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Another Thought: Bugs and Tarping
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Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Another Thought: Bugs and Tarping on 05/19/2006 00:14:34 MDT Print View

It's been suggested that we attach a few inches of mosquito netting to the edges of a tarp, thus eliminating the threat of flying insects. Sounds great! But in Texas we also have to fight the lowly fire ant, who will doggedly ignore a big of netting and just crawl under it to munch on my arm at 2:30 in the morning.

I really really want to avoid getting a bug bivy of any kind because I think it defeats the purpose of having a tarp that is so appealingly open. Instead, my idea: what if I coated the edge of my ground sheet with DEET? Anyone think this might stop crawling insects? Any other good ideas for solving this problem, while still preserving the openness of the tarp? Thanks much.

Edited by freeradical on 05/19/2006 00:18:30 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Another Thought: Bugs and Tarping on 05/19/2006 08:10:38 MDT Print View

DEET will destroy the fabric. It is made to go on skin. Use Permethrin instead.

Edited by jshann on 05/19/2006 08:11:12 MDT.

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Right right, no DEET on 05/19/2006 08:54:02 MDT Print View

Well this just shows my newness to backpacking. So permethrin, then. If it might work on the edge of my ground sheet, then perhaps it might work on something with a little wider radius? What if I permethrin-ed a lightweight ribbon or cord and lay that in a circle around my sleeping area? Any insight?

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Right right, no DEET on 05/19/2006 10:30:53 MDT Print View

You might be better off with a bug bivy that can keep them completely out, along with flying critters. Ants are nothing if not persistent and will find the tiniest gap or bridge, given a night of trying.

The bivy can also be permethryn-treated.

Re: Right right, no DEET on 05/19/2006 10:48:05 MDT Print View

Humorously, you might try following the lead of Cactus Ed, who used to do his open-air sleeping on a cot, such was his loathing of the ants. If we hadn't lost him to causes far more tragic so soon, he might by now have progressed to a backpacker's hammock, though even that isn't as light as some enclosed ground camping methods.

Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Another Thought: Bugs and Tarping on 05/19/2006 14:19:40 MDT Print View

About fire ants and floorless tarps.
I live and camp (a lot) in Texas, too.

I have used tarps a lot and hammocks more. (A hammock keeps you out of the ants and keeps you cool, too. What a deal!) Unless you are optionless in a regular campground or stuck on the only available sandbar on a river trip, there is no problem whatsoever in getting away from fire ants. They are usually pretty obvious. Nothing else has ever caused me a problem when tarp camping.

If you are stuck near fire ants, here is the easy, foolproof, entertaining, educational and generally edifying way to deal with them: Put out a sacrifice of crushed soda crackers, one cracker at each corner of your camp (15 feet away from the tarp). Next to each pile of crumbs pour one tablespoon of cooking oil or oil from a sardine can - any edible oil. The omnivorous fire ants will quickly find the crackers and they will concentrate at the sacrifice sites. Everyone will head for the banquet and stay away from you. It takes them longer to find the oil and to figure out what to do with it. So, the crackers get their attention and the oil keeps them busy. It's fun to watch. They will end up excavating every oil-covered grain of sand or forest litter, licking it off and staggering off toward the nest. Come morning each oil patch will be covered with obvious mining sites: tunnels with tailings piles at their mouths. It looks a lot like Colorado. And no ants. They are just like you after a big Italian dinner, comatose. If you stay for more than one day, renew the sacrifices in the morning and evening. This really works even on the extremely aggressive fire ants that live on riparian sand bars.

Edited by vickrhines on 05/19/2006 14:20:30 MDT.

Ian Schumann

Locale: Central TX
Re: Re: Another Thought: Bugs and Tarping on 05/19/2006 14:28:20 MDT Print View

Awesome, that's the kind of reply I was looking for. The sacrificial altars sound very fascinating and very effective. Thanks much Vick. If I'm unsure of whether fire ants will be a threat, is the ticket to just look for an ant hill? And if said hill is found, what's a safe distance to place your sleep site so that the sacrifice tactic won't be necessary?

Jordan Hurder
(jordanhurder) - F

Locale: Southern California
Nasty bugs on 05/19/2006 14:40:46 MDT Print View

This thread interests me, since I camped last night with about every variety of insect I've encountered in the backcountry. My 30% deet solution kept bugs away for about 30 seconds after I applied it, and it did nothing to stop ticks from crawling all around me. Needless to say, I was happy I had a double-wall tent. With ticks, fire ants, mosquitos, and various other nasty creatures, the DW tent was by far the easiest solution. I know it's a little heavier than a tarp and UL bivy, but I'm not confident that any other setup would have worked.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Re: Nasty bugs on 05/19/2006 23:28:48 MDT Print View

As a kid, I worked on our East Texas farm clearing areas and planting trees. Ticks were everywhere. The only thing that seemed to work was putting sulfur in my socks, ~ a handful per sock.
Come to think of it, not too many other critters (including people) bugged me.



Vick Hines
(vickrhines) - F

Locale: Central Texas
Re: Re: Re: Another Thought: Bugs and Tarping on 05/20/2006 20:59:11 MDT Print View

Fire ants scavange aggressively far from the nest. It is often hard to tell how far because they tend to have multiple nests. I'd guess 30 yards give or take a mile or two. Earlier this week I camped about 50 yeards from a serious cluster of nests. No problem. I didn't bother with leaving tribute. That's for river trips or when I have to stay in a campground on a trail building trip. It really isn't necessary when backpacking unless you are hiking in purgatory.

Yes, look for hills. Not all nests will have obvious hills, but most will. I just move away from obviously infested areas.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Another Thought: Bugs and Tarping on 05/22/2006 14:20:31 MDT Print View

A similar technique will work for yellow jackets. Hang a strip of old raw meat over a plastic bucket with water in it. The little pests will gorge on the meat and fall into the bucket and drown. If you do this in your yard, etc, make sure to empty the bucket often-- the smell of dead yellow jackets is something you won't forget-- totally gagging!

I like tarping, but I have to agree-- if I find myself in country with nasty creepy-crawlers, I'm goin' for a tent! Watching me wake up and finding something like a tarantula would be like a an old Keystone Cops movie.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: Another Thought: Bugs and Tarping on 05/22/2006 18:32:28 MDT Print View

>I like tarping, but I have to agree-- if I find myself in country with nasty creepy-crawlers, I'm goin' for a...