No one denies that the bugs here are terrible. Local stores sell trinkets with a mosquito saying "Send more tourists, the last ones were delicious!" I fly frequently in small planes across the north for my job and we're told that if you are to survive a crash, it is still possible to die by insect bites, so be sure to bring repellent in your survival gear. Black flies are known to kill large game animals and livestock. This is disgusting. The picture above is of my swollen right eyelid after a black fly bite last summer. This was more dramatic-looking but less painful than the one in my ear canal.
This is another challenge of gardening in the north. How to handle it?
(1) Insect repellents - this year I am going to try out a "natural" option, a spray product called "Bite Me", containing various oils including lemon. It smells FABULOUS but I have yet to see if it works as well as the gold standard, DEET. If you live in a West Nile affected area, the benefits of DEET may outweigh its small risk. As of yet, West Nile hasn't made it this far north. I have used heaps of DEET sprays in the past, applying it to hands, ankles, neck, face, and lower back (because mosquitoes get you when you bend over) as well as all over my clothes.
(2) Proper clothing - NO shorts, NO spandex, NO tank tops. The idea is to cover as much skin as possible, which has the bonus of preventing any sunburns! I love my Tilley hat and heavy cotton pants with reinforced knees from the army surplus store. I wear one of those thin running/cycling jackets (you know, with the "tuxedo tail" to cover your backside) over a breathable shirt. I usually wear a hiking boot, but I have been thinking about finding a pair of Wellies.