Battle of the Bugs

I love the summer time and being outdoors in the mountains.  Unfortunately, one of the sad consequences of being in the wild is dealing with the ravenous flying, stinging and biting bugs that can drive you crazy!

I remember being on a hunting trip in the Sierra Madre mountains of Mexico on horseback one summer and I thought I would literally lose my mind.  Especially in the evening, the mosquitoes were so thick it was ridiculous!  The only thing we could do as we rode through the hills was to break off a quaky branch that had lots of leaves and constantly swat ourselves all over in an attempt to keep the critters from devouring us.

It’s not that the actual mosquito bite is painful in any way – in fact, it often happens without you even knowing about it.  It’s the after effect that will drive you crazy.  And if you cave in to the itch and scratch the bite, it only makes things worse.  And as the itch intensifies, even brushing against your bed sheets as you try and sleep will wake you up wanting to scratch the itch in a futile attempt to alleviate the non-stop announce.

I learned a simple trick to take away the itch of a mosquito bite for several hours.  Heat up a cup of water and dip a spoon in the hot water.  Then press the hot spoon against the bite and hold it there for 15 seconds.  You want the spoon to be as hot as you can stand it without actually burning your skin.  I wasn’t careful enough with one particularly annoying bite on my ankle and still sport the burn scar today from using too hot of a spoon.

Your best bet is to do all you can to avoid the bite in the first place.  There are many home remedies and repellents that have been tried and successfully used over the years.  To help determine what might work best, it’s helpful to first review what attracts mosquitoes in the first place.

Mosquitoes are attracted to:

●  Lactic acid
●  Type O Blood
●  CO2
●  Metabolic rate (high resting metabolic rates are more attractive)
●  Heat
●  Movement

Drinking alcohol and exercising both raise metabolic rate and make you more attractive to mosquitoes. Movement and sweating will make you more attractive to mosquitoes.  But have no fear, there are a number of ways to prevent bug bites in the wild. Here’s a list of a few.

1)  Avon’s Skin So Soft with an active ingredient called IR3535, is considered a biopesticide repellent by the EPA. It works, but in most cases will only provide protection for about twenty minutes.

2)  Don’t Eat Bananas female mosquitoes bite and they love sugar. It’s said that when the body processes bananas it attracts the mosquitoes.

3)  Eat Garlic to repel ticks and mosquitoes.

4)  Lemon Eucalyptus Oil can help ward off ticks and mosquitoes. It’s a very effective chemical. Not safe for kids under 3 years of age. Can cause skin irritation and problems with vision so keep away from eyes.

5)  Seek Shelter or Keep an Insect Net in your bug out bag to keep mosquitoes from being able to get to you. Exercise indoors and shower before going outside.

6)  Deet Repellents of at least 15% DEET will provide protection from insects for about 90 minutes.

7)  Avoid Scented Hygiene Products as some people believe that smelling like flowers will attract bugs that are attracted to flowers.

8)  Catnip Oil was proven to work 10 times better than DEET as an insect repellent according to a study done in 2001.

9)  Citronella Candles work only for short periods of time. It’s the smoke from the candle that keeps mosquitoes away.

10)  Get Your Vitamin B to alter your scent and keep mosquitoes away. The Mayo Clinic suggests that 75|-150 mg of Thiamin (Vitamin B-1) could be enough to get mosquitoes to leave you alone.

11)  Find the Breeze (Use a Fan) and point it in your direction. Mosquitoes cannot fly in breezes over 1mph. In the wild of course you’ll need a solar powered fan.

12)  Protective Clothing can keep mosquitoes off of you or at least prevent them from biting if they land on you. Wear long sleeves, pants, and socks to cover exposed skin. Light colored clothing will blend into the surroundings and make you less noticeable to mosquitoes. Clothing should be tight not loose and should be smooth, breathable fabrics that are tightly woven. You can also buy clothing treated with permethrin which is a proven insect repellent. Look for brands such as Nobitech and Insect Shield. Or buy permethrin spray and treat your own clothing.

13)  Use Soybean Oil Repellents which work a little better than products containing 7% DEET but not as well as products with 15% DEET. The difference is that soybean oil repellent is all natural and much safer.

14)  Avoid Mosquito Havens when you are camping or in the wild. Things such as areas with standing water where female mosquitoes (the ones that bite) lay their eggs. Around your home, empty standing kiddie pools, tires, buckets, or anything else that has filled with water. Avoid bushes, long grasses or tall weeds.

15)  Times of Day can also affect mosquito behavior. They generally feed as the sun is rising and just before it sets in the evening. This is because humidity goes up and the breeze dies down, perfect flying weather for mosquitoes.

16)  Mosquito repellent plants are one of the ways to prevent bug bites. Basil is said to be toxic to mosquito larvae. Rosemary can be burned, and the smoke will help repel mosquitoes. Lavender repels flies, moths, and mosquitoes. Peppermint kills some bug larvae and repels adult mosquitoes. Marigolds work to keep mosquitoes and aphids away. Marigold roots are believed to repel a type of roundworms called Nematodes.

17)  Bat Boxes are one of the great ways to prevent bug bites. Bats eat bugs and can be very helpful in keeping the bug population low. Bat boxes can be built around your home or property to encourage bats to live in the area.

18)  Vicks Vapor Rub when rubbed on exposed skin can be very effective at repelling mosquitoes. The only problem with this method is that the smell of menthol may be unpleasant for you and those around you. If

19)  Cinnamon Leaf Oil has been said to be a natural insect repellent. Combine cinnamon leaf oil with a small amount of water and spray or apply to the skin. Most bugs don’t like the smell at all. If they do land on your skin, the oil can be deadly for certain insects.

20)  Vanilla Extract (Clear) and Olive Oil combined into a spray can be effective in repelling mosquitoes and it’s an all-natural method.

21)  Citronella Soap used when bathing or showering can help give you an odor that will repel mosquitoes instead of attracting them.

22)  Picaridin is similar to the chemical compound found in pepper. More natural than DEET. Levels of about 20% picaridin should be effective.

23)  Make Your Own Insect Spray by combining lemongrass oil, vanillin, citronella, and peppermint oil. It’s safe and can be more effective than products with 100% DEET.

 How to Treat Bug Bites

Although many of the ways to prevent bug bites in the wild are effective, chances are one of the little buggers will get to you at some point. Fortunately, there are a number of great ways to treat bug bites too.

You can use a variety of different natural herbs and plants such as lavender, aloe vera, cinnamon, tea tree oil, calendula, and basil to treat the itchiness. You can also use heat or ice to ease the swelling and pain of bug bites or stings. Witch hazel combined with baking soda can be effective as a treatment for bug bites as well.

No matter where you are, you can prevent bug bites fairly effectively if you plan ahead. With the list of ways above, you should be able to find something that can keep the annoying little pests away from you, so you can either enjoy that backyard picnic or focus on accomplishing the survival tasks you need to get done in the wild outdoors.

More than 35 years experience in the Preparedness Industry