Dealing with Bugs

My wife, Lauren, and I will be traveling to Yellowstone for our third bi-annual trip this August. If there’s one thing Yellowstone has more of than bison, it’s mosquitoes. Our last trip up to the First Meadow of Slough Creek was a neck-slapping nightmare.
200px-DEET.svg.pngFortunately, several new bug-avoiding technologies have come on the market in recent years. Traditional bug spray contains an active ingredient called DEET (Diethyl-meta-toluamide), which can be very effective at warding off bugs in high concentrations. Over-the-counter bug sprays like OFF FamilyCare or OFF Active usually contain only 15%-25% DEET. Meanwhile, OFF Deep Woods carries almost 100% DEET and is correspondingly more effective. Unfortunately, DEET is a corrosive when it comes to PVC and other plastics, meaning if a drop of 100% DEET gets on fly line, it’s going to eat right through to the core.
orvisshirt.jpgGarden vegetable bug sprays contain a chemical called ‘pyrethrin,’ which is derived from chrysanthemum flowers. Pyrethrin is ‘natural,’ but the EPA and other organizations recommend against applying it on human skin. However, a synthetic form of it called “permethrin” can be bonded to clothing. ExOfficio, Buff, Orvis and many others offer “Insect Shield” clothes with permethrin-based treatments in the cloth. (Orvis particularly has a good explanation of Insect Shield on its website). In our experience, these clothes work best when supplemented with a lighter-DEET treatment (especially around your neck). This lets you avoid accidentally touching line or other plastics with 100% DEET-saturated hands.
Meanwhile, 3M Ultrathon brand bug creams solve another DEET deficiency: evaporation. When you spray on a DEET treatment, it’ll be gone (except for an oily residue) within a few hours. 3M Ultrathon encapsulates DEET in tiny microspheres similar to those used to float fly line. Over the course of the day, these spheres rupture, releasing more and more DEET to keep your protection up (while also lowering the amount of active DEET radiating from your person at any given time).
3MUltrathon.gifWe plan to bring Insect Shield Buff neckcloths and 3M Ultrathon with us to Slough Creek next time, although various other combinations of OFF, Insect Shield clothes, and even portable mosquito traps might be just as effective.
Do you know of a unique way to lure mosquitoes to their untimely deaths? Share it with us in the comments section!

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  • On my last camping trip, I had great success with permethrin-sprayed clothing combined with Avon Skin So Soft Bug Guard. Seriously. My wife sells the stuff, so I kind of had to use it, but I was expecting many bites. Turns out, it worked phenomenally.

  • Zach Matthews

    Timmy –
    You make an excellent point. Avon Skin So Soft Bug Repellant is a remarkable product that I should have included. Thank you.

  • Charles Kahahawai

    has anyone tried the thermacell systems that hunters use? I think you put in a capsule and it disperses repellent and is supposed to keep misquotes like thirty feet away…???

  • Mitch Barnes

    Plain old Listerine kills mosquitoes on contact, so I keep a spray bottle of the stuff in my boat for revenge purposes. When you get a thick swarm of the nasty critters buzzing around your head, give em’ a squirt and they fall stone dead. Listerine does have a few downsides though. First, it doesn’t actually repel mosquitoes, and secondly, it makes you smell like your 80 year old mother-in-law.