I Don't Want To Be The Mosquito Beacon Anymore
July 20, 2012 9:47 AM   Subscribe

I am like a magnet for mosquitoes. I am going camping in two weeks on Assateague Island. I need every single repellent idea, stat!

So for whatever reason, I get bit a lot by mosquitoes. This is very unpleasant. I am going on vacation in two weeks to Assateague Island, to camp on the beach for a week. Reading the visitor's guide today, I see that visiting is recommended in the spring and fall as the summer brings a huge mosquito population.

What are the various ways that I can prepare for this? We will be sleeping in a tent. I am willing to try semi-gross things (i.e. not showing for days) if it will help.

I have Cutter Deep Woods bug spray that I am bringing with me. I may buy a citronella candle. Are there other measures? What are your secret tips? Any foods to avoid eating? Any foods to DEFINITELY eat? Any new contraptions that actually work?

Any suggestions will be taken to heart. Thanks!
posted by amicamentis to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (57 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
Can't wait to see the responses... I'm a mosquito magnet as well, and this summer the bites have left bruises and welts that last for weeks.

My contribution: I have had very limited success with Off! unscented in the white bottle with orange cap. It just didn't last, I'd have to reapply constantly everytime I got bit and figured it had worn off.
posted by Sayuri. at 9:53 AM on July 20, 2012

oh god. the mosquitos have gotten much much worse.

the last time i went three years ago, it was late september and there were literally swarms from late afternoon till the sun went down. i am normally not a mosquito-bite person, but man did i get bit like all hell.

my suggestion is to go somewhere else or go in early october.

barring that. don't shower with any sort of perfumed soap or shampoo etc.
that stuff is definitely magnet.

i had friends who had all the deep woods off and everything you can imagine. bit up like crazy. huge huge welts everywhere. i wore long pants, long sleeved shirt, and high socks at the site. i still got bites on my legs THRU my pants. seriously. they are ruthless and carnivorous.

the best thing is to try to stay on the beach all day if you can.

at your site, a smoky fire will help keep them away if you are near the smoke.

they kinda abate after dark. but YMMV.

(also the ponies have gotten much more aggressive than in the past. i used to go assateague a lot as a kid and then went camping for about 5 years in a row with friends...at the end of the 5 years, our pony confrontations that happened in the middle of the night became terrifying. and we were excellent about cleaning up and not leaving food out, keeping it in the cars. swarms of ponies leaning on our tents, having little tiffs with each other and kicking less than 5 feet from our tent, not being scared away by normal methods of banging on pots or clapping loudly. beautiful place, but maybe the horses should get it back for a while.)
posted by sio42 at 9:58 AM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Just hearing the word Assateague is a bad trigger for me. I once tried to camp there with about five friends and we left, tail between our legs, because the mosquitoes were so bad. We used deep woods "off" but mostly we just ran around in circles flailing our arms and cussed a lot at the foul things. If I recall it was around this time of year almost 10 years ago.

It was so bad I wanted a flame thrower. I wish I had better news but if I were going back I think I would wear a beekeepers suit.
posted by dgran at 9:58 AM on July 20, 2012

I'm also a magnet for mosquitoes, I guess my blood is extra tasty or something.

One thing that seems to help is a spray with high DEET content - there is a brand I've found called Ben's that makes a product with something ridiculous like 97% DEET. Cutter and Off are usually in the 15-30% range I think. You can probably find Ben's in the hunting/camping section at a sports store or other Big Box store like Walmart or Target.

Smoke bothers bugs a lot too - so if you can light a campfire where you're going, sit downwind. Keep moving your seat if the winds change. Yes, you'll stink of smoke all week, but it seriously helps. If you can't do campfires or don't want to keep one going all day and night, cigars help too, just over a much smaller area.

Finally - I've read that mosquitoes are attracted to people (and animals) by detecting the CO2 we give off. They make mosquito traps that use propane to generate higher levels of CO2, to draw the mosquitoes away from people and into the trap. Last time I checked they were expensive, but maybe worth a look?
posted by trivia genius at 9:59 AM on July 20, 2012

Not sure how often you go or how familiar you are with camping, so I'm just gonna throw this out there:
Make damn sure that your tent is always zippered all the way closed at all times. Pretend like it's a refrigerator and you are a power-saving freak. Open, grab item, close. No looking around hemming and hawing about what you want to eat or drink. To put that into tent terms: Unzip, leap through like a damn gazelle and zip it up as quick as you can behind you. There is nothing worse than sleeping in a tent that is full of mosquitoes. Which will happen if the door is left open for any longer than is absolutely necessary.

As for repellant ideas, my personal favorite is having a cigar with me at all times and sitting real close to the fire.

Oh, and DEET, if you can get it.
posted by Grither at 10:02 AM on July 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've heard that b vitamins and garlic in your system can help to modify your smell to a less attractive scent (I'm an uber magnet too and this combined with 100% deet helped in SE Asia)
seriously though, I would really reconsider this destination, it sounds like a disaster!
posted by supermedusa at 10:02 AM on July 20, 2012

Another mosquito magnet here. We suspect genetics may be involved, as several blood (heh) relatives on my mom's side of the family are similarly affected.

I second trivia genius's recommendation of a near-100% DEET product. I use one called Maxi-DEET just because that's the one I can find where I am; I usually find it in the camping section of a sporting goods store such as Dick's. If I'm sweating a lot, repeated applications may be necessary, but I find it works reasonably well.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:06 AM on July 20, 2012

Oh my god. Not just killer mosquitoes but aggressive PONIES? What the hell.

Thank you for the answers so far! Keep them coming!
posted by amicamentis at 10:06 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Take oral antihistamines if you have a bad reaction. I am also a mosquito magnet but I also react to the bites more than everyone else (which might be part of your problem too) so I always am on antihistamines in an attempt to reduce my reaction.

Other than DEET, I wear long sleeves, long pants, and if the mosquitoes are really bad (Arctic summers), a bug jacket with the full face shield and gloves. Sure, you look dumb! But that summer I didn't even crack open the DEET, was surrounded by mosquitoes and only got a handful of bites.
posted by hydrobatidae at 10:07 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's not enough repellant in OFF! Or any other product to actually be an awesome solution.

What you want is a bottle of 98% (or more) DEET. Handle w care, it tastes disgusting and melts your tent flaps if your drop a big puddle on. I apply DEET to the back of my hand and smear it on my face and hairline that way, bc I don't want to have to wash it off my hands until its soaked in.

You'll find the DEET in a small bottle in camping or army surplus sections/stores. It's not an aerosol can, so bonus, it's smaller to pack and lasts longer than ineffective smell good formulas. Everybody wins!
posted by tulip-socks at 10:08 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, also those mosquito coils (that you're not supposed to burn in enclosed areas) are good if someone left the tent zipper open for more than a second or two.

Seconding the cigar too.
posted by hydrobatidae at 10:09 AM on July 20, 2012

Seconding keeping your skin covered. Spray your body with DEET, get dressed, spray your clothes.

I have experience of Everglades mosquitoes biting me through a pair of jeans and knit tights, and that's pretty demoralizing on a cold evening when the mosquitoes are 'not too bad.'

If they weren't such good food for bats I'd wish mosquitoes would die in a fire.
posted by tulip-socks at 10:11 AM on July 20, 2012

I have spent many camping trips covered in mosquito welts ("bites" does not really describe it..) so I hear you. Sting Eez is my favorite treatment for bites. Also bring an oral antihistamine, it helps.

When you shower, bring the bugspray with you and apply immediately afterwards!
posted by inertia at 10:12 AM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

In addition to DEET, you can also treat fabric items with permethrin. Rather than repelling bugs, permethrin actually kills insects that come into contact with fabric that has been treated. You can use it on the mosquito mesh on your tent and on clothing (not sure how happy I'd be with it directly against my skin, but it is supposedly safe and I know that some people use it on hats and things like that). Mosquitos don't like me but I use it against ticks and it works a treat.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 10:14 AM on July 20, 2012

DEET is what i was forgetting. oh yes, my poor mosquito magnet friends were just covered in DEET as well to no avail.
posted by sio42 at 10:15 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and permethrin is supposedly bad for cats, so be aware of that.
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 10:15 AM on July 20, 2012

Just bought a 98% DEET solution and Sting EZE off of Amazon. Please for the love of god, more tips please!
posted by amicamentis at 10:17 AM on July 20, 2012

My sister is also a mosquito magnet and got horrible reactions to mosquitoes while at band camp and in Asia. What helped her keep away mosquitoes was the Off! fan repellent that you clip onto your belt and it kept them away for her.
posted by QueenHawkeye at 10:17 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

The cast and crew of The Walking Dead have been regularly washing with peppermint soap to ward off the skeeters rampant in their Georgia filming location. I've read elsewhere that Dr. Bronner's or Burts Bees peppermint soap has worked similarly well for other campers, as well as peppermint oil.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:22 AM on July 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I used to carry my canoe through the bush, which made it impossible to swat mosquitoes, so I would puff on those little cigars with the plastic tips. I would clench the plastic tip between my teeth and puff out the smoke, which filled the canoe and worked pretty well. White shirts repel mosquitoes better than dark colors, apparently.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:32 AM on July 20, 2012

My one thought is to camp as close to the ocean as possible, i.e. one of the Oceanside areas and not the Bayside one. I was only there once for a day trip in July, so no repellant with me, but the cold breeze from the Atlantic seemed to push the mosquitoes away. I wandered through the Bayside campsite to get to a little wetland boardwalk trail, and it was constant swatting. Stand still for a moment and they swarmed, and even at a jogging speed as I high-tailed it out of there they tried to keep up with me.
posted by Dixon Ticonderoga at 10:33 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, I was there years ago and on the beach are sand fleas, regular size blue back horse flies, and gigantic horse flies that hover over your head when you are in the water. So, my friend and I decided to walk through the dunes and get away from the biting flies on the shore. The mosquitos were there, and travel in packs in broad daylight. We had to run in order to only get bitten by a few mosquitos. We made it to the Ranger Station and he gave us two canisters of Viet-nam war army surplus DEET. the toluene (active ingredient) was over 90%.. it felt like thick oil and smelled really bad.. We did not get too many bites after that, but were worried about getting poisoned by the DEET. We left the island pretty much immediately.

Given that, I have heard that Dr. Mercola's Bug Spray: The Natural Anti-Insect Spray (scroll down) really works and is 100% natural.
posted by snaparapans at 10:35 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fellow mosquitos magnet here. I actually like the sunscreen with bug repellent. It's easier to make sure it completely covers my skin (apply it even to the areas that will be under your cloths) and lasts a lot longer. It works better for me even though it has less DEET. I think it's basically the same stuff that the military uses.

You could probably even do both.

Take an antihistamine (like Benadryl) at night if you've been bitten that day. Benadryl will knock me out cold after an hour or two otherwise I'd take at the time of the bite or before I was likely to get bitten.

I've also had GREAT success with applying nail polish to the bite after the itching starts. The idea is to keep oxygen from getting to the site as it supposedly encourages the allergic reaction that causes the itching. Find some clear nail polish (or something close to your skin tone) and let it dry. I suspect that just about any kind of flexible glue or anything else that isn't air permeable would work the same way.
posted by VTX at 10:36 AM on July 20, 2012

You can make a mosquito trap - or a few of them - they work rather well. I have the same problem, by the way, even with Deep Woods Off on, I still need to reapply every hour or so, even if I'm still greasy from the first application. Meanwhile, my wife can be sitting 2 feet from me without a single bite for hours.


That's a yeast/CO2 based trap - you can also make traps with dry ice as the CO2 generator. You'd need a ~5lb. block of dry ice to simulate a medium sized mammal for a 9-12 hour period of time.
posted by bfu at 10:36 AM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I usually find mosquito coils pretty effective if wind conditions are good; citronella candles are another good whole-area-protecting approach, maybe something to use as well as chemical repellant.

Also, try mosquito-repellant patches. They're citronella related, and you just stick them on your clothing or skin; they're supposed to work for 36 hours. They have worked SO WELL for me, surprisingly well! I'm a mosquito magnet too, but I also hate insect repellant, and these patches are probably the only non-chemical solution that has kept me safe. I've even had good results with putting one on the corner of my bed and keeping the window open at night--I bet sticking one right beside your tent zipper would help a lot. I don't remember the brand of the ones I've tried, but I know I saw a box in Canadian Tire recently.
posted by snorkmaiden at 10:53 AM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was just at Assateague all last week, making it my fifth time of week-long camping there. I was amazed at the lack of bug problems this time. Nevertheless, you will do well to be prepared.

Now, all my camping experience there is in the Oceanside walk-in sites. Based on my past experiences:

A lot of your bug-problems will depend on your site location - the closer your site is to the beach, the less bug problems you will have.

The bugs are much worse in the early morning and late evening than any other times - before the heat of day hits, and as it is fading, in other words.

You won't have any bug problems at all on the beach itself - the constant breeze and lack of vegetation keeps them away.

If your site is not out in the open (most campsites are in cleared-out areas among the brush), take a bug fogger like this and spray the brush, especially in the evenings.

We always take Tiki Torches - I'm not convinced they do much to contain the bugs, but they create a surprising amount of light around the campsite, they're cheap, and they're quite pretty.

Finally, not-bug-related-but-crucial-advice: TAKE SHADE. There is no shade to be found on Assateague. You need shade. Assuming you have it in the budget, get this shelter (I have that one, it's great) or anything similar to put up and around the picnic table at your site (every site has a picnic table and fire ring.)

Good luck. Assateague is beautiful, the horses are neat, and camping there is a blast. Make sure you do some of the ranger-led activities - clamming and crabbing are neat, free, and happen several times a week, plus there are hikes, fishing, kayaking, etc... all free.

If you have any specific other questions about camping there, don't hesitate to send me memail - I love it there, and I have every intention of going back again next year.
posted by namewithoutwords at 10:56 AM on July 20, 2012

I am currently staying at a farm in Florida. With the heavy rains they've had recently, they're farming more mosquitos than anything else. Current solution for going outside is Off! Active. It comes in the orange can. When I leave the screen porch, I can feel the mosquitos pinging off my skin, but I've only been bit a few times.

For bite treatment, you NEED a tube of Mitigator, and you need to use it immediately upon getting bit. Before discovering this stuff, I used to get giant welts that'd last for days and itch the whole time. With Mitigator I still get the giant welts, but they and the itch are gone in 10 minutes. Mitigator is AMAZING.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:01 AM on July 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I lived for 8 years in an area surrounded by miles and miles of coastal marshland, and frequented an island not unlike Ass Island, only a couple hundred miles further south. Mosquito swarms were occasionally visible on marine radar, the potential for them was so great. There is no way that you can make yourself 100% mosquito-proof, short of not going, but you can take steps to minimize their annoyance.

What we did was make liberal use of the extra-strength, green-canned Deep Woods Off which is, iirc, 30% DEET. IMO it worked pretty well for about an hour or so when it was really bad, two or more when it was just "normal". The near-100% stuff always burned too much for me to make use of it. Really the DEET burn from the high-potency stuff was worse than the mosquitoes, IMO, but YMMV. Wear long pants, even when it's hot. Spray your exposed skin, except the face, and also your clothing liberally with the bug spray. Not to the point where it's dripping, but really, you can use too little. Just a spritz here and there ain't gonna cut it.

The other key thing is being mindful of where you are and what you are doing. Mosquitoes mostly hang out in/on grasses and brush and plants. Of course many mosquitoes will come to you based on your CO2 emissions, but go strolling through a patch of longish grass and watch as they suddenly pour forth as if from gate to a particularly mosquito-y Hell. Everyone down there had stepping stones from the car to the house, to avoid stepping on the grass. When you walked somewhere you walked in the paved road, not the grass along the side. On Ass I. that would probably really only translate into "stay on the bare sand as much as possible". I don't know if they have some boardwalks there or what.

That all said, if you're all DEETed up, wearing covering clothing, and avoiding stirring them up, if they're BAD, they're still pretty bad. They still will be swarming all around you, trying to land on and bite you, but mostly they won't be biting you, because most of your skin is covered up and what is exposed is not very appetizing to them. But they're still attracted to your CO2 cloud. It can still be quite taxing to put up with, even if you're not literally being eaten alive.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 11:20 AM on July 20, 2012

The only repellent that has worked for me is Ultrathon by 3M. It can be hard to find but it's the only stuff I really trust. Cover up with long sleeves and pants, try to get inside during dawn and dusk and lots of Ultrathon.

Not a corporate shill, just backcountry-lovin' mosquito magnet.
posted by workerant at 11:35 AM on July 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I refuse to go camping or go outside anywhere near major mosquito sites because I get bitten so badly and will still have welts and itching MONTHS later. The one thing I do do if I can't help it is to take Benadryl at night (it both helps with the itching but also knocks me out so I don't feel the itching). Also, you can get little dabber sticks of liquid Benadryl to dab on the bites specifically. It helps some. My boyfriend and I tried to make a little sexy "want to stick me?" game of it last summer. Didn't work but still helped with the bites.
posted by marylynn at 11:45 AM on July 20, 2012

Listen - for repellent inside a tent or around a campsite - you want ThermaCell. It really works well, has hardly any odor, and can be purchased in many different sizes. We use them for backyard gatherings, cook outs, etc, and they work fantastic. Way better than citronella or sprays in my opinion.
posted by machinecraig at 11:53 AM on July 20, 2012

Drat - here's that link to Thermacell.
posted by machinecraig at 11:54 AM on July 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

nthing 100% DEET. Nothing invented yet beats it. But it stinks and will melt stuff.
posted by luvmywife at 11:55 AM on July 20, 2012

there is a brand I've found called Ben's that makes a product with something ridiculous like 97% DEET

Oh yes, yes, yes. I use that. Comes in a small, signal orange, non-aerosol spray bottle. Basically all DEET, like 98 point something something percent. My insect repellent of choice when it matters.
posted by gimonca at 12:04 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am not only a mosquito magnet, but a bit allergic as well, ending up with large welts that last a week. I nth deet, but prevention is the mother of all cures and all that, so I'd get this lovely mosquito net, rig it up over my chair, and enjoy my lovely evenings.
posted by tatiana131 at 12:10 PM on July 20, 2012

Every year that we've vacationed in Chincoteague and even just biked around Assateauge too close to sundown, I've wished I had a suit like this, if not for avoiding the inhaling of mosquitoes, but for the biting flies. I would wear that and not feel one bit silly, I swear, after all the running around and flapping my arms to escape swarms of buzzing biting things that I did when we were there. And I hate hate hate the whine of mosquitoes. A week is a long time to spend fending off bites. Wear long sleeves and pants a lot, stay out of the brush and spray your clothes with whatever you choose.
posted by peagood at 12:12 PM on July 20, 2012

As I understand it, everyone is allergic to mosquito bites - some just more than others. So the people you know that don't seem to ever get bitten may just not have the horrible reaction that us 'mosquito magnets' do. I'd start taking an OTC allergy medication before you go, like the 24 hour Allegra or Claritan, to give it time to build up in your system. Carry a bite stick (ammonia) to apply to bites if you get them.

Once you're there, use your super potent DEET repellent, making sure to keep it away from synthetic fabrics or plastics since it will melt them. Cover as much of your body as you can stand with clothing, and place some mosquito traps around your campsite. Staying in motion can help too, so maybe you revert to your six-year old self and play a game of tag while the swarms are at their peak.
posted by youngergirl44 at 12:25 PM on July 20, 2012

I was recently looking into catnip for unrelated reasons and came across this little tidbit:

"In research conducted at Iowa State University, catnip was 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than the compound used in most commercial bug repellents. The finding was reported today at the 222nd national meeting of the American Chemical Society in Chicago. Chris Peterson and Joel Coats studied the effect of nepetalactone on mosquitoes. Nepetalactone is an essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its odor."

There's also more information available here on some other herbs that are helpful as mosquito repellants. Unfortunately I don't have any specific product recommendations and I haven't had a chance to test the catnip oils yet as droughts have decimated our mosquito populations here in Milwaukee.
posted by nTeleKy at 12:45 PM on July 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

I work in the arctic and have to deal with bugs like you couldn't imagine, mostly mosquitoes and black flies. The only thing that is pretty much 100% effective is covering up completely. Wear long pants and seal the cuff off - you can pull your socks up over your pant legs, or maybe use those cycling reflective cuff things (I use gaiters, but the bug blocking is a secondary benefit). On top, I wear the original bug shirt and swear by it. It can be less than pleasant sometimes in hot weather, but it does let me maintain my sanity. Other bug shirts don't seem to be nearly as effective for some reason. If you aren't that committed to it, wear a long sleeve shirt, and tie a bandana around your neck. Basically, block as much access to your skin as you can tolerate. Fabric is pretty key, because mosquitoes can poke through a lot of thinner woven fabrics.
posted by jamincan at 12:56 PM on July 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

I used to be a mosquito magnet with huge, lasting itchy welts, but over the last few years it's gotten a lot better. I believe it's because I've changed my diet to a low carb/keto one with no sugar at all. I have no idea if this is actually the reason why they don't bother me as much anymore, but it couldn't hurt to try if you're looking for ports in a storm.
posted by bink at 1:22 PM on July 20, 2012

You mention not showering if it'll help, but in fact you want the opposite: mosquitoes are attracted to sweat (and salt in the sweat). Bathe before dusk, apply repellants.

Don't forget your ears!

And to treat the itchies: run very hot water (hot as you can stand it without scalding yourself) over the affected area until it feels icy. It scrambles the nerve signals for hours and you don't itch.
posted by Specklet at 1:51 PM on July 20, 2012

Cover, and DEET are my secrets. Thinking outside of the box:
*T he Mosquito Magnet uses CO2, as do bicycle tire inflators.
* The Mosquito magnet also offers other attractants which can probably be opened and placed somewhere away from you.
* Between those two maybe you can confuse the hell out of them. I've always imagined a cone shape to the CO2 behind me as I'm walking. Give'em a slow walk, then break into a run for a circle and duck into your tent on the far side of where you completed the circle. Hopefully they'll be over there trying to figure out where you went when you get in.
* Netting for inside the tent is also a good idea. Plan on being up killing the few remaining for 30 minutes at least.
* Standing in the smoke from a fire does seem to help, but is hard to breath in of course.
posted by jwells at 2:06 PM on July 20, 2012

Get a bandana or other piece of cloth, soak it in high-test DEET and keep it you back pocket.
You can use it for periodic touch-ups to your protection without having to get the liquid DEET out and all over your hands.
Nthing cigars or pipes.
If you plan on fishing be aware that DEET will melt fiberglass fishing rods.
posted by islander at 2:46 PM on July 20, 2012

100% DEET is the only thing that will repel mosquitoes. Forget the citronella candles, etc.

But even DEET won't protect you from going crazy if they are really thick. You need protective clothing -- tight weave nylon pants and nylon shirt, and heavy socks. They will bite right through jeans and cotton socks. Lightweight glove liners for you hands. A mosquito headnet and a wide brimmed hat to keep the net away from your face and neck. Bring an extra headnet. I guarantee your companions will be willing to trade almost anything for one when they need it.
posted by JackFlash at 3:08 PM on July 20, 2012

I just came back from four days of primitive camping. I saw on Pinterest a suggestion to put Listerine in a spray bottle and to spritz yourself with it. I thought, "What the hell. The worst is that I'll smell minty fresh to hide four days of unshowered stank." I spritzed me. My camp chair. The ground around my camp chair. My friends did not.

My friends got eaten alive.

I didn't get a single bite. YMMV.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:32 PM on July 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Out of total desperation, I bought the Clip On Off bug repellant. It is a weird, battery operated contraption that runs on batteries.

I usually get about 30 bites when watering the garden in the evening. I tried it and only got two or three.

The scary thing is that it must be putting some unknown chemical into the air that you will breath. But, sometimes, I just don't care.

Also, Dermoplast spray is something I carry with me constantly. I spray it on right after I get bitten and it keeps the itching away.

(HeyAllie, what flavor of Listerine?)
posted by Vaike at 3:44 PM on July 20, 2012

I don't know what flavor of Listerine it was - it was a bluish color. It actually smelled quite good.
posted by HeyAllie at 3:54 PM on July 20, 2012

On our ast trip to some alpine lakes, we used the DEET, but generally feel it's overkill and probably not healthy in the long run. We also needed to reapply every 30 minutes to an hour.

What's worked very well for years has been Avon Skin-So-Soft. Yeah, really. It doesn't feel as gross as Off and smells *way* better. I've had two big bottles for years but I think I got it at a veterinarian, or you can go straight through Avon or your favorite local Avon lady.
posted by a_green_man at 3:58 PM on July 20, 2012

I came to say that you want to treat your clothes and your tent with a permethrin spray or wash before you go. DEET really works best when it's on your skin (so I'm told) but permethrin works pretty well on cloth and such. You pre-treat your gear and then it basically has built-in repellent after that, at least for a few wash cycles.

Also, don't bring bananas. I have no idea if this is true but a camp counselor once told me that banana oil attracts them and if you eat bananas then it'll come out in your sweat.
posted by Scientist at 4:00 PM on July 20, 2012

Counterintuitive and untested, but I've had several people tell me that keeping dryer sheets in their pockets helps.
posted by Prevailing Southwest at 4:27 PM on July 20, 2012

Garlic. Eat lots of garlic. Lots. Roasted garlic is not as effective but it tastes a lot better. One bulb of raw garlic or 3-6 bulbs of roasted garlic each day usually does the trick, but you might need more for a really infested area.

Avoiding sweet foods helps a little bit. I'm not sure if it's necessary if you do the garlic thing though.
posted by yohko at 6:35 PM on July 20, 2012

Avoid eating bananas, wearing bright colors, using woodsy scented products and use Ben's repellant.
posted by fiercekitten at 9:39 PM on July 20, 2012

We used Burt's Bees Insect Repellant on a canoeing trip through the Alligator River National Wildlife Reserve in August (Outer Banks NC). The rest of the participants were covered in bites and welts; we weren't bitten at all
posted by tigerjade at 10:03 AM on July 22, 2012

I've been at a cabin next to Lake Superior a couple times this summer and used the 97%+ DEET stuff both times. Both times, I started to get buzzed within 20-30 minutes. It worked, but nowhere near as well as you might expect from the hype, and reapplying that stuff starts to get beyond my tolerance. Full coverage works better, but in high humidity and high temperatures, it can be a different kind of unpleasant.
posted by jiawen at 8:51 PM on July 29, 2012

let us know how it went.
posted by sio42 at 8:18 AM on August 1, 2012

We're leaving on Friday!!! Thanks so much for the suggestions, and any last minute ones are welcome too.
posted by amicamentis at 11:57 AM on August 1, 2012

Okay, I'm back to civilization - thank god there was some pretty good winds on the first 3 days ago because the mosquitos SWARMED on the last two. However, that high DEET stuff seemed to work decently well. I have about 10 or so bites, which is much less than expected. It was a pain to have to keep reapplying. The OFF stuff that I tried didn't seem to do much at all.

I definitely experienced less agitation away from the vegetation and closer to the ocean. Out on the sand was better than under the food tent.

I wore a long-sleeved shirt and hat and have 0 bites on my arms.
posted by amicamentis at 11:13 AM on August 10, 2012

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