There are more than 100 million insects for every human on the planet, so pretty much anywhere you go, there will be insects waiting to say ‘Hi’. Some will see you as their next meal ticket and this usually involves a blood meal. Since most insect don’t necessarily care where their blood meal comes from, there is a lot of opportunity for viruses to be transferred. Mosquitoes, ticks and biting flys all fit into this category. The other category of unpleasant insect encounters is where you offer more of a threat than a meal. Wasps, bees and ants have nothing to gain from your presence and so they may behave aggressively to get you to go away. Of course, different areas have widely varying insect life. Check before traveling.
TOP TIP: Wear full length trousers and shirts, this minimizes the amount of easily accessible skin. Covering up also protects your skin from the sun and with the correct choice of fabrics, will help your body regulate it’s temperature.
Mosquitoes breed in standing water and so the first tip is to avoid hanging around in such places. These pests hunt by detecting the CO2 many animals emit when breathing. Once they have honed in on a target, they use other senses to determine the best way to get their meal. Any exposed skin is an invitation but they are quite capable of sinking their long mouthparts through tight clothing. Loose and/or moving clothing presents a much bigger challenge.
There are plenty of natural repellents available, perhaps most commonly some kind of citrus odor. My experience is lackluster and DEET is the closest to reliable I have found.
Ticks can’t fly so this means that the area most likely to get attacked is lower down on the body. That doesn’t mean you can’t get ticks high up on the body. Ticks are perfectly happy to climb up somewhere high and wait patiently for a victim – but it is less likely. Just like mosquitoes, ticks are after blood and will transmit whatever viruses they have into their victim.
Ticks need to be close to some kind of moisture, however, this is not where they have to breed like mosquitoes. Nobody is fond of putting chemicals on their bodies. Research shows the permethrin is very safe, this is helped by the fact that it is not applied directly to the body, rather it is applied to clothing. Permethrin also has the advantage of being an insecticide, it will kill ticks after a short period of contact. It’s biggest downside is it’s impact on bodies of water. NEVER wash any clothes, especially those laced with permethrin in a water source. The permethrin will continue to work and have a deadly effect to the environment. Take water from the source and wash a good distance (200 feet) from it, the earth will filter out contaminants. Leave no trace. Consider inspecting your skin on a regular basis to find any ticks which may have attached and carry a light weight tick removal tool.
Ants, Wasps & Bees
These all fall into the category of if you leave them alone, they will leave you alone.
Hammocks and Nets
Being off the ground, hammocks have the advantage of lifting you away from most creepy crawlies. The downside is that few (ENO is one exception) come with an attached bug net in the way most tents do. Fortunately bug nets are light and small. At the very least, consider a bug net for your face. These can be extremely useful on the trail too.