“Number 9:” The Story of Frenchies’ Maine Woods Bug Dope

Posted by Lou Demers - Co-founder, Frenchies' Natural Products on Mar 19th 2017

In the summer of 2011, Frenchies’ Co-founder Matt Dubois and I were on a camping trip in the North Woods. It was then that the idea for Frenchies’ Maine Woods Bug Dope—our natural insect repellent—was born. (Story continues below video.)  

Gathered around the campfire with family, we were being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Having suffered one bite too many, Matt reached into his pocket and pulled out a small bottle of cedar essential oil. He dabbed his finger with the oil and applied it directly to his exposed skin—neck, forehead, and arms.

“What are you doing,” someone asked. “Camouflaging myself from the mosquitoes,” he replied. “Mmm, that smells good,” said someone else. The next thing you know, the little bottle of cedar oil was being passed around, everyone put some on.

Almost instantly after applying the oil to our skin, the mosquitoes vanished. “Wow, this stuff really works!” … “They’re not biting me anymore!” ... “I love the way it smells!” These are just a few of the comments I recall.

Matt went on to explain that flying, biting insects are attracted to our carbon dioxide signature and that the cedar oil was “masking” the CO2 being emitted from our bodies. Essentially, the cedar oil enabled us to “blend into the background” – the bugs “thought” we were a tree, so they ignored us. It was hard to believe such a simple strategy could be so effective—and it was natural!

Shortly after that camping adventure, we embarked upon a mission: to create a highly effective and natural (DEET-free) insect repellent that protects people from mosquitoes and black flies. Knowing that there were other essential oils with proven anti-biting-insect qualities, we began a rigorous process of research, testing and development…with the goal of using cedar oil as our primary ingredient.

Over the course of a year, we created and personally tested dozens of different formulations of potential natural insect repellents. Each test formulation was placed in its own bottle and assigned a number. We applied the various mixtures to ourselves and our dogs on numerous hikes into the woods as well as on mountain climbing treks. We gave different test batches to friends and relatives and asked them to try them out and provide us with feedback. We wanted to make sure our future product was field tested by a variety of people in a variety of settings.

During that year of extensive testing, a winning formula emerged – bottle number nine. “Number 9,” as we simply called it, was consistently reported as the mixture of essential oils that was most effective in keeping mosquitoes and black flies from biting people--and dogs!

The rest, they say, is history and Frenchies’ Maine Woods Bug Dope hit the market in the summer of 2012. “Why is it called ‘Bug Dope’,” you ask? “Bug Dope” or “Fly Dope” is a phrase long used by Mainers (particularly those from Northern Maine) to describe insect repellent. Though the phrase is not commonly used anymore, we were endeared to it, and decided to bring it back in vogue.

Five years later, and thousands of bottles sold, Frenchies’ Maine Woods Bug Dope has earned a legion of loyal fans, from moms and dads who prefer not to use chemically based products on their kids, to avid hikers, campers, and fishermen…to everyday folks who prefer not to be a bug’s meal at a backyard barbecue. We even have professional loggers who have become die-hard customers.

Frenchies’ Maine Woods Bug Dope has been used by our customers in the North Woods of America and Canada, on the beaches of Florida, high in the Rockies of the West, in the boggy bayous of Louisiana, and even on the slopes of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro. Time and again, people tell us how wonderful our Maine Woods Bug Dope is and that it is the only insect repellent they use. It is this enthusiasm for our product and loyalty to our company for which we are truly grateful. Thank you!