It’s finally summertime, and it’s a great time to go hiking to enjoy the outdoors, but the last thing you want to do during a hike is bring unwanted bugs home with you — especially if you’re hiking on trails on the other side of the country. Introducing pests to an area where they aren’t native isn’t just annoying — it can be bad for the environment as well.
So how can you enjoy your hike without bringing unwanted insects home with you? Let’s explore a few tips.
Don’t Smell Like Bug Food
The only reason bugs are hanging around you is that they like the way you smell. We all love our good-smelling hygiene products, but there’s a high probability that your soap, shampoo or deodorant smells like bug food.
You don’t have to give up all of your favorite shampoos or lotions — just switch to unscented alternatives when you’re planning on going out on a hike. This rule goes for your laundry detergent and fabric softener too — if you smell like a flower, you’re going to attract bugs.
Avoid Bug Habitats
Bugs love water, so if you’re hiking in areas near natural water sources — or wet or humid forests — you’re going to find bugs. If you want to avoid them, choose trails and campsites that are high and dry. The further you are from water, the fewer bugs you’ll have to deal with. This strategy will keep you from accidentally bringing unwanted stowaways home with you.
Know Your Pests
It’s easier to avoid bringing unwanted pests home if you learn how to tell the difference between pests and beneficial insects. For example, can you tell the difference between a ladybug and an Asian beetle? One is a beneficial insect that eats aphids and other pests — the other tends to devour anything in its path and is becoming a pest in many areas around the country. The Asian beetle is definitely not the kind of bug you want to introduce into your garden.
Use Bug Nets
The best way to avoid bugs in your bags is to keep bugs away from you. Bug nets come in all shapes and sizes. You can get a small one that covers just you and your bag if you’re sleeping rough or choose one big enough to contain your entire tent. They even make bug nets for hammocks and other strangely shaped camping equipment. They’re lightweight enough to be packed into any backpack — you won’t even notice the extra weight, and you’ll be able to bugs out of your bag.
No one likes the idea of bringing stowaways home — especially the six-legged kind. By paying attention to the different types of pests in nature and using equipment and knowhow to keep them away, you make it much easier to enjoy your hike without stress.
You don’t need to panic about one occasional bug hiding in your hiking equipment, but you don’t want to make a habit of bringing these little friends home. If you have any entomologist friends, they’ll thank you!
Scott Huntington is a writer from central Pennsylvania. He enjoys working on his home and garden with his wife and 2 kids. Follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington