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Ask Outdoors: How Do I Protect My Campsite From Insects and Pests?

Relaxing around the campfire on a cool evening is one of summer’s true pleasures. And nothing can put a damper on that as quickly as a swarm of mosquitoes. Or ants. Or any other pesky bugs or wildlife. 

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Protecting your campsite is essential then, if you want to really enjoy your camping experience. With some simple preventative measures, you can relax in your tent or around the fire without becoming a place to graze for local critters.

Here are some of our top tips on how to keep bugs (and other wild things) away while camping.

How to Keep Biting Bugs like Mosquitos Away While Camping

In the northern hemisphere, mosquitoes or black flies will likely be the most annoying and common insects you’ll be swatting away while camping. Their bites can ruin your trip by leaving itchy, red welts all over your body. Other biting pests like no-see-ums, ticks, and fleas can also be a nuisance. Here are some tips for keeping them away:

Use insect repellent. Spray exposed skin and clothing with repellent to deter insects. It is important to do your own research about the best kinds of repellent for you and your family, as some contain elements you may not want to have on your body.  Here are some thoughts from the EPA. 

When you’ve figured that out and choose one, whether it’s more natural, or contains DEET, then make sure you apply sunscreen first, then the repellent.

Wear lightweight long sleeves and pants. Covering up limits skin exposure where insects can bite. Light colors also make spotting bugs easier to swat.

Avoid scented hygiene products. Soaps, deodorants, perfumes, etc. can attract insects. So the less scents you use the less bugs you may have to swat away. Here’s more on that. Oh, and it’s a good idea to always rinse off before bed.

Use a citronella candle. The lemon-scented oil repels mosquitoes and other flying insects. There are torches you can stick in the ground, or candles that can be placed around seating areas. Just remember to extinguish. 

Set up a fan. A battery-powered fan by your tent can help keep bugs from flying near you.

Avoid water pooling. Standing water should be eliminated so mosquitoes don’t breed. Drain coolers, empty rain barrels, and even try to disperse deeper puddles where possible.

How to Deal With Ants, Spiders and Other Crawling Bugs

Creepy crawlers can also invade a campsite pretty quickly and be a true irritant. Here are some ways to keep them at bay:

Keep it clean and store food appropriately. Store snacks in sealed plastic bins or bags, and make sure that any leftover food particles on the ground or picnic tables are swept up and disposed of.

Using ant traps or boric acid. Place commercial ant traps or dust insecticidal powder around the perimeter of your site. Again, here are some things to consider via the EPA.

Check your firewood. If you are bringing in any firewood, check thoroughly for insects that are in the bark or hiding in the wood before putting it in your stack.

Let’s Keep the Wildlife Wild

Raccoons, squirrels and other furry critters can also invade campsites looking for unattended food. Stop them with these tips:

Deal with your food and leftovers properly. Don’t leave anything out that will attract animals. Store food properly in containers or in trees when needed. Here are some tips from Bear Grylls on that. Also, leftover food smells will lure curious creatures. Use bear-proof cans when available.

Keep pet food stored safely. Another consideration that’s less obvious is pet food. Keeping dog food in a feeding bowl, or having open bags of kibble are inviting for wild animals to come by.

Never feed or approach wildlife. Keeping your distance discourages animals from associating your campsite with free food. 

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  1. Nymph dragonflies are not harmful in any way, grow much larger and then eat every smaller bug they can catch. Why would you put up the poster picture of a nymph dragonfly so now everyone will want to kill them and keep them away? Dragonflies eat almost as many small biting bugs as bats do. Please do not denigrate them. They are beneficial to the ecosystem, and humans.

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