickly as possible.

The world has changed a lot since 1991. Business, thanks in large part to advances in telecommunication and connectivity, has become globalized. Globalization and the various trade agreements that make globalization possible have also led to serious social and environmental problems. As companies rushed to move manufacturing to Asia and other parts of the Third World they neglected or ignored the working conditions of the people responsible for making their products. As we now know some of the most recognizable names in consumer products have contracted their manufacturing to companies that underpaid and mistreated the workers as well as ignoring any environmental issues associated with both the manufacturing processes and the delivery of the finished goods to the consumer. All to maximize profit. And with little or no benefit to anything other than ‘the bottom line’.

Why should any of this matter to you, a potential customer? On the community level, you can be assured that we use a local contractor who employs 4-7 skilled sewers and pays a fair and competitive wage. This means more money is circulating locally improving our community by ‘spreading the wealth’. Because all of the materials we use are made in either Canada or the US (except our cotton which comes from China as does most of the world’s supply) the immense fuel consumption and the environmental effects involved in shipping either by air or sea are minimized. While we have no problem with companies manufacturing overseas we feel all workers, wherever they are, should be paid commensurate with their skill. At the very least workers should be able to bring home enough to cover the basic needs of themselves and their families. We also feel that companies from the developed world should be ethical enough to insist that their subcontractors in the developing world provide adequate wage, health, and safety standards in the workplace.

We intend to continue on with the ‘plan’. Although in the last 26 years it has not made us rich financially, it has given us immense satisfaction knowing that our many, many customers have reinforced our belief that the ‘plan’ was a good ‘plan’, by the many supportive letters (remember letters?), emails, and photos sent to us over the years.