Save me from things with more than four legs!
December 12, 2009 3:28 PM   Subscribe

What is the least buggy place to live in the USA? In the world?

For the sake of this question, "bugs" applies to anything with more than four legs that walks on land (i.e. spiders count but lobsters do not).

What part of the United States is the best for someone afraid of bugs in general? What part of the world?

Consider that a place with gigantoid centipedes that occasionally enter the home is MORE scary than a place with loads of tiny gnats and flies that rarely come inside.

(Note: I'm not looking for ways to prevent bugs in my home or anything like that. This is just a for-fun/out-of-curiosity thing. Personal experiences would be great!)
posted by dayintoday to Home & Garden (46 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Btw, if you are linking to any site with pictures of bugs, please say so. (Scary!)
posted by dayintoday at 3:31 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

The further north you move, the smaller the bugs get. The only thing we've got are those house centipedes sometimes. And I haven't seen one in years, since I knew someone with a basement apartment. None of our regular house bugs bite, though if you make a habit of wading barefoot in ponds you might encounter a water bug. Also we have what are in the local vernacular "dock spiders"--those fuckers are huge. But none of our usual spiders are poisonous.

But then, we do have mosquitoes.
~Duluth, MN
posted by RedEmma at 3:40 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Not many bugs in Antarctica.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 3:40 PM on December 12, 2009

In the world, I'd say the least number of bugs would be found at the two poles and the top of Everest.
posted by Sparx at 3:43 PM on December 12, 2009

Even in Alaska, in the summer time, there are huge bugs.
posted by dfriedman at 3:44 PM on December 12, 2009

Sweden is a lovely place and we mainly have mosquitos (really, indoor bugs are so rare there was news-stories on the sudden discovery of teeny spanish cockroaches within our borders).
posted by dabitch at 3:45 PM on December 12, 2009

In San Francisco the only people I know who keep window screens use them to keep pets in. Remarkably bug free compared to other places I've been.

However in general bugs are pretty necessary part of the ecosystem, so you'll find at least a few wherever there are living things.
posted by Ookseer at 3:45 PM on December 12, 2009 [2 favorites]

What part of the United States is the best for someone afraid of bugs in general?

Less fresh water = less bugs. Move to the desert or the sea side. Neither place will be totally bug-free by any means.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:47 PM on December 12, 2009

My vote's for the Atacama Desert in Chile. It's the driest place on the planet (more dry than Antarctica) and supports no life. The annual rainfall for the region is 1" a year, but there are some places where there has been no recorded instances of rain since human measurement started. Here's a quote I liked:
Not even cacti grow there. The air is so dry that metal objects never oxidize and the meat left for long on open air preserves for unlimited time. Without moisture nothing rots.
So, presumably no insects.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:48 PM on December 12, 2009 [3 favorites]

Generally speaking I reckon you'll be looking for places that are cold, fairly dry and fairly high altitude.
posted by jonesor at 3:48 PM on December 12, 2009

Notwithstanding Cool Papa Bell's advice, I was struck by the ridiculously few "bugs" there were in my year in Ottawa Canada. No mosquitoes, no beetles, no gnats...nothing. I don't know if it was an unusual year, or what, but it was interesting. On the other hand, there were a truly ridiculous number of squirrels, so maybe that was somehow related. And Ottawa has a big freshwater canal running through it.
posted by swimming naked when the tide goes out at 3:51 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

If the specific worry is bugs in the house, living higher up can do wonders, without changing your geography. I live in the Pacific Northwest. Back when I lived in a regular house, there weren't too many bugs, but we'd get small bugs here and there, crane flies in in the summer, moths, that sort of thing. Since i've moved into a 10th floor apartment, I've yet to see a single living thing that's not human in here. And I had my windows open without screens all summer.
posted by floam at 3:53 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I live in Wyoming. It's very cold and dry here, and the altitude is about 6,000 feet. There are occasional bugs in the summer, but in the winter (which lasts about six months) there are almost none. The bugs that do show up are usually on the small side; we don't have any of those gigantic spiders that the east coast has, for example.
posted by Lobster Garden at 3:56 PM on December 12, 2009

They say California has insects, and I've been bothered by ants (and when I had an indoor/outdoor cat at the beach, fleas) but compared to other places I've lived (mid-Atlantic) it's practically bug-free. I did see a cockroach once up here in NorCal, and on LA TV they had ads for Roach-Pruf so I assume somebody had a problem there, but I never saw one when I lived in SoCal.

Also I know people here have problems with termites. Why houses are built out of wood in a climate where those insects thrive is a mystery to me.
posted by Rash at 4:05 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

- long winter
- cold summer
- high hygiene / standard of living

are the factors.

Then, all Arctic areas are good. Only exception there is the mosquito-issue mentioned. However, if living in the city, it's not a problem, as mosquitoes need quite a bit of green to live. In the cities, the high hygiene is the only way to avoid roaches etc.

Fresh water as a breeding place for critters is an issue mainly in the hot/warm areas -- not in the Arctic.

e.g. Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden...

posted by Doggiebreath at 4:05 PM on December 12, 2009

Move to the desert or the sea side.

Not Arizona. The bugs there are intense.
posted by crinklebat at 4:06 PM on December 12, 2009

In San Francisco the only people I know who keep window screens use them to keep pets in.

Came here to say this. After living in the cockroach (sorry, palmetto bug) and mosquito infested south, living in San Francisco was kind of a shock. I think people who are from here don't really know any better, but I definitely noticed after I moved here. There are no bugs. I think I've seen a mosquito twice in 2 years, and I leave my windows open year round without a screen!
posted by bradbane at 4:09 PM on December 12, 2009

I saw three bugs (which were probably hitchhikers; also one bird, and no other wildlife at all) during the week I spent in the Black Rock Desert this year. That's as scarce as I've ever seen bugs, and each one was worthy of comment.

Of course, it's not really a place where you can live, either.
posted by adamrice at 4:16 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Move to the desert or the sea side.

Not the New Jersey sea shore. Green head flies by the million.
posted by fixedgear at 4:18 PM on December 12, 2009

Nthing San Francisco. You might also consider Monterey and Santa Barbara. I grew up on the California coast and I had never seen a cockroach until I visited New York as an adult.

However, there are small spiders and those mosquito hawk things. I consider myself fairly bug-averse and, growing up, I only ever encountered a spider large enough to cause concern (i.e., nickel-sized and greater) about once a year or so. I do not/not like mosquito hawks, even though an entomologist friend of mine once assured me that they have "no moving mouth parts." We had mosquito hawks fly into the house every couple of months or so. But mosquitos? No.

There are also pillbugs and termites and other things in the many-legged/non-centipede category, but my bug-aversion does not extend to that, so I was fine.
posted by woot at 4:23 PM on December 12, 2009

3rding San Francisco as surprisingly bug free. There are worms and bugs in my garden but you'd need to be out messing with the soil to find them.
posted by foodgeek at 4:24 PM on December 12, 2009

Seconding Sweden. The only bugs I ever saw indoors were mosquitoes (though the mosquitoes there are quite big compared to North American ones) and the occasional bee that would get in and fly around like crazy. I never saw any roaches.
posted by pravit at 4:27 PM on December 12, 2009

Nthing Carmel/Monterey/San Francisco, but also putting in a vote for Black Rock City NV (location of Burning Man). The alkali mud flat of the black rock playa doesn't support any life, so no bugs. I don't know how buggy the surrounding communities are (e.g. Gerlach) but I suspect that arid rural Nevada is, in general, a significantly bug-free location.
posted by jcdill at 4:38 PM on December 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm in Vancouver, and rarely even think about bugs. There's the occasional spider, and the odd mosquito in the summer, but thats about it. An underground basement will get spiders coming up the plumbing, but thats the most freaked out I've even been, bug-wise. Get a cat who likes to chase them, and it's a non-issue. I've never seen a cockroach here. Flies are big and dumb. There are bees and wasps, but you can avoid those and hear them coming. Older apartment buildings get the odd silverfish, but they're tiny and harmless. Ants (and their hills) are the only "collection" of bugs together I can ever recall seeing.

I have a gut feeling (given the other comments and my own experiences) that most of the west coast is similar.
posted by cgg at 4:48 PM on December 12, 2009

Nthing the SF Bay Area. Here in Oakland, beyond the usual fruit flies from bananas and moths in the pantry (which can be avoided by freezing grain products for 24 hours when they're first brought home from the store), we get flies in the summer and ants. Hm, what else? Snails and occasional slugs in the garden. Not many spiders, few daddy long-legs, and no june bugs or anything else huge and scarab-like.

Oh, and minor problems with moths or carpet beetles or something else that likes snacking on wool. Grr.
posted by Lexica at 4:52 PM on December 12, 2009

I live in the desert of SoCal, and there is nary a bug that I've seen or heard of. Not a fly, not a spider, not a cockroach, nothing. Of course, it's completely devoid of culture, so maybe the two go hand-in-hand.
posted by doh ray mii at 5:04 PM on December 12, 2009

Just to contradict swimming naked... Ottawa certainly has plenty of bugs. If you didn't experience them in a year here I congratulate you. However, the mosquitoes have been fierce (without perhaps being at Winnipeg extremes) each of the 16 summers I've been here. We also have plenty of interior and exterior critters that creep me out.

And outside the city, the bugs just get worse. I've been at cottages where, at night, every single window was literally covered with moths, flies and other assorted bugs, attracted to the light.
posted by valleys at 5:06 PM on December 12, 2009

Barrow Alaska. Far enough north that the only bugs I ever see are Mosquitos in the summer, but not nearly as bad as even a few miles inland.

Of course, you'll have to deal with polar bears. No one rides for free.
posted by fourcheesemac at 5:15 PM on December 12, 2009

There were no bugs when I lived on the 17th floor of a concrete apartment building. It was blissful!
posted by smartypantz at 5:15 PM on December 12, 2009

California. Yes. Before you say "Sweden", let me say this: I place bugs on an "annoyance chart." It's true that Sweden has fewer bug species than California, but there are regions in Sweden where the few bug species that do exist are extremely annoying - the mosquitos and nats, especially further up north... vicious. We don't have that problem here in California. The only problem I've encountered are the tiny garden black ants that stage a house invasion during rain - and if you are reasonably diligent about your perimeter, they really should not happen either.

Yes, there are regions like the South American desert referenced above, that have no bugs, but if one were to take the question as "what place that is practical to live in are there fewest problems with bugs", then my vote would go to California.
posted by VikingSword at 5:46 PM on December 12, 2009

I moved to San Francisco from Washington, DC, and was surprised at the lack of screens on windows. I get mosquito bites maybe twice a year. Once in a while there are flies. We get invaded by ants maybe twice a year, but diatomaceous earth takes care of that. I grew up in Hawaii (bugsbugsbugs) and have lived in New England and DC/MD and now San Francisco, and it's the most bug-free of any of them by a long shot.
posted by rtha at 6:38 PM on December 12, 2009

What is being nthed about San Francisco here also applies to the Pacific Northwest, i.e Portland and (I believe, less experience here) Seattle, which have very few bugs and small ones when they do show up.
posted by furiousthought at 7:02 PM on December 12, 2009

They say California has insects, and I've been bothered by ants (and when I had an indoor/outdoor cat at the beach, fleas) but compared to other places I've lived (mid-Atlantic) it's practically bug-free.

It's location dependent. In some parts of the Central Valley the mosquitoes are worse than the Arctic (fewer but much bigger and more vicious). Tarantulas and scorpions are very common in CA. Finding a spider the size of my hand in my bedroom is not OK in my world. Nor are scorpions crawling into my clothes and hiding as they are wont to do.

Those widespread invasive ants, from Argentina maybe, can be a real pain in the ass too. When it rains they come marching into your house in the millions.
posted by fshgrl at 7:15 PM on December 12, 2009

Just wanted to affirm rtha on Hawaii: bugsbugsbugs pretty much sums it up.
posted by pzarquon at 8:04 PM on December 12, 2009

Generally speaking I reckon you'll be looking for places that are cold, fairly dry and fairly high altitude.

The Atacama Desert. Studied by planetary geologists as a Mars analog. No bugs, barely even microbes.

ALMA is a US project there, under construction now. Perhaps they are hiring :)
posted by intermod at 9:52 PM on December 12, 2009

Manhattan is pretty bug-free. I guess there's just too much concrete and not enough nature, so there seem to be almost no mosquitos. I suppose some people might have roach problems, but I'm not sure I've seen any in the ten years I've been in this apartment. There is a tremendous bedbug problem in the city these days, but I've also been lucky to avoid an infestation.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 10:52 PM on December 12, 2009

Los Angeles, compared to NYC, is so free of bugs that I feel like I've stumbled into anti-bug paradise. Few mosquitoes, no house centipedes, less of a bedbug epidemic. Hardly even seen a roach. Don't know why is it, but I'm happy about it.

(I've obviously seen spiders and such on hiking trails and in gardens, but other than an odd daddy longlegs in an old house, I feel CA is a good bet for those of us with insect phobias.)
posted by np312 at 11:21 PM on December 12, 2009

Move to the desert

No scary bugs here (Henderson, NV) unless you count scorpions, tarantulas, black widows, brown recluses, and centipedes.
posted by spasm at 5:12 AM on December 13, 2009

An Irish friend of mine was so freaked out by the bugs in rural New England (which I'd say is neither here nor there on the bug scale) that she almost didn't come back to the US for a second trip. She had severe reactions to mosquito bites. Apparently they don't have much in the way of biting bugs in Ireland. So while I'm sure they have bugs, I think they're pretty innocuous. This is all second hand information but I thought I'd throw it in as a counterpoint to the California, California, California.
posted by bobobox at 5:13 AM on December 13, 2009

I spent a couple weeks last March on the caribbean coast in Costa Rica. We stayed in a house on stilts, surrounded by jungle, in which only the bedroom windows had screens. The rest of the house was completely open air. I was amazed that come sun down, we were not devoured by mosquitoes. This was at the end of the rainy season. I don't remember seeing any bugs in the house and I wondered if there was some serious spraying going on.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:38 AM on December 13, 2009

When I grew up in Northern California (Vallejo - near Napa Valley) we had roaches, spiders, and clouds of mosquitoes, so Northern California is not free of bugs. San Fran may be, but I wouldn't count on all of Northern Cali.

When I lived in Bremerton, WA (across the sound from Seattle) we had loads of spiders, but no roaches.

Florida is crawling with bugs (no pun intended) - If you want to be bug free, stay away from Florida - and Mississippi.

Virginia Beach (by the seaside) has HUGE roaches and palmetto bugs (flying roaches >>shudder<>
New Mexico (I lived in Albuquerque) did not have many bugs - a few spiders - but I didn't much like the lizards coming in my house, and watch out for scorpions.

Long Island, I don't remember there being any bugs (other than my then in-laws) - maybe mosquitoes.

I remember Asheville, North Carolina being pretty bug free... maybe a spider or two, but they pretty much stayed outside. I didn't like the bears coming into my yard though.

I guess that there's gonna be *something* everywhere...
posted by patheral at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2009

Thanks everyone for the great responses! I never would have realized San Francisco was so bug-free. If I ever can't take the buggy-ness of Massachusetts anymore (which, I agree with someone above, is neither here nor there), SF or Sweden (and/or a high-rise) are the way to go. In the meantime, I'll tolerate being devoured by mosquitoes since at least we don't have tarantulas, scorpions, and centipedes of doom...
posted by dayintoday at 3:41 PM on December 13, 2009

Pacific NW
No ticks
No chiggers
No gnats
Few skeeters
Few noxious spiders
Few snakes (not a bug i know)
No Poison Ivy (again not a bug)
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:46 AM on December 14, 2009

I dunno which PacNW you live in, but OR and WA certainly have ticks, and they both have poison oak (though that's restricted mostly to east of the Cascades). (And the worst mosquito bites I've ever gotten were at Crater Lake! Worse even than Maine, or Vermont, where I believe the mosquito is the (unofficial) state bird of both states!)
posted by rtha at 11:46 AM on December 14, 2009

Move to the desert

In addition to the scorpions, tarantulas, black widows, brown recluses, and centipedes mentioned above, in NM we also have millipedes, some weird creepy gigantic bug called "Children of the Earth" (I've seen one... in my house... shiver), and something that looks like a small snake. Also biting red ants.
posted by yohko at 7:57 PM on December 14, 2009

La Paz, Bolivia. I don't recall seeing any bugs when I was there... or maybe it's just that there weren't any mosquitos? God do I hate those things!!!

At a base height of nearly 12,000 feet and higher (the city sits in a valley, high in the Andes mountains) it's more than double the altitude of Denver. La Paz is the world's highest capital city. P.S. It's gorgeous too!
posted by 2oh1 at 8:17 PM on December 14, 2009

« Older Book recommendations, please!   |   Nice body powder? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.