Getting back to nature has its advantages, but dealing with insects and parasites likely isn’t one of them. Regardless of why you’re outdoors, whether it is fun, frolic or misfortune, the need to avoid and defeat some of Mother Nature’s littlest, and peskiest, creatures could not only make your day more pleasant, it might just save your life.
In a survival situation, the need to be fit, alert and capable is paramount. Chances are you can’t rid yourself of bugs by running into your local grocery store to buy some DEET, closing your home’s doors and turning up the air conditioning or taking a cool swim in your local community pool. In a survival scenario, the only luxury you can afford is being alive, and to add to your already bad day, know this: The bugs will have even less sympathy for you than any human aggressors you come across.
While the bad news is that bugs were here long before we were and will likely be here long after we have become extinct, there are some basic things anyone can do to help mitigate their exposure to insects and the survival challenge they can impose on the unprepared.
Protect and Avoid
The first and best thing you can do is to wear insect-repellant clothing. If you’ve prepared for the unthinkable, then you likely thought far enough ahead to have pants, boots, socks, gloves and long- sleeve shirts to help hide you from your aggressors, the sun and biting insects like mosquitos, ticks, fleas and gnats. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the nation’s leading authority on why we get sick and how to avoid it, said people “can minimize areas of exposed skin by wearing long- sleeved shirts, long pants, boots, and hats. Tucking in shirts, tucking pants into socks and wearing closed shoes instead of sandals may reduce risk. Repellents or insecticides, such as permethrin, can be applied to clothing and gear for added protection.” If you spray permethrin on your clothes and iron the treatment in on low, it permeates the fabric and lasts almost as long as professionally treated clothing! (Note: Do not put permethrin directly on skin.)
Another key tip is to make sure you don’t attract insects by the way you smell. Flowery scents, some sunscreens and other fruity or flowery odors on your body can bring in the bugs like ants to a picnic. Take a mental note of the kinds of lotions and creams you have in your bug-out bag and if they smell like anything insects might like. An additional survival note here is to also be aware of scents in all the equipment you choose because anyone or any thing that hunts you as food, prey or captive will use all of their senses to defeat you, and smell is certainly one of them.
If you want to stay bug-free, and more specifically mosquito-free, minimize the heat your body produces and how much carbon dioxide you produce. According to the CDC’s experts, these are the two major contributors to attracting the female mosquito, which is the only mosquito that will bite you. In addition to carbon dioxide and your sweat, lactic acid, which is produced by your body when it is low on oxygen as a result of carbohydrates making energy, has been documented as early as the early 1960s by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to attract mosquitos.
Another useful tool is to use bed nets when and where you can if possible. The CDC said, “When accommodations are not adequately screened or air conditioned, bed nets are essential in providing protection and reducing discomfort caused by biting insects. If bed nets do not reach the floor, they should be tucked under mattresses. Bed nets are most effective when they are treated with a pyrethroid insecticide.”
Repel The Attack
Use repellants to ward off the ticks, gnats, mosquitos, chiggers and other biting pests. They can be natural or manmade, and you can use repellants designed for human use on your gear
like clothes, tents or sleeping bags. Proven repellants recognized by the CDC include DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE/PMD) and the IR3535 compound. The CDC said the “EPA characterizes the active ingredients DEET and picaridin as ‘conventional repellents’ and OLE, PMD and IR3535 as ‘biopesticide repellents,’ which are either derived from or are synthetic ver- sions of natural materials.”
Minimizing your exposure to dreaded insects like mosquitoes reduces your chances of contracting malaria, West Nile virus and dengue fever. Some of the things you can do to help reduce the mosquito population are to remove standing water in and around your shel- ter. Places like abandoned tires, flower pots, pools and flooded areas can all serve as mosquito breeding grounds and should be eliminated when possible. As safety and security allow, stay away from flat, open areas and bodies of water.
Insects like fleas, cockroaches and other pests carry disease, contaminate food and water supplies and can play havoc with your awareness, causing unneces- sary movement. All of the techniques discussed can help minimize all insect infestation into your campsite, tent, body or food and water supplies. In addition to what has been said, be sure to have a solid habit of staying clean with regular use of hot water and soap, showers and clean food and water supplies to help control insects. While in a survival mode, frequent showers may be impossible, but a well-equipped bug-out bag has sanitation supplies like soaps, sanitizer, water purifiers and repellant.
When you have to shift your focus from living well to simply living and avoiding capture or injury, don’t forget to defend yourself against an enemy that has ruled the planet long before we developed civilization as we know it.
This article was originally published in the NEW PIONEER ™ Summer 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.