The Ultimate Pest-prevention Guide: How To Deter Insects From Overruling Your Person, Outdoor Gear, and Home

Updated for 2023

Pest-prevention Guide: How To Deter Insects When You’re Camping, Hiking, or at Home

Whether it’s camping, hiking, or lounging on your lawn, getting outside is good for your mind, body, and soul. In an article on the wellness benefits of the great outdoors, the U.S. Forest Service reports, “Being outside in green spaces supports an active healthy lifestyle, which has shown to increase life expectancy, improve sleep quality, and reduce cancer risk.”

Although encountering outdoor insects is inevitable, it doesn’t mean you can’t deter them from your body, campsite, and/or gear. Though some pests are a mild nuisance, others pose serious dangers when confronted.

Insect types vary depending on location. However, there are a few common types you can expect to see, regardless of the setting. Let’s take a closer look at the different outdoor pests and tips for avoiding them.

Bees, Hornets, and Wasps

While bees, hornets, and wasps look similar, each is different in subtle, yet notable ways. According to Almanac, when it comes to the differences between these stinging pests, “All hornets are wasps, but not all wasps are hornets.”

The same article explains how hornets and wasps are seen as the “bad bugs” despite their vital role in the ecosystem. This is because both prey on other predator insects that invade the outdoors. Both pollinate plants as well, but not as much as the bee. A bee is a well-known pollinator insect and is important to the planet’s ecosystem.

Bees, hornets, and wasps can be found in similar areas including, but not limited to, holes and nests near primary food sources like flowers and fruit. They are also more prominent in warmer months. Despite these three insects playing an important for our climate, all pose a great health risk to those they sting.


Health Risks of Bees, Hornets, and Wasps

Bees, hornets, and wasps aren’t known to transmit disease, but allergic reactions to their stings can be extremely serious.

  • Bee stings: According to the Mayo Clinic, a bee stings by jabbing its stinger — located on its hind end — into the skin. Venom is released into the skin, causing pain and swelling. Some individuals experience more intense symptoms, like trouble breathing, if they’re allergic to stings.
  • Hornet stings: According to Healthline, a hornet sting is mild in comparison to a wasp sting, but can still cause allergic reactions. Common hornet sting symptoms include those similar to a bee sting and/or bleeding, warmth near the sting, and itching;
  • Wasp stings: Healthline describes a wasp sting as a sharp pain with redness, burning, swelling, and itching at the site. More severe symptoms like anaphylaxis, nausea, and dizziness can occur in those with wasp sting allergies.

Thankfully, most of these stings aren’t hard to care for.

Treating Bee, Hornet, and Wasp Stings

Treating a sting is simple. First, cleanse the sting site with antibacterial soap and warm water. Completely dry the area before inspecting for the insect’s stinger because it makes it easier to grab a hold of once found.

You know you’ve found the stinger when you come across a small, sliver-like tip embedded in the sting. Once you’ve located the stinger, you can then remove it with tweezers, followed by a cold compress to reduce swelling. Seek immediate medical attention if you’re allergic or fear you have an allergy to bee stings.

Tips for Preventing Bees, Hornets, and Wasps From Taking Over Your Personal Space

The following tips are great for deterring and getting rid of wasps, hornets, and bees in your outdoor area:

  • Look for nests in hollow trees, hanging from branches, under logs, in the ground, and the mud or dirt banks of streams.
  • Store food in secure containers and out of the open.
  • Throw away waste and uneaten or spoiled foods.
  • It’s impossible to completely rid public areas of bees, hornets, and wasps, especially if you’re enjoying the great outdoors. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t prevent them from invading your personal space. Spray yourself and your loved ones with bug spray before going outside for extra protection. It’s important to keep a sting and bug-bite kit on your person or nearby when going outside, just in case you get stung.

Biting Flies

A biting fly is a member of the fly family with blood-feeding habits, posing a risk to human health. Other names for a biting fly include horsefly and deer fly.

According to the Cornell University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, biting flies “develop outdoors, where larvae breed in moist or wet conditions.” They differ from houseflies because they primarily feed on blood, making them more of a nuisance.

Health Risks of a Biting Fly Bite

According to WebMD, a horsefly “mainly causes pain, redness, and minor swelling in the affected area.” They also state these bites typically go away on their own.

You should seek medical care if the symptoms worsen, don’t go away, or additional symptoms (like nausea, dizziness, and wheezing) appear over time. These may be signs of an infection or allergic reaction.

Treating Biting Fly Bites

Ensure the bite is cleaned with antibacterial soap and warm water before treatment. Once clean, apply an over-the-counter ointment, such as an after-bite cream or antiseptic spray, to alleviate any remaining pain and keep the area clean.

Tips for Preventing Biting Flies From Taking Over Your Personal Space

Of course, traditional bug spray can help deter biting flies from your campsite. However, this is only ideal for so long, as you don’t want to be drenched in bug spray. Additional ways to get rid of flies, like horseflies, include avoiding stagnant bodies of water and removing these pests from common walkways and campsites if you’re able.


Fleas are tiny, flightless external parasites commonly found in moist, shaded areas. These flattened insects are known to overrule household pets, feeding from their blood. Despite their proclivity among cats and dogs, humans can be affected by fleas, too.

Health Risks of a Flea Bite

Similar to a mosquito bite, a flea bite itches because they secrete saliva into your bloodstream, disturbing your skin around it. These bites are small red dots that may swell. Those with flea bite allergies can expect to feel additional symptoms like stinging and an increased body temperature.


Treating a Flea Bite

Flea bites will go away on their own without treatment. It’s important to keep the area clean and refrain from breaking the skin by scratching. Doing so may prolong or worsen your symptoms.

Tips for Preventing Fleas From Taking Over Your Personal Space

Consider using an insect repellent on yourself before your next outing. You may also consider a topical flea treatment, such as a dog-safe flea repellent or medicated collar to protect your furry friend from fleas and other pests.

If you do bring your pet, refrain from allowing them to stray too far off established trails, especially through thick brush or grasses. When it’s time to go home, thoroughly check yourself, your gear, and your pet for any fleas trying to sneak their way into your home.

To get rid of fleas, remember to wash yourself, your equipment, and your pets soon after your return home. If you wait too long, you’re putting yourself and those around you at risk of exposure.


Mosquitoes are insects that thrive in warm, humid climates like swamps, ponds, stagnant rivers, and lakes. According to the CDC, only female mosquitoes bite humans and animals for blood to feed. Because of their continuous hunt for food, mosquitoes are prone to spreading various diseases and viruses.

Health Risks of a Mosquito Bite

There’s no way to know whether or not you’ll contract a virus or disease if bitten by a mosquito. A few common mosquito-transmitted diseases include, but aren’t limited to:

The after-effects of a mosquito bite can be uncertain. This is why taking proper safety measures is important, especially when planning a visit to the great outdoors.

Treating a Mosquito Bite

Mosquito bites will go away on their own. However, the symptoms may worsen if you continue to scratch the bite. Try washing the area and applying an ice pack or using an over-the-counter itch cream if the itching doesn’t subside.


Tips for Preventing Mosquitoes From Taking Over Your Personal Space

Once again, bug repellent is a great resource for deterring mosquitoes. You may even consider packing a citronella candle and high-coverage clothing if stagnant water is unavoidable.

If you find yourself overwhelmed with the number of mosquitoes in your yard, then you should reach out to an exterminator to see how they can help. The health risks of mosquitos should be taken seriously. Seeking help from a professional in pest control can help get rid of mosquitoes, protecting you and your loved ones from the above health risks while enjoying the outdoors in your backyard.


Because there are many species, spiders are found in varying climates worldwide. Spiders commonly found in nature claim hidden spaces like branches, bushes, and rock crevices, as their home.

A few species you may see on your next outing include, but certainly aren’t limited to wolf spiders, brown recluse (violin spider), or the black widow.

Health Risks of a Spider Bite

Spider bites range from mildly itchy to fatally dangerous depending on the species. Some bite symptoms are more severe than others, causing trouble breathing, wheezing, severe headaches, and muscle cramps.

Most spider bites are mild. If you notice worsening symptoms, seek medical attention right away, especially if you’re unsure of the spider species that bit you. If able, take a mental description of the spider that bit you. That way if you do seek medical assistance, they’re able to provide you care tailored to that specie’s bite.

Treating a Spider Bite

Cleaning spider bites on the trail can be tricky. It’s important to get the area as clean as possible using soap and water. If able, apply a cold compress to reduce the swelling. Seek immediate medical care if you notice new or worsening symptoms.

Tips for Preventing Spiders From Taking Over Your Personal Space

Take a moment to stop on your hike or while camping to do a quick gear shake-out. This helps get rid of spiders that may be hiding in your gear. Be sure to pay close attention to your socks, boots, pockets of clothing, and sleeping bag before each use.

Always avoid putting your unprotected hands and/or feet in socks, gloves, shoes, or any other cool dark place, since these are prime hiding spots for spiders. Failure to check these spots ahead of time could result in an unexpected encounter with an unwanted pest.


Similar to a flea, a tick is a small parasite that feeds on its host’s blood. An ideal host for a tick is any warm-blooded mammal, such as a cat, dog, or person. There are multiple types of ticks:

  • American dog tick;
  • Brown dog tick;
  • Blacklegged tick (deer tick);
  • The lone star tick.

Ticks are drawn to shaded, moist areas. If your outdoor adventure entails locations with this climate, then chances are, you’ll be entering tick’s home. Most ticks can’t survive in the dry climate indoors, which is why they’re keen to burrow into the skin of your cat or dog. However, the brown dog tick can live both inside and outside, thriving more indoors where pets tend to stay.

Health Risks of a Tick Bite

Ticks are small insects that pose great health risks. For instance, a dog may become feverish and lethargic if bitten. On the extreme end, both dogs and humans are at risk of contracting serious life-threatening illnesses if bitten. Diseases transmitted by ticks include:

Not every tick bite will lead to disease, but every bite must be treated.


Treating a Tick Bite

Quickly attempt to identify the type of tick to gauge your response. If it’s a deer tick or other typical outdoor tick, remove it and flush it down the toilet. If it’s a brown dog tick, take swift action to check and treat your pets.

It’s vital to remove ticks immediately if spotted on yourself or your pet. If the tick isn’t attached, then you can skip to the second step. However, if you notice the tick has burrowed its way into the skin, then it will need to be removed immediately.

To do this, clean the area with soap and water, followed by hydrogen peroxide. Grasp the end of the tick with tweezers or needle-nosed pliers. Refrain from twisting or jerking while pulling the tick out, for this can break it in half and leave it in the skin. Clean the area once more once removed. Monitor your/your dog’s symptoms and seek medical assistance if they worsen.

Tips for Preventing Ticks From Taking Over Your Personal Space

Controlling brown dog tick infestations can be difficult and usually requires a four-step process:

  • Treating the pets;
  • Treating the house;
  • Treating the yard;
  • Sanitizing the house and vacuuming.

Reaching out to a professional is the best, most efficient way to get rid of ticks in the home. However, in nature, you’ll need to take extra precautions by tucking your pants into your socks and shirt into your waistband to ensure pests can’t access those hidden areas. Additionally, avoid hiking through tall grasses and brush, especially with a pet, since this is often where ticks, and other pests, are found.

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