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How to Protect Yourself from Biting and Stinging Insects

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Mosquitoes, ticks, fleas, wasps, bees, and spiders (which are really arachnids) . . . the biters and stingers that come alive when the temperatures rise are almost enough to make you shun summer and stay indoors. Don’t despair. You can take action to ensure that creepy crawlers and frightening flyers don’t ruin your fun in the sun.

  • Apply insect repellent. Use these readily-available sprays and lotions to guard against mosquito, flea, and tick bites. Brands that contain 20 to 30 percent DEET are most effective. DEET is toxic and can cause serious injury if you get it in your eyes or ingest it. So never apply the product to your hands or face. Ask your pediatrician before using a DEET repellent on children.

    You can also pre treat your clothes with Permethrin, a repellent sold at hunting and camping supply stores. Unlike DEET products which have to be reapplied every few hours, Permethrin will stay on your clothes through several washings. Note that Permethrin is not safe for use on your skin.

    If you’re concerned about using chemical repellents, there are many insect repellents on the market that contain only natural ingredients.

  • Avoid the outdoors from dusk to dawn. When the sun sets, the insects start biting. If you can’t resist the evening barbeque, cover up with long clothes and insect repellent.

  • Banish blooming plants. Nectar lovers like bees are naturally attracted to flowering plants. So if you want to keep the stingers at bay, consider surrounding your outdoor seating areas with non-flowering greenery.

  • Clean up the wood and the woodsy. Remove leaf and wood piles completely or at least relocate them away from the house. Clear away weedy brush. These are favorite hang outs for ticks and spiders.

  • Cover up. Nothing deters a biter or stinger like a layer of clothing. When you’re outside, wear long sleeved shirts and pants, socks, and closed-toed shoes. If you’ve got long hair, pull it back and up. Insects think of hair as a ladder that’ll lead them to a banquet of exposed skin.

  • Drain standing water. Water is the mosquito’s lair. To avoid infestation, make sure you don’t have wheel barrows, tires, buckets, planters and the like collecting water in your yard.

  • Don’t go on the attack. If you start swatting at a passing bee, wasp, or hornet, he’s going to get mad and try to sting you. Remain calm and either stay put until the insect leaves or move slowly away.

  • Keep trash picked up and covered up. There’s nothing like the smell of something rotten to attract bees, wasps, and hornet. Make sure your trash is neatly contained in a place away from where you like to be.

  • Open outdoor enclosures with caution. Dark, quiet places are where spiders, hornets, and wasps like to build their homes. Whenever you uncover the lawn furniture or enter a seldom-used shed or barn, proceed with caution.

    Eliminating a wasp or hornet’s nest can be a dangerous undertaking. They’ll attack you if they realize you’re destroying their home. Consider hiring an exterminator to handle the task.

  • Sleep under a bed net. If you’re camping, or are someplace that isn’t air conditioned or tightly screened, consider hanging a net over your bed to protect yourself from mosquitoes and other nocturnal biters. You can treat the net with Permethrin or DEET for extra protection.

  • Stay away from sugary drinks. Bees, wasps, and hornets love soft drinks, sweet tea, and lemonade almost as much as you do. So unless you want to raise your sting potential, avoid these drinks when you’re outdoors. If you’ve got to have your sugar fix, drink from an open glass rather than a can so you can easily spot a stinger in your drink before you take a sip.

  • Walk with awareness. Don’t hike through tall or marshy grasses or dense foliage. These are favorite tick and mosquito habitats. Stay on well-worn trails.

  • Wear light-colored, neutral clothing. If you don’t want a bee to mistake you for a pollen-filled flower, avoid wearing bright colors. Stick to clothing in tan, cream, and white so you’ll easily be able to see if a dark insect lands on you.

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