Camping, Cottaging, and RVING season is now upon us, and many Ontarians are forced to plan “Staycations”, with no more trips to Cuba or Vegas or Cruise Ships for a long while, the bumper crop of bugs will have plenty to eat this summer! Learn how to protect yourself, be prepared.
The best plan for dealing with biting and stinging insects is to learn how they live, and where they breed, plus understand what works to avoid and repel them.
Different Types of Insects, How they Live
-Blackflies: these swarming bugs only work the day shift. They are particularly nasty just before dusk, and prefer temperatures above 15 Celsius with sunshine. They don’t like being indoors, and they breed in running water. They bite, and like to crawl into pants and sleeves.
-Mosquitoes: these nasty insects work day and night shifts. Mosquitoes breed in stagnant water, and they enjoy temperatures above 12 Celsius, and prefer muggy and overcast weather. They don’t like strong winds. They get really active at dawn and dusk, and when a storm is approaching. Mosquitoes enjoy being indoors eg your tent or cottage.
-Deerflies: these large bugs enjoy sunlight and open areas. They don’t like being under shade canopy. Like most biting and stinging bugs, they are attracted to contrasting colours, movement, perspiration, and CO2.
And they like biting behind the ears.
-No-Seeums: these are sometimes called sandflies, I call them teeth with wings. They like sandy areas and shorelines, and can swarm you.
-Wasps: there are many types of wasps, such as paper Wasps and ground wasps. They can build nests in trees, under your fishing boat, inside the RV propane tank cover, inside the toolshed and woodshed, inside the walls of your cottage, in a garden patch, you name the location, I’ve seen nests. Wasps can bite multiple times, and they send out a pheromone signal so that the whole nest swarms you.
-Hornets & Murder Hornets: in my opinion, Hornets are the worst, and their bite is extremely painful. There are many species of hornets, the most famous is the Asian Murder Hornet. So far they are confined to British Columbia.
-Bees: most Bees are quite docile. They are crucial pollinators, and found near flowers. Wear long pants when you walk through fields of flowers, and be aware of disturbing them. If you get stung, the bee’s venom sack is torn off the bee, and it continues to pump venom. You should use tweezers and remove the sack asap.
TIP: if you step on a nest or hive, run at least 100 – 200 meters away, run indoors, or dive into the water. If you run far enough away, most Wasps and Hornets will give up the chase, since they don’t want to get into a competing nest’s territory.
-Spiders: many Spiders can bite, and cause a painful reaction. A rare spider, the Brown Recluse, is highly poisonous, but typically found in older homes and damp dark basements. Some Spiders, eg the Wolf Spider, are aggressive when cornered, and they will bite! Most are passive.
-Deer Ticks and Lyme Desease: deer ticks and other vectors can spread Lyme Disease. This disease could affect tens of thousands of Canadians this year, and has a high fatality rate. If you get bit, remove the tick with tick tweezers, and place in a plastic bag and bring to a local health unit for testing. Ticks can hop on your pets, or your clothing. The worst places to find ticks are tall grasses and fields. Wear long pants and high socks, and spray your clothing with a DEET Insect repellent, or Permethryn.
When you don’t have modern methods, some primitive techniques still work! A smokey smudge fire, using punky rotting wood, leaves, and moss, repels bugs. For blackflies and deerflies, go inside a shelter or under a tarp, since they don’t like being indoors. Also, for blackflies, cover exposed areas with evergreen boughs, since blackflies need a landing pad, and they won’t land on the boughs. An effective technique involves using mud. Cover up all exposed flesh with mud. The mud also reduces swelling and itching. Cedar oils squeezed from cedar boughs is effective as a repellent. Jewelweed juice is the aloe vera of the wilderness. This plant is found in damp areas, and cures insect bites and stings amazingly.
Bug Suits and Headnets
Most camping stores sell bug suits and head nets. These are very effective, especially for blackflies, however, I find them uncomfortable to wear if you’re active.
Sold in most dollar stores and hardware stores, they have limited effectiveness on the patio, but shouldn’t be used indoors (toxic).
Insect Repellents: there are two types of Bug Juices, those that contain DEET, and those that are Organic. When bugs are very thick, DEET products like Muskol and Deep Woods Off works best. I like the 49% DEET, and that’s the highest concentration allowed for sale in Canada. Do I import the 99% stuff from abroad! My favourite is BEN’s INSECT Repellents, and I like the Wipes product. Ben’s isn’t alcohol based, so it doesn’t sting. Some folks claim Watkins brand and other Organic Repellents eg. Natrapel, work well. Organic repellents typically contain oils of Cedar, Eucalyptus and Lemon Grass. An application of a DEET product usually lasts ten times longer than organic.
Some people use Avon Skin So Soft in a bath, as a repellent. Others eat garlic.
TIP: Permethryn and Pre-Treated Clothing
You can find Bug-Tek Permethryn Spray at some RV Dealers, $28.95 for a 2 litre spray bottle. It’s used for spraying cabins and rv’s exteriors, and repels cluster lies and asian ladybugs (that bite!). Pest control companies use Permethryn to spray for cockroaches.
Bug-Tek is safe and harmless to humans, and if you spray your clothing, it lasts for up to 40 washes. Permethrym is 100 times more effective than DREW. It’s not sold in Canada as an insect repellent, but is approved for sale in the United States. Bug-Tek isn’t sold as an insect repellent.
Some retailers, eg Marks Work Wearhouse, sell clothing that’s all ready treated with permethryn.
•••••Extra Good TIP: Permethryn sprayed clothing eg pants, socks, are 100% effective at replying ticks!!!!!!!
Hornets:Wasp Spray Foam: found at most hardware stores, always spray the nests at night! I prefer to get the nests in the spring, before they become gigantic.
Proper Outdoor Clothing: avoid bright colours, dark colours, and contrasting colours. Keep clothing smelling neutral, eg avoid fragrant detergents. Earthy and white colours are best, and as loose fitting as is possible, since the bugs will be biting air. When bugs are bad, the up wrists and ankles with tape or elastic bands, to prevent bugs from crawling in.
Don’t Use Perfumes or Eat Bananas! They attract bugs.
Treating Insect Bites and Stings: my favourite treatments include Calamine Lotion, Caladryl, Aloe Vera. Benadryl Medicated, and for minor bites, you can try Afterbite.
Anaphylaxis: this is an adverse and sometimes deadly allergic reaction. Anyone can become susceptible if you get enough toxins, eg swarmed by Hornets or Blackflies. I carry Anti-Histamines and Epi-Pens.