Camping is about getting up close and personal with nature. But that doesn't mean you have to spend your entire vacation swatting at bugs and insects.
It's called the wilderness for a reason. Pests can run rampant and make any camping trip more of a pain than a pleasure. In addition to being irritating and unsightly, some insects can bite, potentially leaving you with discomfort and potential harm.
Don't let the creepy crawlers overrun your campsite and spoil the peace and quiet of your rustic retreat. Before zipping up your backpack this summer, be sure to take these precautions.
Insects You May Encounter While Camping
Planning a vacation that’s spent outdoors marveling at the wonders of Planet Earth? Then you’ve probably packed the ingredients for s'mores, made sure there are extra batteries and double-checked that the tents are watertight, but are you ready for the bugs you’ll encounter?
Naturally, sleeping under the stars likely means you’ll have a few more bedmates than you’re accustomed to, and some of them will be less welcome than others. Here are 6 insects that can spoil a good camping trip, as well as tips for helping beat the bugs.
Ticks are some of the most unpopular critters on planet Earth, and they thrive in the woods. They’re prone to latching on to hard-to-spot places. And certain species can cause severe infections such as Lyme disease.
Note: Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of mosquito and tick-borne disease. More information, along with treatment advice, about mosquito- and tick-borne illnesses can be found on the CDC website.
You’re most likely all too familiar with these little nuisances. Well, they like camping, too. They keep you swatting and scratching day and night. Moreover, when you’re trying to sleep, their high-pitched whining can drive you crazy.
3. Wasps, Bees and Other Stinging Pests
Wasps, bees and similar insects will typically leave you alone unless you provoke them. However, some species are aggressive, and there’s always the possibility that you’ll accidentally trod on a nest while hiking through the woods.
Depending on where you are, fire ants could be your biggest concern when you’re communing with nature. You may know all too well that their stings can cause searing pain that can make you and the kids downright miserable. Even if you're not in a place where fire ants live, other kinds of ants can also make your trip unpleasant.
Chiggers are hard to spot with the naked eye and like to bite around the ankles, waist and in skin folds. When they burrow under your skin, they can transform the best summer vacation into the worst experience. Think extreme itching and swelling.
No-see-ums, midges, whatever you call them, they can zap the fun out of a camping trip. These tiny flies can make you cry out in alarm when they bite. You’re most likely to run into them around dusk and dawn. They also come out to play when skies get cloudy or the wind dies down.
Tips to Help You Enjoy an Itch- and Sting-Free Camping Trip
1. Dress Properly
You should follow one rule of thumb when camping: whenever and wherever possible, cover exposed skin.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you wear long sleeves, pants and other light-colored clothing, which will help cover exposed skin that insects can bite, but it will also help you check for and prevent ticks. While hiking, especially through dense woods or tall grass, try to stick to the middle of marked paths and stop periodically to check your clothes for ticks. If you must blaze your own trail, be that much more vigilant.
2. Use Insect Repellent
Appropriate clothing alone may not be fully effective in helping prevent bug bites. Therefore, it’s wise to supplement the protection they offer with an insect repellent. When using insect repellents, be sure to follow the manufacturer's directions.
Properly applied repellent generally won't kill insects, but it will help deter them and send them searching for easier prey. And these insects are predators. Even when you don’t notice them, they are on the lookout for you.
If you’re bringing your pets along with you, make sure you’ve consulted with your veterinarian about tick and heartworm prevention to help protect them.
3. Avoid Ideal Insect Habitats
Standing water and tall grass are both breeding grounds for all types of insects. Literally. Steer clear of them when hiking. When looking for a campsite, think “high and dry.”
4. Engage Your Senses
Planet Earth is filled with bugs and critters. Keep an eye open for ant mounds, beehives, spider webs and the like. You’ll also want to listen for loud buzzing sounds, as it could indicate that a swarm of angry bees or hornets is nearby.
5. Keep Tents Secure
You can’t keep every bug out of your tent while camping. But the number that manages to crawl inside will be smaller if you take the proper precautions. For starters, don’t keep food in the tent. You also want to turn off lights when you’re not inside, and zip up tent flaps as soon as you enter or exit.
6. Pack a First-Aid Kit
Keep insects in mind when planning your first-aid kit. For example, tweezers come in handy for removing ticks. Additionally, the CDC recommends stocking a travel health kit with, among other things, anti-itch gel or cream for insect bites and stings and 1% hydrocortisone cream. And if campers on your trip have a history of severe allergic reactions or anaphylaxis, the CDC recommends travelers carry their epinephrine auto-injectors on their persons at all time.
7. Properly Store Food
The food you bring to your camping site can also be an attractant for insects. Be sure you keep all food in properly sealed containers in a cooler to help keep the bugs away.
8. Protect Your Pups
Sparky can pick up bugs on a camping trip, too. Before heading out on your vacation, make certain dogs are current on flea and tick medications, after consulting with your veterinarian of course. This can also decrease your chances of bringing fleas back home.
A camping vacation is a fun way for the family to experience Planet Earth. Follow these tips to help make sure your outdoor memories are happy ones.