In the Field

How to Keep Bugs Away – A Complete Guide

How to Keep Bugs Away – A Complete Guide

When the cold winter months are over and the days get longer and warmer, people everywhere start getting the itch to get outside and start enjoying their favorite activities once again. While everybody looks forward to the fresh air and sunshine, the one thing that no one enjoys about those beautiful spring, summer, and early fall months, is the pesky, biting bugs!

As I often like to remind folks, the most dangerous thing in the woods throughout much of North America is not grizzly bears or mountain lions, but rather, something much, much smaller. Every year thousands of people become seriously ill, and many even die, as a result of being bitten by disease-carrying insects such as ticks, spiders, mosquitoes, and others.

Yes indeed, there are all sorts of nasty little critters that along with just aggravating the heck out of you with their incessant buzzing around, they can also make you downright miserable, and again, even seriously ill. The list includes fire ants, bees, wasps, chiggers, fleas, deer flies, horse flies, mosquitoes, black widow spiders, brown recluse spiders, ticks, white socks (or black flies), biting gnats, midges, and a variety of no-see-ums. No matter what the particular insect though, there are some fairly easy ways to help eliminate, or at least greatly minimize the misery they can cause. Let’s have a look at some.

Proper Clothing

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The clothing you wear in the great outdoors is your first line of defense from the natural elements such as the damaging UV rays from the sun, the rain, rash inducing plants, and hypothermia inducing wind. Clothing is also the first barrier that a potentially harmful insect has to penetrate in order to bite. Thus, if you’re going to be in an area where you know bugs are going to be an issue, don’t wear shorts and a tank top. While spray-on bug repellants can be effective, many are not so ideal for applying directly to the skin. Not to mention, they can easily wear off due to sweat or getting wet.

If the weather is hot, wearing lightweight, synthetic, tightly-woven pants and a long sleeve shirt, or, some of the newer specialized sun and bug protective clothing that’s on the market today, can be a great option as an initial base layer of protection from bugs. However, while light-weight clothing may keep some bugs at bay, it’s no match for more aggressive insects with long, sharp stingers. So if it’s not too terribly hot, wearing clothing made from stronger, thicker fabric is a good idea for basic bug defense.

Along with protecting your arms, legs, and main torso area with the right clothes, a fine mesh bug head net is a simple, but extremely important piece of gear to add to your bug repelling wardrobe. Smaller insects such as mosquitoes and no-see-ums, love to go right for your ears, eyes, brow, and neck area. So keeping your head well covered will save you from a great deal of torture. As an important side note, be sure to wear your head net over a hat of some kind in order to keep the net fabric away from your skin. If the netting is directly on top of your skin, many bugs will still be able to bite you.

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A few other tips in regard to clothing, if you’re going to be in an extremely buggy setting, you may need to tuck your pants into your socks, wear very long socks, or tightly secure your pant legs as well as the cuffs on your shirt sleeves in one way or the other, such as using draw stings, heavy rubber bands, or even duct tape. It’s also a good idea to wear gloves that the bugs can’t bite through, as hands are another major target area for blood-sucking insects. And finally, if possible, don’t wear dark-colored clothing such as black or dark blue colors, as they tend to attract far more bugs than lighter colored clothes.

 

Repellents

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Along with wearing the proper clothing for your adventure in bug country, the use of an insect repellant is the next line of defense. While there are many different brands on the market these days which can be made from a wide variety of ingredients such as essential oils, Deet based repellants have been proven time and time again to be hands-down the most effective. However, Deet is also highly toxic. It’s not good to get it on your skin or breath it in. Also, Deet will melt plastic, so be sure to keep it off of any essential gear that you don’t want to damage. What I personally recommend is to simply use Deet based products on your clothing and non-Deet repellants on your skin.

The proper application of your insect repellant of choice is another key issue. It’s important to apply it most heavily in areas where bugs have the easiest access to your body, such as around your waist, ankles, wrists, shoes, and neck. If you’re going to be in an area that’s massively infested with potentially dangerous insects, such as ticks, spraying down your clothes completely before you put them on is another good way to ensure total coverage.

There’s a wide variety of bug-repelling deceives on the market these days such as Thermacells, candles, smoke sticks, and others. These can be effective too, but smelling and breathing in the strong bug-repelling fumes from these items for hours on end can get a little nauseating. No matter what kind of repellent you choose to use though, keep in mind that they won’t completely eliminate the presence of bugs. They’ll certainly help keep the insects off your body and prevent them from biting you or burrowing into your skin, but chances are good that they’ll still be present and will still be buzzing around in your personal space. And, the more you swat and try to shoosh them away, the more aggressive they’ll often get, so try to refrain from provoking them all the more.

As another bit of advice, watch the wind! While the wind can definitely put a damper on certain outdoor activities, it’s your best friend when the bugs are bad. So try to stay in areas with good airflow to minimize their presence, especially when deciding on a place to camp or when remaining stationary for long periods of time, such as when viewing or photographing wildlife.

 

After the Bite

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When you get back home from a day in bug country, it’s imperative to check yourself thoroughly for possible bites or the presence of burrowing insects such as ticks. And when I say to check yourself thoroughly, I mean THOROUGHLY!  Biting, burrowing insects love to hang tight and hide out in unsuspecting areas on your body with lots of blood flow, such as around your waist, under your arms, in between your toes and fingers, in your belly button, and behind your ears. There’s no delicate way to put this…but they especially like to go for those more private areas of the body. So be sure to check your butt, your butt crack, and crotch area. So be sure to check all those areas extensively!

If you do find a bite, which might not even show up for a day or two, safely remove the insect if it’s still there and treat the infected area properly. This is a very important, detailed subject which I won’t go into in this article, but the bottom line is that you need to take insect bites very seriously, and if need be, get medical attention quickly. An untreated bug bite can have terribly debilitating long-term effects, and in some cases can even be fatal.

So there you have it, that’s an overview of how to stay safe in bug country so you can enjoy your time in the great outdoors all the more. Check out the video below to see more…

 

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