Northern Ontario tree planter transformed by insect bites

At first glance, it looks like Eamon Cunningham Closs had been a victim of assault.

Eamon Cunningham Closs says bug spray helps, but doesn’t keep the pesky bugs at bay

Eamon Cunningham Closs says he was so desperate to find relief from blackflies and deer flies while tree planting, he jumped into the bush and ended up putting leaves on himself to try and keep the bugs away. (Submitted by Eamon Cunningham Closs)

At first glance, it looks like Eamon Cunningham Closs had been a victim of assault.

"My face looks like it's dirty but it's all dried blood," he said.

"There's a slight gleam in my ear because my ear was full of blood. There was a glob of blood in my ear."

The culprits? Swarms of blackflies and horseflies that couldn't resist. Cunningham Closs, originally from Sudbury, plants trees near Atikokan in northwestern Ontario.

He says when he first started the job, he worked to keep the flies away.

"Now I try to ignore them," he said. "I think it's better if I just get used to them on me. But it's difficult with the deer flies because they're very painful."

Cunningham Closs says bug spray does help, but doesn't solve the problem. One day when the bugs were particularly bad, he says he jumped in a pile of branches to try and get relief. He ended up attaching some of the branches to his hat.

"It seemed like the leaves were keeping them away," he said.

Eamon Cunningham Closs, a tree planter originally from Sudbury, says he's learning how to cope with all the bugs that attack him on the job. (Submitted by Eamon Cunningham Closs)

He says so far, the blackflies aren't as bad compared to last year.

"But the deer flies have been out [and] they're really bad," he said. "They really hurt when they bite you. They saw into your skin."

Despite his experience with the flies, Cunningham Closs says the job is worth it.

"You can get quite a bit of money," he said. "You get paid per tree. Right now, we're getting 12 cents per tree and it adds up."

Most of us see the black fly as an annoyance, but if you are a tree planter in northern Ontario, you deal with black flies at another level. Aemon Cunningham Closs knows that first hand. He spoke to us about what it's like working to plant trees when black flies are everywhere around you. 5:39

With files from Markus Schwabe


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.