As we know, camping with bugs is pretty much a guarantee. Prepare yourself by learning our tips, tricks and facts about every kind of crawler, biter and flyer.
Pointy Bugs – Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes can quickly ruin a good camping trip. There are many misconceptions about what mosquitoes are attracted to, and what repels them. Mosquitos are attracted to carbon dioxide, heat, and lactic acid that is secreted by humans.
These don’t work as well as you might think!
Eating garlic, bananas, or other foods that are high in vitamin B1, or even taking shots of apple cider vinegar are just a few things some people may do to try and repel mosquitoes. The intention is to eat things to change the smell of your sweat or skin and help repel mosquitoes. However, you still exhale CO2 and emit body heat that continues to attract them so it is not completely effective. Bananas are said to break down lactic acid buildup, another factor that attracts mosquitoes, but they really only break down excess lactic acid in your body, leaving enough to still attract them.
Bug zappers and Bats are also also not as effective as people claim.
Mosquitoes are attracted to heat, not light. Given the choice between a warm body and light from a bug zapper, a mosquito will go for the body every single time. Bug zappers also kill many bugs that eat mosquitoes, and some studies have shown yards with bug zappers have more mosquitoes than yards that do not.
Bats do eat mosquitoes, but they prefer bigger bugs like beetles and moths that satisfy their hunger faster than tiny mosquitoes, so they do not lower the amount of mosquitoes in the area greatly.
But these do!
Using a fan indoors or on a patio is the most simple way to repel mosquitoes because the breeze makes it impossible for them to fly.
Mosquitoes are more attracted to dark clothing because they usually bite large, dark coloured animals. White or yellow clothes to make you less of a priority. Wearing loose fitting clothes makes it more difficult for them to reach your skin and successfully bite you.
If you wear perfume at home, do not bring it camping! Floral scents may attract mosquitos and cause them to bite you.
Remove or dump all stagnate water around your campsite. These are mosquito breeding grounds.
Homemade Bug Repellants and Remedies
Homemade bug spray is great because you can feel confident in knowing exactly what you are spraying onto your skin, but will not work as well as over the counter brand name bug spray. The spray may need reapplied every few hours, especially if you are working up a sweat while hiking
There are infinite recipes to make your own mosquito repellant. You can create your own recipe by adding 1/3 cup of coconut oil or witch hazel to 40 drops of an essential oil of your choice.
Essential Oil Spray
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 tablespoon vodka
- 20 drops citronella oil
- 20 drops tee tree oil
- 15 drops lemon grass
- 20 drops neem oil
- 5 drops geranium
- 20 lavender oil
Crawly Bugs – Spiders
Spiders are commonly feared, but BC and Alberta are home to very few types of venomous spiders.
These spiders are very common in BC and Alberta, and despite their intimidating appearance, they are completely harmless.
Wolf Spiders are given their name because they do not build webs, but rather hunt their prey by stalking and attacking them from the ground.
They do not bite people often. If you are bitten it may look like other bug bites, a red bump that is itchy or swollen. It should go away within a few days, and unless you see the spider bite you’ll likely have no way of knowing if the bite came from a wolf spider. Wash the area and place a bandage over the bite to prevent infection. Antihistamines could be taken if it becomes unbearably itchy.
Black Widow Spider
The Western Black Widow can be found across southern BC through to Manitoba. Black Widows prefer a dry, warm habitat leaving central Alberta pretty safe from this type of spider.
Black Widows are very shy, and bites from them are extremely rare.
They are recognizable by their red hourglass on the underbelly. Canada is also home to the False Black Widow, a look-alike spider with no red hourglass, and no venom. Black Widows are very shy, and bites from them are extremely rare. Their bite can be venomous, but with the correct treatment, they are not fatal.
Effects from a bite can be stiff and sore muscles, nausea or vomiting, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, sweating, rash, itching, swelling, weakness, or tremors. If you think you have been bitten wash the area with soap and water, apply ice, elevate the area if you can, and immediately call a doctor.
Yellow Sac Spider
The Yellow Sac Spider is not common in Canada but they have been spotted, usually hitching rides into the county hiding in imported fruits.
This spider is more aggressive than your common house spider, and are known to bite if threatened.
The bite is painful for some and unnoticeable for others. Some people find they form a small red bump in the area that will fade within a few weeks, and others react with swelling, burning, and pain within the first hour. Some develop a pustule that naturally heals over a few weeks.
People often misdiagnose the bites for the work of Brown Recluse Spider, but they are non-existent within Canada.
Hobo Spiders are extremely difficult to identify as they look so similar to many other types of spiders.
They are not great climbers, instead they build funnel shaped webs low to the ground in the cracks of buildings or cement.
This spider has been cited as dangerous in the past but new studies and evidence suggests it is not as dangerous as once thought. Their bite is almost completely painless. Hobo Spider venom is considered non toxic to humans. Clean the bitten area with soap and water, and then ice and elevate the area. If the bite becomes painful, starts to blister, or turn black immediately seek medical attention.
Spider bites may cause swelling, redness, itchiness, or rashes.
As treatment, clean the bite with soap and water, ice the area for ten minutes on and off, elevate the area and continue to keep it clean until it is fully healed.
The Black Widow is the only spider that could be fatally venomous, but spiders may not actually inject their venom when they bite. It takes work to produce this venom, and most spiders prefer to save it to use on their prey, soon to be food.
If you are allergic to spider bites you may experience a rash, hives, itching, swelling of the lips, eyes, tongue or throat, stomach cramps, or loss of consciousness. If any of these symptoms occur immediately seek medical help. When possible, capture the spider and bring it to the doctor. It can be helpful in identifying the type of bite you’ve received, and aid in getting the correct treatment.
Fuzzy Bugs – Bees and Wasps
These fuzzy friends are an endangered species, and they are extremely important to us! They pollinate 30% of the food we eat, and they are essential for biodiversity and plant reproduction.
There are many different types of bees, but the two most simple types to tell apart are the Honeybee and the Bumblebee.
Bumblebees are round, fuzzy, black and yellow. Bees build waxy, grey bubble nests, they are docile and rarely sting. They are uninterested in human food or drink, and will leave you alone as long as they are left alone.
Honeybees are smaller, with furry yellow bodies. They make nests of hexagon cells with white and yellow wax. They are also uninterested in human food or drink, docile, and reluctant to sting. Honeybees leave their stinger in the victim and the will quickly die after. If you are stung by a Honeybee, immediately remove the stinger. Do not use your fingers or a tweezer to remove the stinger as this will only squeeze more venom into the wound, instead use your fingernail, a dull knife blade, or a credit card to scrape the stinger sideways out of the skin.
Ice is the best treatment for a bee sting, and unless you are allergic to bees and begin to suffer reactions you should not require medical attention.
Wasps are completely different than bees. These bugs are attracted to sugary drinks or rotting fruit. They are carnivorous, feeding on insects and meat. These ones are aggressive and defensive of their grey papery nests that they usually build up high, or occasionally in the ground. They are able to sting multiple times, and swatting at them releases a pheromone that attracts other wasps and signals for them to be aggressive.
If you have disturbed a nest and are being attacked, waving your arms and swatting is the worst reaction. Back away slowly and remain calm. It is not easy but is the suggested reaction. If it is a huge swarm, run for shelter such as a vehicle or building. Do not play dead, do not try to hide in water. The wasps will just wait for you to re-emerge. Pull your shirt over your head to protect your face, mouth and eyes.
After the sting you should wash the area, ice, and elevate. If you are stung more than 10 times, or begin to suffer allergic reactions you may require medical assistance.
Asian Giant Hornets
In 2019 the first Asian Hornet was spotted on Vancouver Island. The nest was destroyed, and since then there have been no sightings on the Island since 2020. This species of bugs does exist in BC but they are not common, and the numbers of sightings are extremely low.
They build their nests in underground cavities, or in tree stumps. Never disturb a nest, but if you do, RUN.
These bugs can sting repeatedly, and their stinger contains an enzyme that causes necrosis. In the event you are stung do not touch the wound, rubbing will only mobilize the venom. If there are only a few stings, the swelling and pain should subside within a few days, but of course, if you have been stung many times or have allergic reactions, immediately seek medical help.
Speaking of bites and other dangers, do you have a camping first aid kit ready to go? If not, we’ve got one ready for you here!