Know Your Backcountry Bugs

Guide to common bugs in the backcountry.
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Guide to common bugs in the backcountry.

BLACKFLIES

BREEDING HABITAT: Clear, running water (e.g. spring runoff).

BITING TIME: Daytime only. Peaks in mid-morning, then again as dusk approaches. Intensifies at onset of storms, may go all day when overcast.

TARGET AREAS: Edges of tightly fitting clothing, head just beneath hatband.

ATTRACTED TO: Dark colors: blue, purple, brown, and black. Well-tucked dark pants may lure them away from your head area.

LESS ATTRACTED TO: Pale or light colors.

TEMPERATURE RANGE: Generally inactive below 50°F.

LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS: If one is trapped in an enclosure, all its attention turns to escape instead of attack; it will spend the rest of its life crawling on the screen or windowpane.

OTHER FACTS: Even common horse and house flies can transmit serious diseases, such as anthrax, tuberculosis, tularemia, tetanus, typhoid, dysentery, and cholera.

MOSQUITOES

BREEDING HABITAT: Still, standing water in wooded and swampy areas.

BITING TIME: Late afternoon, dusk, and night.

TARGET AREAS: Anywhere flesh is exposed and untreated.

ATTRACTED TO: Carbon dioxide, body heat, lactic acid (a by-product of exercise), movement.

LESS ATTRACTED TO: Light colors.

TEMPERATURE RANGE: Function best at 80°F, become lethargic around 60°F, cannot function below 50°F.

LITTLE-KNOWN FACTS: They can "smell" you 65 to 115 feet away.

OTHER FACTS: Mosquitoes have also been known to carry a number of diseases. Encephalitis, a potentially fatal disease (especially for young children) has been reported in southern Florida and more recently in southern New England. West Nile Virus has been recognized as a cause of severe human meningoencephalitis (inflammation of the spinal cord and brain). It has been documented in Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Ohio, and the District of Columbia plus parts of Canada have detected the virus. Although mosquito-born malaria can occur in the US, it is rare and carried only by the Anopheles mosquito, which thrives along the Mississippi Valley.

TICKS

BREEDING HABITAT: Wooded, grassy, and swampy areas.

BITING TIME: All day.

ATTRACTED TO: Ticks do not fly or jump, rather, they wait for an animal or human to brush up against them and then they latch on.

LESS ATTRACTED TO: Light colors.

TARGET AREAS: Anywhere flesh is exposed and untreated. Light clothes help you detect the easier.

TEMPERATURE RANGE: All year. Deer ticks mature in fall and winter. Don't let the lack of other bugs decieve you.

OTHER FACTS: Lyme disease, most often spread by deer ticks, is most common in the Northeast (particularly in MA, CT and NY) but its range is spreading, and cases have been reported in 49 states. The more rare Rocky Mountain spotted fever, also common in the East, can be spread by dog or wood ticks. Although these diseases are treatable with antibiotics, prevention is a far preferable alternative.

BEES AND WASPS

BREEDING HABITAT: Nest in hollow trees, branches, logs, on the trail, and even in the mud

or dirt banks of streams.

STINGING TIME: Daytime.

ATTRACTED TO: Bright colors, sweet smells, and swift movements.

LESS ATTRACTED TO: White or neutral tones.

TARGET AREAS: Anywhere flesh is exposed.

OTHER FACTS: If you are stung, remove the stinger by carefully scraping it with a knife blade or flat edge. Pinching the stinger will release more venom. To neutralize the venom, apply a paste of water and unseasoned meat tenderizer (which contains papain, a papaya enzyme). Seek medical help immediately if you notice an unusual reaction, such as extensive swelling, nausea, shortness of breath, or a rapid heart rate.