One of many things Bear Grylls has had to become expert at (mostly) is avoiding getting bitten by all the little jungle critters and creepy crawlies while adventuring himself or filming on location. He offers up some insider tips on avoiding bug bites in the jungle.
While you might picture flying insects all around, it’s on the forest floor where you will find the more deadly things like leeches, scorpions and all the little critters of the jungle.
“Always shake out your boots and clothes before putting them back on—you never know what will have taken up residence in them,” says Bear in How to Stay Alive.
Always keep your feet covered, and if you’ve lost your shoes, protect your feet by wrapping them in cloth or tie tree bark around them. If you’re building a shelter in the jungle, make sure to protect yourself from the forest floor by making a mattress with branches or bamboo poles, and lay large palm leaves over the top.
Protect your skin
Your skin is at risk not only from bites from mosquitoes, but also the thorns or sharp edges from vegetation can cause cuts, welts and stings. You need to protect your skin from these, as there is a risk they can become infected in a hot, humid environment.
“Your skin is your largest organ,” says Bear. “In the jungle it’s vulnerable.”
Always cover your skin, even—especially—if you are hot and sweaty. Insects love salty sweat so they head for the most perspiration-heavy areas, such as the armpits and groin. Wear long sleeves and keep your legs covered. If you don’t have a hat, tie a T-shirt over your head and let it hang down over the back of your neck.
If you have mosquito repellent, use it. If you don’t, rub mud onto any exposed areas of skin.
“It might stink and feel uncomfortable, but as it dries, it will form a protective crust to stop the mosquitoes getting to your skin,” says Bear. “This has saved me many times. It’s what animals do—and they always know best.”
Another way to avoid insects is to light smoky fires at dawn and dusk, when the mosquitoes are most active—the smoke will repel them. You can also burn dried dung or termite nests to repel mosquitoes.
When you’re on the move, step slowly and carefully through foliage. If you’re rushing, there is more chance of sharp, pointy vegetation, branches and thorns tearing your clothes and skin.
Finally, in a survival situation, don’t forget that insects such as termites and palm grubs can be a source of energy-rich protein, so you might find yourself looking for insects (to eat), rather than avoiding them.