How can you deal with unwelcome insects on your holiday?

September, 10 2018

One of the best things about going camping is that you can spend lots of time outside. You can enjoy the birds singing, the crickets chirping, and you’re in the middle of the countryside. Plenty of advantages then, but of course this also means that you might be bothered by unwelcome visitors – of the buzzing and even stinging variety. Is there anything you can do about that?


It’s probably happened to you before – waking up in the night itching after a long warm summer’s evening. Exactly – you’ve become dinner for a nearby mosquito. For a mosquito there are few things more delicious than an unsuspecting camper who is snoring away in their tent or caravan. That’s not to say they’ll only strike when you’re sleeping. Mosquito bites generally aren’t dangerous, but of course they’re annoying.

Sleeping under a mosquito net will keep mosquitoes at a distance

These annoying critters show up at dusk, so make sure you slather on the insect repellent in good time. Insect repellents containing DEET work best. This is an ingredient that works to prevent mosquitoes finding you, because they won’t be able to smell you anymore. And of course mosquito netting in your motorhome, caravan or holiday home also helps. If you’re camping in a tent, make sure you close the zips properly, or sleep under a net. Been bitten anyway? Then put a slice of lemon on the bite for a cooling effect, or a little toothpaste. The menthol helps the itching to subside.

Botflies and horseflies

Botflies and horseflies are often confused with one another, so I’ll try to help you clear up any misunderstandings. A botfly can’t bite, so you probably won’t be bothered by them on holiday much. Horseflies on the other hand can cause trouble. They look like large flies – only they have an annoying habit of biting you (they don’t sting, as they don’t have anything to sting with). The bite feels like a short, painful prick, and once the initial pain has gone, it can itch like crazy. If a horsefly bites you, it can’t fly away all that quickly. So if you’re a bit quick you can swat it off you.

A horsefly can bite through a thin layer of clothing, so a t-shirt won’t protect you. It’s better to wear slightly thicker clothing. If you’re sunbathing by the water though, that’s not really an option. Remember that, like mosquitoes, horseflies locate their ‘prey’ through smell, warmth and movement. So an insect repellent containing DEET will also help prevent horsefly bites.


Wasps are most people’s least favourite visitors to the campsite. Although mosquito and horsefly bites can be itchy, wasp bites can be really painful. So it’s best to try to keep these black and yellow stripy critters at a distance, and of course not to panic if one does come close. Wasps are not out to sting you, they’ll only sting if they feel threatened. For instance if they’re stuck between your skin and your clothing – and that’s all the more likely to happen in the first place if you’re waving your arms about wildly. So don’t!

Sweets on the table also attract wasps

So – how can you keep wasps at a distance? Wasps are particularly attracted to sweets. Particularly later in the summer when there’s nothing sweet left in their nests, they’ll start looking further afield for it. Cover food as much as possible, and take it easy with the perfume or aftershave! It’s also a good idea to regularly clean the table you eat at with vinegar. The idea is to make it impossible for wasps to find anything sweet. Wasps also don’t like smoke or the smell of cloves. So you could try lighting an incense stick, or putting slices of lemon with cloves stuck in them out on the table. If you have killed a wasp, make sure you dispose of it quickly. That’s because the smell can attract other wasps.


Ants can be very irritating if they take over your awning. If they become a nuisance, throw some used coffee grounds on their path. Ants don’t like the smell of coffee, so they will find a different route. The same applies to pepper, basil, cloves, mint, sage, lavender and nutmeg. Mix the herbs with a little warm water, and pour the mixture around your awning. No ants will get through!


Another notorious holiday guest is the cockroach. They’re particularly common in southern Europe. Unfortunately there’s not much you can do to completely avoid them, but you can reduce the chance of an encounter. Sleeping under a mosquito net will ensure you don’t get surprised in your sleep. Cockroaches tend to be most active at night.

Something you don't want to find on your holiday: cockroaches on your food!]

Also make sure that you don’t leave any food remains lying around, and that your room is clean and dry. Damp rooms and food remains are particularly attractive to cockroaches. And, as for wasps, killing a cockroach can backfire. If you stamp on a cockroach, it can release its eggs. So if you do, clean everything well, and flush the remains down the toilet.


Ticks can be found all year round, and although a tick won’t set out to find your tent or caravan, a tick bite if it does happen can be quite dangerous. You can find these small black insects in shady places, in long grass and low bushes. A tick is quite small, and if they bite they attach themselves to your skin. You can tell a tick bite if you have a small black mark on your skin which you can’t brush away.

If there are ticks around, it’s important to check yourself and your fellow campers for bites regularly. Is your dog joining you on holiday? Then make sure you check him or her too. Particularly if you’re spending time in the woods. Insect repellent with DEET, and close-fitting clothing can go a long way towards protecting you from tick bites – but if you do find one, make sure that you remove it in the correct way. It’s important to do this as quickly and thoroughly as possible. You remove a tick using special tick tweezers, so make sure you bring some with you.

What bugs can you do without on your holiday? If we’ve missed any from our list, or if you have other tips for keeping them out of your tent, caravan or motorhome, please let us know!

Bram Kuhnen
  • Auteur: Bram Kuhnen
  • European cities, touristy beaches and impressive landscapes and countryside. Travelling through Europe, Bram has already visited many places, and he likes to write about his experiences and share tips.


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