Camping in Bug Season … while keeping sane
How to Repel the Little Buggers
All blood feeding insects find their prey by body temperature, activated by lactic acid produced by muscle movement and the carbon dioxide emitted when you exhale. They absolutely love warm sweaty skin on a cool day. Warm days, however, seem to confuse them. All species also dislike pouring rain, cold days when temperatures reach below 30 F (10 C), and blowing winds; the blackfly in particular is not a strong flyer and can only reach a top speed of half-a-mile (one kilometer) per hour.
Dark colors attract much more than shiny bright colors. Wearing blue jeans is just asking for it; lime green neither attracts them nor keeps them at bay; and hot pink works great. Bug hats, or better yet, bug jackets are an essential part of your equipment list from the first week in May until around the second week in July. Bug repellent is also a must. There are lots of formulas out there but the best is anything that contains lots of DEET (Diethyl Toluamide). The chemical is mostly effective in keeping blackflies, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, and ticks away from your exposed skin. I wouldn’t squirt too much on, however. The stuff also works well as striping paint and melting plastic. I remember back during my tree planting days for the Ministry of Natural Resources in Northern Ontario, we were told never to put DEET on our hard hats. One worker ignored our supervisor’s rule one day and soaked his helmet. He got caught when the foreman saw thousands of dead blackflies stuck to his bright yellow hard hat. To show the reasoning behind the rule the boss smacked the hard hat against a rock. The plastic headgear cracked right down the middle. After witnessing that, I’ve kept to only putting small amounts of DEET directly on my skin. Usually I just spray the chemical on my bandana wrapped around my neck. I also make sure to keep my shirt sleeves and pant legs tight with elastic bands.
Repellents containing citron like Avon’s Skin-So-Soft hand lotion are more gentle to the skin and are almost as effective as DEET. They usually don’t last as long though. Taking vitamin B tablets three months prior to your trip has also been proven effective. Eating lots of citrus fruit and garlic, and avoiding bananas, are other suggestions to think about. Even applying a combination of spices – cinnamon, rosemary, basil, thyme and allspice – to your skin may work.
But my all-time favorite weaponry against bugs is my Eureka Bug Tarp. The bug shelter (titled “VCS Parawing shelter system” in the Eureka catalogue) is a regular rain tarp with a fine mesh netting attached to the four walls. The whole outfit weights about five pounds. It also uses no-see-um netting, which makes the price is a little high but far more effective against “punkies.” The netting is attached to the four walls by plastic clips, making it possible to detach that section and just pack the tarp along during less buggy conditions.
My regular canoe mates teased me to no end the first time I brought the tarp along on our annual Spring fishing trip. They said I was a sissy. However, when the bugs got really bad and I went inside my bug proof shelter to cook up dinner in peace, they pleaded with me to be allowed in. Payment was a shot of brandy each and an immediate apology for calling me names.
So, what’s bugging you?