I’ve been a “bug magnet” all of my life. When I was 9 years old, I had 100 mosquito bites on my body at ONE TIME! Keep in mind my body was much, much smaller than it is now, so that’s quite a concentration of bug bites! During this “bugapocalypse,” I looked like this…
Dressing like this is not a bad way to discourage biting insects! Though when it’s hot outside, you’re probably not going to be comfortable in so many layers. Me at Camp O’ Fair Winds Girl Scout camp, near Lapeer, MI in 1981.
In a moment of anger, I actually remember spraying a mosquito that had landed on me with Off!, which killed it instantly. Surprised I didn’t wind up being a serial killer because of that wanton act of animal cruelty!
My attractiveness to mosquitoes is legendary among my friends. I’m a very popular person to sit next to at outdoor gatherings! I’ve tried all kinds of repellents over the years, and the only thing that has worked on keeping the mosquitoes away from me is Deep Woods Off!, of which the active ingredient is DEET, which people with children tend to want to avoid because…chemicals? This blog is pretty much for “adults only,” but people with kids may want to explore their DEET-free repellent options elsewhere, because I’m not endorsing the use of any of those in this blog! Thermacells? They sound like a huge money grab to me – though many campers on a FB discussion board I follow seem to like them. But you have to continually replace the repellent pads fuel cartridges after paying $20-$30 on the gadget itself. I’d rather just buy a can of bug spray for under $10 that will likely last most of the summer, thank you! And Costco has a value pack of three!
All of that said, let’s get on with my…
Bug Repelling Tips
Clothing is hands-down your best defense against bugs. Me in some of my “bug defensive clothing” in 2010, Tahquamenon Falls State Park, in its “Rivermouth” campground.
- Wear as much clothing as you’re comfortable wearing when it’s buggy outside. A long-sleeve button down shirt, lightweight hoodie, pants. The more dense the fabric weave, the better. You’d be surprised what breaches in your clothing’s defenses insects will find! Hats and bandannas are also great! Spray them with the repellent to keep them away from your head/face.
- Use repellent liberally at clothing edges. Spray the wrists of your shirt, collar, pant legs, socks, hat/bandanna. Be sure to test a discreet spot on the clothing first. Some fabrics will deteriorate or melt when chemical-based repellents are applied to them, especially synthetics, such as nylon/polyester.
- Wash off the repellent when you’re in a safe bug-free zone. Washing off with a wet soapy rag will do in a pinch, and if you’re in a rustic camping environment, baby wipes work well, too.
- Avoid being outdoors at peak bug times – early morning/late evening.
- Know your “bug seasons” and environment. Mosquitoes are most numerous from early June to late August. Avoid marshy areas and wetlands, which are prime mosquito breeding grounds. Tuck pant legs into socks when venturing into tick territories, such as weeds near marshy areas. Some parks will be kind enough to post signs warning visitors about ticks. Ticks seem to love body hair and will try hitching a ride to your body via a leg hair, etc. I have never had a tick on my body. IKR? Of ALL of the problems I’ve had with black flies (more about them next), mosquitoes, etc…ticks have pretty much left me alone. Though they have tried having their way with my hairy-legged husband a couple of times. Some of the same DEET sprays that repel mosquitoes will usually repel ticks, too. But clothing, as always, is your best defense.
- Black flies DO NOT CARE WHAT YOU SMELL LIKE. Repellents do not work on these things – and their bites are so itchy you could end up getting scabs! A clothing barrier is the only thing that works. They are low-flyers and love attacking ankles, and WILL bite through even the thickest socks. To keep them at bay on a backpacking trip at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in 2006, I wrapped a bandanna with rope around each ankle and tucked my pant leg in. That worked, though I wasn’t exactly making any kind of fashion statement! Read more about these unofficial state birds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, aka to locals “The U.P.” here…
- Re-apply repellent if you’ve been sweating.
- Get to know smells mosquitoes hate (besides Deep Woods Off!). They also don’t like the smell of cedar – mosquitoes will not be quite as bothersome if you’re lucky enough to be camping or hanging out in cedar groves. The mosquitoes will hate the smell, but you’ll love it! Don’t have a cedar grove to hang out in? Look for cedar spray at your favorite bricks and mortar or online retailer (apparently it’s non-toxic and safe for the environment to appease all hippie sensibilities). Heck, I might even try it! #daughterofahippie
- Enjoy high winds. Most bugs have difficulty getting around in high winds. If you’re chilling outside with access to electricity, plug in a fan – I’ve done this while sitting outside on my deck (keeps skeeters away).
That’s it for my “bug blog!”