There are lots of ways to cope with the irritation of being bitten by insects in woodlands and here are some ideas from various experienced woodland workers.
Avoid Them Altogether
First of all consider when mosquitoes and midges are most active. In the winter, early spring and autumn mosquitoes and midges are much less active so this is a good time to do your energetic, outdoor work. Carbon dioxide from breathing and from forestry machinery will attract insects so it’s good to avoid doing major forestry operations in the summer months if possible.
If you have to work in the summer, mosquitoes and midges are much less active in the mornings and when there is a good breeze. Mosquitoes are less active where there is bright sunshine, though this will not discourage horse flies and midges (or “midgies” as they are known in Scotland). Aside from the time of year, time of day and the level of sunshine there are various protective measures you can take, of which the most obvious is to cover up well.
Smoke out the Midgies and Mossies
Smoking may be bad for your health, but it does keep away the midges! Even better is a campfire. You may smell like a kipper by the end of the day, but your fire can keep the worst of the biting insects at bay.
Are you Repelled by Repellents?
What about repellents? People have mixed views, but there is no doubt that the underlying chemical in most of these – DEET (Diethyltoluamide) – is effective in repelling most insects. This is the active ingredient in many sprays including Repel Plus (from Boots), Johnson’s OFF, Deep Woods OFF and Muskol. The concentration used varies enormously, from 5% for children’s sprays and up to 30% and above for some of the Muskol products. Another popular range of repellents is the Jungle Formula range, the strongest of which has 50% DEET.
Many people don’t like using these products because of possible allergic reactions and fears about toxicity. It should certainly be kept away from the eyes as it can be a strong irritant, and there may be dangers with repeated applications on children. It should also be avoided by people with severe skin conditions and not used on parts of the body where skin rubs against another skin surface for a significant period of time. Follow the instructions on the packet.
More Natural Alternatives
More natural alternatives include lavender essential oil which is mild enough to be applied directly to the skin as a few drops. Other essential oils such as patchouli, citronella or lemongrass essential oils must be mixed with a carrier oil such as almond. Just 2-3 drops of oil for every teaspoon of carrier.
Other creams are said to help by preventing the insects getting their mouthparts into your skin Johnson’s baby oil has been used successfully and, in a more perfume-like way, lemon cologne is said by some to work well. Avon Skin-So-Soft is claimed to work on a similar basis and repeated applications will not damage the skin.
Drinking for Protection
Some people favour eating or drinking in ways that discourage mosquitoes and midges. One suggestion is that drinking cider vinegar with honey is effective. It’s a pleasant enough drink with an apple-y flavour and the effect is to make your blood taste unattractive to bugs. Fans of cider vinegar also claim that if you have been bitten a splash of neat cider vinegar works well on the irritated skin.
Eating for Protection
It’s often observed that some people seem to attract insect biters more than others, so much so that if you travel with someone who is particularly attractive they will draw the biters away from you. Assuming that your companion may not be willing to act as live bait for your day in the woods, what if you’re one of those people who seem particularly tasty to bugs?
It’s a widespread urban myth that eating Marmite on your toast makes you less attractive to insects. If true, this seems like a small price to pay to make yourself repellent to insects (or maybe you’re a Marmite lover!). Other foodstuffs that are said to help are vitamin B and garlic. Although, it’s more likely that the flavour of your breath puts off the biting insects than the change in your blood flavour!
What works for you? Let us know in the comments section below.