View Full Version : When and where cometh the bugs?

Kozmic Zian
02-19-2004, 23:16
Yea....Bugs. Tracy, I carry a small bottle of DEET. I know, it's horrible stuff. You can pick it up on The Trail, in a town pharmacy. But, it's what works. If you leave in early spring, from Springer Mt. You won't need any until later, possibly Damascus. If you're leaving from ME, the middle of May you'll need it almost right away(Black Flies). I also, carry a head net(ARMY-NAVY). Of course, the tent has no-seeum netting. Your bandana is a fly, mosquito killer. Those things are your 'Bug Defense System'. Hope it works for [email protected]

02-19-2004, 23:44
I left Springer on April 6th. Bugs were not a problem for me until around Erwin. And at that point the primary bug that caused me grief were gnats. All the way through to NY/CT (August) the gnats could be bad at times. At times I would just open my eyes to let them fly in so I could kill em. No real mosqito (sorry I can't spell) problems except at a shelter in CT (forgot name) and MA in valley where Shay's Rebellion Mounument is located.

As far as insect repellents go I really lake a product called Cactus Juice. I live in Florida and work outdoors all year round on a state forest. It seems to do a pretty good job keeping the bugs away. Its all natural and has sunscreen in it. Should be able to google it if interested.

02-20-2004, 01:47
I'll be starting in March... not gonna worry too much about insect repellent for the first month or so, and I'll pick it up when I need it. The pure DEET stuff scares me-- are there any other DEET alternatives people have had luck with? ga2me97 mentions Cactus Juice... but the only DEET alternative I've seen at my local outfitter's is Lemon Eucalyptus. Has anybody had any luck with that stuff? I've heard mixed reviews (mostly bad) about Avon Skin-so-soft... and in Jan LiteShoe's trail journal from last year, she mentions Catnip Oil, which I had never seen or even heard of before.

I suppose I should just go with the pure DEET... my skin isn't particularly sensitive, but I have visions of the stuff eating holes in my clothes or in the lining of my sleeping bag. Or am I just being paranoid?

02-20-2004, 02:31
I wouldn't be too concerned. You probably won't hit any bugs until northern virginia, closer to mid-atlantic. The main problem areas seem to be connecticut and mass. I would certainly make sure you have some sort of bug protection by the time you hit Kent Connecticut at the latest. There is a stretch along the housatanic river that can be quite nasty in summer. Massachusetts can be down right lethal. Vermont the same. Seems that by your schedule you'll be fine by time your north of here. Maine can be awful with blackflies but you wouldn't be getting there until september.

02-20-2004, 07:53
Click on "Search" above then type in "mosquitoes" and you'll get plenty of advice, look at "mosquitoes on the AT" Good Luck

02-20-2004, 09:39
The pure DEET stuff scares me ...I suppose I should just go with the pure DEET... but I have visions of the stuff eating holes in my clothes or in the lining of my sleeping bag. Or am I just being paranoid?

Of all the substances tested by Consumer Reports magazine only DEET has been shown to be effective. But I don't recall that they have tested cactus juice or catnip oil, or other exotic things.

The magazine also says it has found no evidence that DEET is harmful, except for a tiny few sensitive people and very young kids with dumb parents who bathe their babies in the stuff.

It recommends, however, that you don't use the pure, 100% stuff. I live on a salt water marsh that breeds ferocious mosquitoes and use mostly 100 per cent liquid DEET.

A 2 ounce container will last me all season. I just rub a couple of drops on the palm of my hands, and then rub my hands over all exposed skin surfaces, replacing as needed.

Occasionally, I'll spray the back of my tee shirt with the pressurized stuff to keep mosquitoes from biting through, but otherwise I don't use the spray because I dislike breathing the stuff. I hold my breath and always spray downwind.

A partial container of liquid DEET lasted me the six months I spent on the trail in 1993, where I found the bugs far less bothersome then at home. The big problem then was the no-see-ums, attracted into the shelters at night by a few hikers who insisted on reading or writing in journals by flashlight or candle.

The only damage I suffered from DEET came when the cover came off in the same pocket that held my plactic-lens reading glasses. The lens was permanently etched and I had to go without reading until a guy at the Lake of the Clouds hut on Mount Washington donated his drug store glasses.


02-20-2004, 09:51
Gnats, black flies and skeeters have been mentioned but what about those 'drive you crazy' yellow and deer flies?! They are the devil's workers! I've heard from hikers that the Green Mountains were terrible with them swarming and biting. Is it possible that there are good years and bad years for them? Maybe a cold winter, or a freezing snap in spring, reduces the numbers. Here in eastern NC I've had to brake off a small limb with some leaves on it and just keep swishing it around my head and legs as I hike and they still attack with fury. Cows and horses have been driven into fences and other objects trying to escape attacks - but that's mostly horse flies (they draw blood).

Still none of it is enough to keep me out of the woods and off the trails. We just cope and do the best we can.

02-20-2004, 10:13
Keep DEET off of your gear and clothing as it will destroy it. Use 30% DEET or greater (though just about every "study" suggests that 30% is all you need) on you skin only.

You might want to consider spraying Permethrin on your gear (clothing, socks, pack). Permethrin isn't a repellant, but a pesticide (commonly used in de-licing shampoo). I'm sure the "P-word" will freak a few folks out, but it is quite harmless. In fact, it is "deactivated" or "nutralized" as soon as it comes in contact with skin. It is a great way to deal with ticks that like to start on your socks and work their way north.

Check out BGT's Insect Repellants (http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/Health%20&%20Safety/Insect%20Repellents/)for more info on DEET and other bug-be-gone goop.

02-20-2004, 13:55
Keep DEET off of your gear and clothing as it will destroy it. .

DEET began life as an industrial solvent. Then someone noticed that bugs don't like the stuff. The rest is history. I've never detected any damage resulting from gear or clothing being in contact with my DEET smeared skin.

As near as I can tell it is harmless when sprayed or smeared on a cotton tee shirt.

But I would try not to allow globs of the stuff on synthetic materials -- especially eye glasses or a camera with plastic lens.


02-20-2004, 14:01
I've never detected any damage resulting from gear or clothing being in contact with my DEET smeared skin.I guess I should clarify a bit. Keep it off of your synthetic clothing and gear as it will destroy it. As you noted it does "melt" plastic (nylon, polyester, etc). This is usally noted on the container. A little over spray won't make your pants fall off, but prolong contact will.:D

02-21-2004, 14:04
Vanilla applied lightly on your face and neck will greatly discourage gnats and biting flies. I am generally only moderately bothered by the biting insects but my father always had a huge problem with them until his doctor (an early 1960's through hiker) suggested he start taking vitamin b-6 as a defense against the bugs. He takes 100mg daily during bug season and is now able to fish, camp, etc. without coming home covered with welts the size of silver dollars. He gets far fewer bites and the ones he does have are far less bothersome. The b-6 was especially helpful against chiggers and mosquitoes.

papa john
02-21-2004, 14:44
Anyone ever try tying dryer sheets to your pack and hat? Seems like I remember seeing people doing that and they reported good results that way. They last a long time and are easily resupplied along the trail.

Jack Tarlin
02-21-2004, 15:42
Some very useful comments here, especially A-Train's. He's dead right about Connecticut and Massachusetts; if you don't leave Kent with DEET you'll be hating life---this past year, the worst places I remember where around Pine Swamp Lean-to; also around Tom Leonard Lean-to and near Great Barrington; lastly the area around Tyringham, MA all the way to Upper Goose Pond was pretty bad.

I'm not saying this was it; I'm saying this was the WORST. The bugs will continue, to some degree, thru Mass and Vermont, declining somewhat in New Hampshire. It gets much better the further North you go, and once you get to Maine, especially if you're there after Labor day, it isn't really bad at al; the first really cold night efffectively ends mosquito season.

I'd also dis-agree with the folks who say you should go with the milder DEET sprays---the Cutters, Offs, etc., will NOT do the job in Massachusetts and Conecticut; the mosquitoes have a term for folks who use the milder stuff: They are called "lunch." I use Ben's, which is 95% strength, and try to use it as sparingly as possible; as they say in Texas, "Whup seldom, but whup good!"

The Outfitter's in Kent should have a good selection of bug stuff if you're not carrying anything by then, but DON'T leave town without something, or you'll be praying for death within a few miles of town.

max patch
02-21-2004, 16:12
I can't help you since you are allergic to deet.

I can vouch for the accuracy of the comments re CT and MASS.

For everyone else, I wouldn't worry about when to start buying repellent. We're talking 2 ounces here...throw a bottle of 100% deet in your pack at the start of your hike and you'll have it when you need it.

02-21-2004, 17:44
I use BEN's 100..

just a little dab will do ya

02-21-2004, 19:05
Someone on the Trail told us the secret to keeping the bugs away was dryer sheets. We all split a pack of them. This is a myth. There was no change and I don't think it did anything other than freshen the smell of my pack.

03-01-2004, 22:02
I don't think it did anything other than freshen the smell of my pack.That itself might be worthwhile sometimes ;)

I use 75% DEET available through a contact in the military. It's not as nasty as 100%, but it does the job nearly as well.

Also, DEET on leather, cotton, etc won't make a bit of difference, it was designed to dissolve plastics and such, so spritzing a bit of it on your back won't do any bad to your cotton t-shirt, but it will to your polartec pullover. Also, it seems that in small amounts not to bother cotton/synthetic blends (I guess because the cotton absorbs it). I'm a big fan of cotton/nylon as it provides the comfort and weight of cotton with a fast drying action and keeps you warmer when wet (not as good as wool, but it does the job).

steve hiker
03-01-2004, 23:59
A few puffs on my pipe and the bugs are gone.:sun

03-02-2004, 09:01
I read some horrible accounts of bugs on the Trail in 2002 journals so it was one of my biggest "fears" going in last year. I never met or heard of anyone using the electronic devices to repel mosquitoes.
First I carried a bottle of Ben's deet. However, I used it sparingly and only in the worst mosquitoe infested areas. I applied it to my arms, neck and exposed legs. One guy I met used it everywhere and got some serious raw sores where his straps rubbed it in his skin...ugly! I did spray my clothes and gators with permethian for a few weeks.

My mother who lives in the country and works in the yard a lot told me to use the dryer sheets. Then a friend sent me a box of them on the Trail. Me and another guy I was hiking with at the time used them but were't sure how much they contributed since there was other stuff we had on. Later my Mom wrote me and said it didn't work as well in the hot weather when the pests were at their worst.

Pre-hike Liteshoe put me on to catnip oil which she and I both ended up using. I applied it to my ballcap and never applied it or anything else on my face. I was never used it on the face or neck. Liteshoe used it on her exposed areas and said it really worked. Trouble was it was like $40 for an ounce or so and it does have a peculiar odor that is noticed when you walk near other hikers. But it did work for me. See the article below I got off the web on catnip.

One guy I was hiking with was using Avon Skin So Soft until they got so bad it was ineffective.

I have to mention that some people attract mosquitoes more than others...I seemed to have been one of the lucky ones except for the Walkill Natiional Wildlife Preserve just before Vernon NJ. They were miseable there...the only wildlife we saw that day. They were so thick you couldn't stop to apply deet until you got past it.

Let's hope they're not bad for you this year.

Here's the article I referred to:

Aug. 28, 2001 -- Your cat's favorite herb may become yours too if you enjoy spending time in the great outdoors. The essential oil of catnip may be 10 times more potent than standard insect repellents in fighting off mosquitoes.
Researchers at Iowa State University compared the essential oil of catnip, called nepetalactone, to Diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET), which is the main ingredient in many commercial insecticides. According to a report at the 222nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society currently underway in Chicago, catnip oil was more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes.
"Natural alternatives are becoming available to repel mosquitoes," says researcher Joel R. Coats, PhD. "Our lab tests show the essential oil of catnip would be effective in repelling mosquitoes when sprayed on clothing or mosquito netting. We think it would also be effective if rubbed on your skin, but we haven't actually done that test yet." Coats is professor of entomology and toxicology and chairman of the department of entomology at Iowa State University in Ames.
"People are starting to expect that we use safer compounds to control insects," Coats says. "There have been reported health problems with DEET. While they are very unusual, they do include brain swelling in children, anaphylactic shock, low blood pressure, and one report of death."
He believes catnip oil would also protect pets and large animals. "The oil is also effective in repelling house flies and cockroaches. However, I don't know whether the herb itself would be an effective repellent, since the oil is much more concentrated."
Catnip oil is extracted from an aromatic herb, nepeta cataria. Catnip has a centuries-old reputation as a soothing herbal tea, used for coughs, indigestion, and menstrual cramps, and to promote drowsiness. The oil is available from companies that sell essential oils for aromatherapy and herbal treatments.
Recent cases of West Nile virus have prompted renewed interest in better ways to control and repel mosquitoes. While the Iowa tests were carried out on the mosquito that carries yellow fever, "We think it is also likely to repel the mosquitoes which carry West Nile," Coats says.
"It's always important for us to look for newer, more effective strategies, and this idea certainly sounds interesting," says Kimberly Thompson, ScD, an assistant professor of risk analysis and decision science at Harvard University School of Public Health in Boston. She also recommends another way, in addition to repellent, to combat mosquitoes of any kind. "If you're going to be out in the early evening or early morning when mosquitoes are most active, wear long-sleeved shirts."
Mark Brown, PhD, an associate professor of entomology at the University of Georgia in Athens, has another suggestion. "The key to mosquito control is personal responsibility," he tells WebMD. "Get rid of standing water around your house and in your neighborhood."

03-04-2004, 08:22
Here is the website that I used to order the catnip oil from. Got it from '03 hiker Liteshoe. She used it and liked it too. It ain't cheap though. Good Luck & Hike On!