Bug Blog

Tips, tricks and facts about the crawlers, flyers and biters you might encounter out camping!

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes can quickly ruin a good camping trip. There are many misconceptions about what mosquitoes are attracted to, and what repels them. Here are some tips to help you avoid getting eaten alive next time you are surrounded.

Mosquitoes are attracted to carbon dioxide, heat, and lactic acid that is secreted by humans.

These don’t work as well as you may think…

Eating garlic, bananas, foods that are high in vitamin B1, and 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 insects that eat mosquitoes, which in some studies has shown yards with bug zappers have more mosquitoes than yards that do not.

Bats do eat mosquitoes, but they prefer bigger insects 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!

Use of 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 would be biting large, dark colored animals. Wearing white or yellow clothes will make you less of a priority, and 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 Remedies

There are infinite recipes to make your own mosquito repellant

Essential Oil Spray

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon vodka
  • 20 drops citronella oil
  • 20 drops neem oil
  • 20 drops lavender oil
  • 20 drops tee tree oil
  • 15 drops lemongrass
  • 5 drops geranium

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.

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. Homemade spray may need reapplied every few hours, especially if you are working up a sweat while hiking.

Spiders

Spiders are commonly feared, however BC and Alberta are home to very few types of venomous spiders.

Black Widow

The “Western Black Widow Spider” can be found across southern BC through to Manitoba, and they prefer a dry, warm habitat, leaving central Alberta pretty safe from this type of spider.

They are recognizable by their red hourglass on their 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 could 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.

Wolf Spider

Wolf 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 often bite people, but 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 you’ll likely have no way of knowing 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.

Hobo Spider

Hobo Spiders are extremely difficult to identify as they look so similar to many other types of spiders.

Hobo Spiders are not great climbers, they build funnel shaped webs low to the ground in the cracks of buildings or cement. The Hobo 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 can cause swelling, redness, itchiness, or rashes.

Treatment should include cleaning the bite with soap and water, icing the area for ten minutes on and off, elevating the area and continuing 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. If the spider can be captured and brought to the doctor it can be helpful in identifying the type of bite you’ve received, and aid in getting the correct treatment.

Bees and Wasps

Bees

Bees 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. They 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 because they leave their stinger in the victim and the Honeybee 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

Wasps are completely different than bees. They are attracted to sugary drinks or rotting fruit, and they are carnivorous, feeding on insects and meat. Wasps are aggressive and defensive of their grey papery nests that they usually build up high, but can also be found 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. Backing away slowly and remaining calm 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 being stung you should wash the area, ice, and elevate. If you have been 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. The species 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 hornets can sting repeatedly, and their stinger contains an enzyme that causes necrosis. If 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.