Prevent bugs from bugging you
Nothing can ruin camping like aggressive bugs
Nothing can ruin a camping trip like aggressive biting insects.
At the same time, modern chemicals coupled with a good dose of common sense can keep your outdoor time from turning into a slap fest.
Mosquito and tick populations are on the rise due to more deer and warmer weather. The prevalence of the diseases these bugs carry tripled in the U.S. between 2004 and 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
That’s no reason to cancel a camping trip, however. Avoiding campsites in low-lying wet areas, wearing loose fitting long sleeve shirts and using a quality repellent will usually hold back the bugs, says University of Wisconsin-Madison entomologist P.J. Liesch. Liesch, who tweets as @WiBugGuy, notes there are dozens of different insect species that can cause problems. Most like standing water – even muddy tire tracks on seldom-traveled forest roads.
“When it comes to mosquitoes, we’ve got 60 different species all with different habits,” he says.
Some mosquitoes can fly for miles looking for a meal while others stay close to home. Some mosquitoes hatch in winter. Others need a long stretch of warm weather to emerge.
But generally speaking, mosquitoes in Wisconsin start to appear around Memorial Day into early June and can stick around until the first hard freeze.
Fortunately, a repellent containing DEET will keep most mosquitoes at bay for several hours depending on the concentration, while other products containing oil of lemon (eucalyptus) or the active ingredient in Avon’s Skin So Soft are also effective. The Environmental Protection Agency requires proper labeling of all repellents and Liesch says it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Liesch is skeptical about the plastic wristbands marketed as mosquito-fighting accessories, along with the electric bug buzzers often seen at campsites or outside cabins.
“I haven’t seen any studies showing they actually do much good,” he says.
If you really want to beat insects, Liesch says a physical barrier is the best bet. That can be a head net, chemically treated clothing or a screen tent set up around a picnic table. Finding a nice breezy camping or picnic spot can also help.
Black flies, deer flies or horse flies present their own set of issues. But again, repellent and protective apparel usually work, says Liesch.
Ticks are a special problem since the smaller deer ticks can carry Lyme disease. Tucking your pants into your socks and doing thorough “tick checks” on kids and pets is essential after spending time in the woods, says Liesch.
If you do find a tick, he says, “Use a pair of tweezers, get down by the base of the head and give it a slow steady pull.”
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