I just returned from Africa, and head out in a few days to Alaska. Beautiful locations…and also spots that have lots of pesky insects. Dealing with bugs is a fact of life on many outdoor photo shoots…
Not all mosquitos are equal. Some are huge, like the Alaskan variety, and others are smaller but carry nasty diseases like malaria, dengue and West Nile. Flies are another matter. Ever tried canoeing in the boundary waters in the summer? Chances are you were dodging painful deer fly bites along the way. Africa has disease carrying flies and some of the biggest horseflies I have ever seen. Let’s face it, when you are photographing thousands of wildebeest outside your Land Cruiser there are going to be flies around.
Ticks are also a problem. Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme disease are no joke. With all these potential nasty critters out there maybe we should just never leave the house!? Hah! Don’t let bugs discourage you too much, I spend much of my year in nasty bug zones, but with a few helpful things bugs don’t ruin my trip.
First, there is lots of clothing that is treated to repel insects. Insect guard and Bug Stopper clothes from companies like Royal Robbins, Exofficio and LL Bean keep mosquitos and ticks at bay. You can also treat your own cloths with Sawyer Permethrin spray. Just spray it on, let your clothes dry, and you will watch as mosquitos have no interest in landing on your clothes. I have bug repellant socks, pants and shirts, and wear them in malaria zones to keep mosquitos off me.
If you really want to keep the bugs off check out The Original Bug Shirt Company. I used their Elite style pants and shirt in Africa last month and nothing got through my clothing. This company creates clothes with such a tight weave that flies and mosquitos can’t bite through it. It works! I didn’t get one fly bite in Africa. Their pants have long cuffs that tuck into your shoes so nothing can crawl up your leg. The only downside is these garments don’t breath well and are warm to wear in hot locations. But I loved wearing them in Africa!
Color makes a difference. Wearing tans and greens is a good choice. Bright colors, and especially blue and black, attract mosquitos and flies. On safari I only wear tan colored clothes during the day. Save the colorful clothes for dinner.
What about insect repellent? DEET works against mosquitos and ticks. Look for repellent that is at least 25 percent DEET. This stuff can be hard on clothing and electronics, try to keep it off your fingers that are touching all those nice lenses. African Tsetse flies are a special breed. DEET does not work in repelling these flies. But after talking with African safari guides, I ordered a bunch of RID bug repellent from Australia. RID contains a fly repellent in addition to DEET, and I can confirm it keeps the Tsetse flies off. It is not sold in the US, so you have to order it from Australia.
Don’t let those pesky insects ruin your trip, just take a few precautions, and enjoy your photography!