Are They Biting? (2024)

Are They Biting? (1)
Are They Biting? (2)

Not fish. Bugs. Here's how to prepare for the inevitable attack.

By Cliff Jacobson
Illustrations by Peter Arkle

WHEN I WAS A SCOUT in the 1950s, an experienced woodsman spoke to our troop about canoeing the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. When it came to bugs, he removed his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that bore a chest-filling likeness of a female mosquito and the words, "Minnesota State Bird."

Are They Biting? (3)

"This here's a small one," he said, pointing to the "bird." "I've seen some as large as bulldogs, so you boys best watch out!"I was barely 12, and I believed every word. As I got older, I learned that canoes and mosquitoes do go together. It's the price one pays for the fun of being outdoors. But I also discovered that biting insects are tolerable if you're well prepared.

Know Your Enemies

Mosquitoes swarm at dawn and dusk and just before an approaching storm. Lightweight long johns or a gentle breeze stops them cold.Horse flies and deer flies (those "bulldogs") attack on hot, sunny days—calm or windy. They bite through thin clothing and produce painful wounds that can become infected.

Black flies, which are the size of rice grains, breed in moving water. The larvae form dark-brown "nets" that look like nylon hose in the water. Don't camp near these. Black flies prefer confined areas around wrists, ankles, and ears. They can't fly in wind (any wind) or bite through thin clothing or long underwear. Unlike mosquitoes, black flies won't bite when confined inside a tent. Instead, they just climb to the roof and try to get out. Wait until they mass then crush them by the thousands with your bandanna. "No-see-ums" are smaller than the holes in mosquito netting. Their bite—a sharp, painful sting—subsides quickly.

Chemical Solutions

Almost any commercial repellent will, at a minimum, deter mosquitoes and no-see-ums—for a while. But only those that contain "deet" (chemical name, N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) work well for biting flies.

Are They Biting? (4)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Army recommend 30 percent deet for problem bugs. My own experience in the Canadian Arctic suggests that's enough for all but the meanest black flies.

Although government tests conclude that deet does not cause health problems, adults with sensitive skin and all children should use a mild, cream-based (low-deet or no-deet) repellent or a "controlled-release" formula that uses submicron encapsulation. Here, a patented skin-nourishing protein builds walls around the deet molecules and encapsulates them. The capsules keep the deet away from your skin. The chemical is released slowly as the skin metabolizes the protein. Submicron encapsulation works for mosquitoes but not black flies.

Perhaps the safest plan with conventional repellents is to first rub sunblock into your skin, wait 10 minutes, then apply repellent. The sunblock keeps you from absorbing too much of the chemical.

People with super-sensitive skin should nix the bug juice and just wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers that have been sprayed with Permethrin. Permethrin is a low-toxic (to mammals) pesticide that kills bugs on contact. Spray it on clothing and tent screens, not skin. One application lasts up to two weeks, and the pesticide won't wash off with water.

Caution: Don't spray Permethrin on head nets or body nets—you don't want to breathe this stuff.

Head and Body Nets

A head net is a blessing when bugs are bad. Choose a black-colored net (for visual clarity) that rolls to fist size. Use a black, felt-tip marker to darken the eye panel of light-colored nets and make your vision much clearer.

After the Bite

Benadryl dulls the pain of bug bites, as do products that contain at least 80 percent aloe. AfterBite and similar topical products contain natural ingredients such as eucalyptus oil and Vitamin E that will help control itching and swelling. For stings, apply a wet salt pack and let it dry.

Cliff Jacobson, a Distinguished Eagle Scout, is the author of more than a dozen top-selling outdoors books.

Top of Page

May - June 2011 Table of Contents

Are They Biting? (2024)


How do you describe biting? ›

/ˈbaɪtɪŋ/ Anything biting is sharp and painful, like the biting wind off that rolls off a frozen lake on a blustery day. A biting dog has the tendency, literally, to bite with its sharp teeth.

How do you use biting in a sentence? ›

The motorbike sped around the corner and came to a stop, its tyres biting hard at the gravel. She looked at him sharply, a frown biting its way across her forehead. She was biting into a club sandwich, then wiped some mayonnaise from the corner of her mouth.

What does biting mean in a relationship? ›

“If you were wanting to bite your partner, with zero context people might not understand that there's a loving relationship there, or that person is being very aggressive,” she said. “But in that loving relationship, context is provided, and we now understand that this is a signal of affection.”

What does biting mean in slang? ›

chiefly US slang, sometimes vulgar : to be objectionable or extremely bad in quality : stink, suck. This song bites. 9. US slang : to imitate or copy (someone or something) especially without permission. There are lots of rappers biting his style—but there's only one James Brown!

What is biting words? ›

biting adjective (CRITICAL)

used to describe words or people that criticize someone or something, usually in an unkind way: He made some biting remarks about the whole occasion.

Is it bitting or biting? ›

verb (used with object) , bit, bit·ten or bit, bit·ing. to cut, wound, or tear with the teeth: She bit the apple greedily.

What is the simple meaning of biting? ›

simple, foolish, silly, fatuous, asinine mean actually or apparently deficient in intelligence. simple implies a degree of intelligence inadequate to cope with anything complex or involving mental effort.

What does biting me mean? ›

'Bite me' is an expression of feeling annoyed by someone . You use this expression or slang towards someone when they have made you feel angry or embarrassed. It is another way to say "I don't care what you think or Like I care (with eyes rolling)".

What tense is biting? ›

Continuous (progressive) and emphatic tenses
present continuous
Iam biting
youare biting
he, she, itis biting
weare biting
2 more rows

What is lover biting? ›

A love bite is basically a bruise, caused by bleeding under the skin (sounds really sexy, we know). It's usually a result of your partner sucking on your neck. But you don't only find love bites on the neck. Technically speaking, they can basically be anywhere on the body.

Why does my boyfriend bite me? ›

According to a research conducted psychological scientists of Yale University, the desire to pseudo-bite or squeeze anything we find excruciatingly cute is actually a neurochemical reaction. As per the researchers, it is basically our brain's way of preventing us from getting too overwhelmed and distracted.

What is biting behavior? ›

Biting also can be a way for toddlers to get attention or express how they feel. Frustration, anger, and fear are strong emotions and toddlers lack the language skills to communicate how they are feeling. Instead, they may bite as a way of saying, "Pay attention to me!" or "I don't like that!"

What if a girl says "bite me"? ›

What does it mean when a girl says “bite me”? It does not matter if it is a girl or a boy who says that. If you know the person very well, it could be sarcastic banter, if you said something similar just prior. If you do not know said person well, he or she is very displeased with you.

What does it mean when a girl is biting? ›

She's communicating her desire for you.

Bite marks can also act as a physical representation of their emotions. The desire to bite your partner during sexual situations is another form of cute aggression—the intensity of all that passion and excitement can build up into an aggressive response.

What is an example of biting? ›

The motorbike sped around the corner and came to a stop, its tyres biting hard at the gravel. She looked at him sharply, a frown biting its way across her forehead. She was biting into a club sandwich, then wiped some mayonnaise from the corner of her mouth.

How do you describe a human bite? ›

A human bite occurs when a human's teeth make contact with another human's skin. There are two distinct types of human bites: occlusion bites and clenched/closed fist bites.

What is an adjective to describe bite? ›

adjective. nipping; smarting; keen: biting cold; a biting sensation on the tongue.

What is a word for gently biting? ›

Any one of these gentle or small bites can be called a nibble. The word probably stems from the Low German nibbeln, "to gnaw."

What kind of behavior is biting? ›

Biting, like hitting, is a way for some children to assert themselves when they are still too young to express feelings effectively through using their words. To your child, biting is a way to get back a favorite toy, tell you that he or she is unhappy or let another child know that he or she wants to be left alone.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kelle Weber

Last Updated:

Views: 6131

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (53 voted)

Reviews: 84% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kelle Weber

Birthday: 2000-08-05

Address: 6796 Juan Square, Markfort, MN 58988

Phone: +8215934114615

Job: Hospitality Director

Hobby: tabletop games, Foreign language learning, Leather crafting, Horseback riding, Swimming, Knapping, Handball

Introduction: My name is Kelle Weber, I am a magnificent, enchanting, fair, joyous, light, determined, joyous person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.