Getting outside into the great outdoors can be a fun and satisfying experience, but often bugs, biting insects and creepy crawlies can turn a camping adventure into a nightmare. Chemical bug repellents, however, often damage both your skin and the environment with dangerous toxins.
Luckily, there are a number of highly effective, eco friendly, chemical free solutions that offer great alternatives to these expensive and hazardous options.
In this article we’ll provide a breakdown of the top 3 do-it-yourself homemade natural bug repellents for camping and the best methods for using them.
Keep Wasps Away From Your Campsite Naturally
Wasps are one of the most common pests encountered while camping. Highly aggressive, tenacious and eager to sting unsuspecting campers, wasps are attracted by food in a campsite, especially during cooking and meal times.
The easiest way of dealing with wasps in a campsite is with a soda bottle wasp trap, a completely natural and chemical-free solution.
What You’ll Need
- A 2-liter Soda Bottle
- 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar
- 2 Cups Sugar
- 1 Cup Water
- ½ Cup Dishwashing Liquid
How Does a Soda Bottle Wasp Trap Work?
A soda bottle wasp trap works by luring wasps to a more attractive target than your food. Created with an empty soda bottle, soda bottle traps lure a wasp inside with a tempting bait.
Wasps fly in, but can’t fly out, trapping them inside the bottle and preventing them from interfering with camping activities. Wasps trapped in a soda bottle trap will either drown or expire from heat exposure, significantly reducing the amount of wasps around your campsite.
How To Make a Soda Bottle Wasp Trap
- Begin by using scissors to remove the top third of your 2-liter soda bottle. Place the top you remove aside- you’ll need it in a moment.
- Mix the apple cider vinegar, water and sugar in the bottom half of the soda bottle. Stir this mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. This solution is highly attractive to wasps, so you may want to prepare this mixture either in your tent or away from areas that harbor wasps.
- Add the dish soap to the bottom half of the soda bottle, mixing well to make sure there isn’t a layer of soap over the top of the mixture
- Recover the top third of the bottle you removed earlier and invert it, placing it upside down inside the bottom half of the soda bottle. Remove the lid of the soda bottle before doing this. The top section should fit snugly inside the bottom half.
- Place the trap 6ft-8ft away from your campsite, in the general vicinity of your food. Any wasps that are attracted by your food will instead investigate the strong smell of the sugar and vinegar mix inside the bottle. The trap will attract large swarms of wasps, so be sure to place the trap far enough away for comfort.
- Over time, the soda bottle wasp trap will fill with wasps and become ineffective. To combat this you may want to create more than one trap. If your trap fills with wasps, fill it with water to drown the wasps then empty it away from the campsite. Refill the bait mixture, reset the trap, and it will continue to function.
While this solution is poison-free, it does use dishwashing soap, which many organic lifestyle enthusiasts don’t use due to high concentrations of chemical cleaning agents.
The soda bottle wasp trap will work just as well without dishwashing soap, but you’ll need to make sure you drown wasps with water before emptying the trap as the bait solution won’t kill the wasps.
Apple cider vinegar and sugar solution is a highly effective bait for this trap as the evaporating vinegar carries the scent of the sugar to passing wasps. While this solution is the most effective, it’s possible to use almost any food that attracts wasps, such as meat, soda, apple sauce and more.
One bait to avoid is honey, as it will attract and destroy bees, which are not attracted by campside food. Destroying bees can imbalance the local ecological system, as bees are critical pollinators, so be sure to avoid hurting these insects.
Keep Ants Out of Your Campsite
Ants are another common pest that can interfere with a camping trip. Creeping into tents and food stores, ants can quickly destroy unattended food and make sleeping conditions uncomfortable.
Chemical poisons that are designed to deter ants are extremely harmful to the environment, lingering long after campers have gone home and disrupting the ecosystem.
Diatomaceous earth, or DE, is a highly effective alternative to chemical ant deterrents that uses no chemicals or poisons to keep ants away. Many thousands of people all around the world use diatomaceous earth to keep small crawling insects out of their homes without the need for powerful poisons.
One of the major advantages of diatomaceous earth as a camping ant deterrent is that wind or rain will disperse the DE after you’ve broken camp, meaning there is no long term environmental impact from using this effective solution.
What You’ll Need
- Pest Control or Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth (free from chemicals or poisons)
- Mason Jar or Diatomaceous Earth Applicator
- Camping Knife or Pocket Knife
How Does Diatomaceous Earth Deter Ants?
Diatomaceous earth is composed primarily of fine silica particles. Mined from the mineral deposits created from ancient dried lakes, streams and rivers, diatomaceous earth is made up of the fossilized remains of ancient aquatic plant life. Diatomaceous earth looks and feels like a fine white chalky powder, and is completely inert and chemical-free.
When viewed under a microscope, diatomaceous earth consists of sharp, abrasive particles. When ants or other small crawling insects come into contact with DE, it binds to their exoskeleton, abrading away their outer protective layer. The silica particles that make up diatomaceous earth draw out the lipid oils and moisture from inside these insects, fatally dehydrating them through a purely mechanical action.
How to Use Diatomaceous Earth as a Camping Ant/Bug Deterrent
- Begin by carefully punching holes in the lid of your mason jar with your pocket knife or camping knife. Be careful when doing this- it’s best to rest the jar lid against a piece of wood and rest the knife on the life, tapping it with a rock or back of a hatchet to punch a hole. If you’re using a DE applicator, you won’t need to perform this step.
- Fill your mason jar with diatomaceous earth and secure the lid, or fill your DE applicator with diatomaceous earth.
- With your applicator or mason jar shaker, distribute diatomaceous earth in a perimeter around both your tent and your campsite. When applying diatomaceous earth around either your tent or food storage, create a thick layer at least one half inch thick. A thinner layer will suffice for broader areas.
Any insect crossing this DE barrier will become suffused with diatomaceous earth, destroying them before they are able to enter your tent or food storage.
This effect will keep ants, spiders, beetles and more away from your tent without the need for dangerous and harmful chemicals. The diatomaceous earth perimeter you’ve created should be kept in place until you’re ready to break camp, and reapplied if wind or rain disturbs it.
When you’re ready to leave, simply scatter the diatomaceous earth with a leafy branch. The diatomaceous earth will be absorbed into the soil, preventing it from harming any insects after you leave.
DE is used as a fertilizer in agricultural applications, so using it in this manner will actually have a positive effect on plant growth in the area.
Although diatomaceous earth is completely inert and chemical free, there are a number of rules to keep in mind when using it.
The fine silica particles that compose DE have the ability to irritate the nose, eyes and throat if inhaled, so always be sure to treat the substance carefully and use a dust mask when distributing it.
DE is indiscriminate when used to kill insects, and for this reason can have a detrimental effect on local insect wildlife.
Always be sure to limit your usage of DE to only what is absolutely necessary and consult local wildlife experts or park rangers if camping in a national park. Many national parks prohibit the use of any kind of pesticide, including DE, so check local laws before use.
Keep Mosquitos Away While Camping
Mosquitos are the bane of many campers. Mosquitos are extremely irritating ectothermic hemophagic parasites that feed on the blood of mammals and carry many diseases from dengue to west nile virus.
While not presenting a significant health risk, mosquitos can be bothersome and are difficult to deter. Unlike wasps, ants and other insects, mosquitos target humans specifically.
The sheer amount of natural solutions for deterring mosquitos available online can make it difficult to find a solution that actually works. The most commonly reported and most effective natural solution for deterring mosquitos is extremely simple and effective.
Both lavender and eucalyptus essential oils create strong odors that repel mosquitos with no need for powerful chemicals.
What You’ll Need
- ½ Teaspoon Lavender or Eucalyptus Essential Oil
- 1 Cup Water
- Spray Bottle
How Does Essential Oil Repel Mosquitos?
The powerful odor in both eucalyptus or lavender essential oils make it impossible for mosquitoes to detect humans, while at the same time presenting them with an odor they don’t like.
While these substances may have powerful smells, they don’t contain any powerful toxins like DEET that can irritate the skin or cause health conditions.
How to Repel Mosquitoes with Essential Oils
- Mix either lavender or eucalyptus essential oil with water
- Pour mixture into spray bottle
- Apply mixture to skin
If you’re not a fan of either of the above essential oils, rosehip oil or lemon essential oil both have anti-mosquito properties. This solution will also deter other biting insects such as lice or ticks.