Originally published in The Weekly Packet, July 3, 2014
Black flies and mosquitoes beware
Blue Hill resident has a natural and effective repellent
Nina Fleming, the creator of Buggleblue, at a recent June 2014 Friday farmers market in Stonington, Maine.
by Tevlin Schuetz
’Tis the season! If you’ve been out and about, enjoying the long-awaited warmth of summer, chances are good you’ve received at least a bite or two from any number of winged pests. Some of these bites you may not notice, while others may sting a bit but are quickly forgotten following a successful swat. But a chomp from a black fly, however, can be quite an experience and is often accompanied by the most irritating and persistent after-effects.
The Maine black flies, of the family of insects called Simuliidae, typically prefer wooded areas to open, breezy spots and they breed in running water (unlike mosquitoes, which lay their eggs in stagnant pools and puddles). There are reputed to be around 40 different species of black flies in Maine, and the 15 to 20 species which could inhabit a locality have staggered breeding cycles and times, meaning that the buggers are a stubborn, unavoidable presence usually from May until almost the end of July.
As most Mainers know, there are a few tricks with which to outsmart these little mischief-makers to at least some degree—like wearing pale or light colored clothes, tucking all clothing items into other clothing items, donning insect nets, bathing in questionable or toxic chemicals, or simply encasing one’s self in acrylic (which is not only expensive but also unhealthy). Many of these strategies may win a battle or two with black flies, but the fact remains: there is no permanent victory to be had against the blood-thirsty attackers.
Local innovation provides relief
For the past few years, however, there has been a tool with which to ward off black flies as well as mosquitoes and similar villains: Buggleblue, or just Buggle for short. As an all-natural alternative to repellents containing DEET and other toxic components, Buggle is produced by Blue Hill resident and nemesis of pesky insects, Nina Fleming.
Fleming began development of this product eight years ago when her daughter Millie, then a toddler, had terrible reactions to black fly and mosquito bites. Fleming was determined to prevent her daughter from being miserable. Her initial methods of experimentation and production were primitive, but her knowledge of natural herbs and oils propelled her to keep forging ahead. Catnip oil proved to be a powerful ingredient in the concoction. With the right additions of other extracts Buggle was perfected, and black flies were repelled.
Buggle contains all natural ingredients: catnip oil, distilled water, aloe vera gel, jojoba oil, peppermint oil, lavender oil, rosemary oil, eucalyptus oil, baby soap and geranium oil.
Buggle has become a success. As Fleming explained in a recent email exchange, “The majority of sales are through retail locations, although the farmers’ markets and online sales are not far behind.”
Local sales are strong as well. “The Blue Hill Co-op sold more Buggle than any other item in the Heath and Beauty Care Department last year….The Blue Hill Farmers’ Market was my first sales location, and the farmers’ markets are still the best place to keep in touch with customers,” Fleming said.
And the word has spread. “One particular set of loyal folks travel from way Downeast on the first market of the season to stock up on Buggle. Today I am shipping to Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Illinois and more….And one of those bottles is going on a trip to the tropics, [so] Buggle travels all over the world, certainly all over the country,” Fleming said.
When asked about other products in the works, Fleming had this to say: “I have several other family products in the works, although they are not yet market-ready. Buggle was an inadvertent adventure. I made it for my family, and when it became too popular I was urged into business. I want to produce things that we actually use and trust as a family; I do not want to make things for sake of selling.”
As far as future goals are concerned, Fleming maintained, “My original goals regarding Buggle are still the same: make a product that works, smells good, is not greasy, and uses quality ingredients that are safe for everyone in the family, including the dog! I wanted a product we could sleep in and that tends to make people happy when they use it. No matter what direction my business takes, I will always want the products to be natural and practical.”