Bug Off Mosquito

Bug Off : Annoying Insects!

australia_08

 

Australia is renowned for our dangerous wildlife – snakes, crocs, sharks, cassowaries and spiders – but this post is dedicated to our less deadly but far more annoying inhabitants: bugs.

 

Flies

Let’s start with the humble house fly, bush fly and blow fly.

 

Back home in Melbourne, the flies are black and not very plentiful (unless you’re having a BBQ).  Since we’ve been on the road, we’ve noticed flies of various colours – green, black, brown, orange and even a bit of purple and blue.  In a few places we visited, there were so many flies around that Dave would end up chucking a spaz because the flies would get stuck in his beard and buzz around, and while we were bushwalking near Winton, a fly flew into Juz’s mouth!

 

Whenever we found ourselves amongst a lot of flies, we’d look forward to sunset because they’d all piss off.  Unfortunately we’d only get a few minutes of respite before the mozzies showed up.

 

Annoyance level: 2/10 if there’s only one, 8/10 if there’s more than five.

 

The Pebbles

 

Mosquitoes

Bloody mozzies!  There’s nothing worse than lying in bed trying to go to sleep at night and hearing that high pitched whining sound go past.  If you’re camping near water or swampy marshlands, there will be mozzies.  These bad-boys are most active around dusk and dawn, they love humidity but hate strong wind.

 

Mozzies aren’t just annoying, they can make you really sick.  While malaria was officially eradicated from Australia in 1981, Ross River Fever and Dengue Fever are definitely still around.  Because mozzies drink your blood, they can transmit these nasty viruses from person to person.

 

After spending a lot of time camping and hiking through all different environments, you start to get used to having the odd mozzie bite here and there.  That said, nothing prepared us for what happened while we were camping at Quongdong Point near Broome.  The mozzies came out earlier than we expected and we were surrounded by swarms of them.  Unfortunately, we had the back doors of the Troopy open and didn’t get them closed in time.  We were trapped in the Troopy with hundreds of mosquitoes with no bug spray.  After two hours of swatting, squishing and splatting, we were sweaty, bloody and exhausted.  The mozzie massacre came to an end, but we didn’t escape unscathed….

 

Needless to say, we now always carry a can of bug spray.

 

Annoyance level: 8/10 but increases if there’s more of them.

 

Mozzie massacre!

 

Midges

Also known as sandflies or gnats.

 

We thought mozzies were the most annoying insects in Australia until we met midges for the first time.  They’re so tiny – about the size of a grain of sand – that they’re almost invisible.  They live around the same sort of places as mozzies and like the same warm, humid conditions.  Fortunately, the midges that bite humans aren’t known to carry any diseases.

 

We went fishing one afternoon near Cairns airport with some mates.  Suddenly, Dave started getting really, really itchy around his feet and ankles.  He thought he’d been bitten by mozzies, but the lumps that quickly appeared were irregularly shaped and about the size of a fingernail, and the itchiness associated with the bites was almost unbearable.  After about an hour of wanting to rub a cheese grater on his skin, the itchiness finally subsided.  Juz didn’t walk away unscathed – she took two steps into the mangroves and her legs were covered in tiny insects.  It was only for a few seconds but for the next three days, her thighs and ankles were spotty and unrelentingly itchy.  She tried everything – calamine, vinegar, metho, nail imprints, Stingose, lavender oil – nothing helped.

 

We reckon midges are the most annoying insects in Australia for a couple of reasons.  Firstly because they’re an invisible enemy that attacks and leaves before you even realise that you were a target.  Secondly because their bites are itchy as hell.

 

Annoyance level: 10/10 – they’re just shit.

 

Midges

 

March Flies

Also known as Horse Flies.

 

These nasties are about the size of a blowfly, but tougher.  Even though they feed on the blood of humans and livestock, they don’t transmit diseases.  March flies are most active during the day. They enjoy warm, sunny weather and their favourite colour is dark blue.  Dislikes include strong wind and insect repellent.  They don’t move very fast, but they’re persistent and will keep trying to bite you until you smash them.

 

While camping with some friends near Albany in Western Australia, we were inundated by march flies and decided to have a competition to see who could squish the most.  Dave stopped counting at 30, but the marchies didn’t stop coming!

 

Annoyance level: 6/10

 

Bug Off Flies

 

Ants

We’ve seen green ants, black ants, red ants, white ants, bull ants, and even purple ants. Everyone can understand to how annoying ants can be.  They pounce on any titbits of food lying around, especially anything sweet.  They’ll also bite or sting you if they feel threatened – even some of those common black or brown ants that end up in our homes.

 

In the northern areas of Australia, green tree ants are everywhere.  When you get too close to their nest, they rear up on their back legs and start flailing their front legs at you.  We reckon that if you had a really sensitive sound recorder you could probably hear them yelling at you to back off!  These feisty little dudes will even drop onto you from their tree if you walk under them.  After they bite you, they swing their butt around and squirt arse juice (formic acid) on the bite.  It’s not overly painful, but its stings and it’s really annoying!  If you’re into revenge, grab one by the head and bite its green rear end off.  Juz says it tastes like lime…

 

If you’re looking for an ant that can inflict some serious pain though, what you need is a bull ant.  The sting these nasties deliver is very painful and can last for quite some time.  Best to stay well away from these aggressive ants.  Leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone.

 

Annoyance level: 9/10 if they’re biting you, 7/10 if they’re on your food, 2/10 if they’re just doing their own thing.

 

Green Ants

 

How to avoid annoying bugs:

  • The easiest way to avoid these annoying pests is to stay cooped up at home, but then you wouldn’t get to see all the amazing things our country has to offer!
  • Before you park your vehicle and set up camp, always check for ants on the ground AND above you in the trees.
  • Remember that the closer to water you are, the more likely the chance of mozzies and midges. It might be worth setting up camp a little further from the water and trying to place yourself up-wind of the water.
  • Wearing pants and a long sleeve top helps keep the biting and stinging insects off your skin, but it’s not ideal when the weather is hot. Also, remember that most insects seem to be attracted to darker coloured clothes.
  • Most houses and tents have fly-screen doors and windows, so use them! We generally sleep in our Troopy when we’re camping, so Dave knocked up some nifty magnetic fly-screens so we could have the side windows open overnight.
  • When you’re walking around checking out the sights, you could always wear one of those hilarious fly-net hats. They might make you look like an amateur bee-keeper, but they’ll definitely keep the bugs out of your face!

 

Troopy flyscreen

 

How to keep them away:

  • Use repellent – the DEET sprays are the most popular and effective, but a lot of people prefer more natural options.
  • Use bug spray – we learnt this lesson after the mozzie massacre at Quandong Point and since then, we always have a can handy. The easiest way to make sure insects don’t get to spend the night with us is by spraying inside the Troopy with an odourless bug killer, like Mortein NaturGard.  It has over 90% natural ingredients so it’s tough on pests, not on people.  Mortein also have surface sprays for crawling insects like ants, spiders and cockroaches!
  • Having a good size campfire usually helps deter at least some of the nasties. If you chuck some green leaves on the fire to make it smoky, it will work even better.  Also, mozzies don’t like it when you put a handful of sage or rosemary in the fire.
  • It might sound silly, but try to avoid deodorants and perfumes that smell like fruit or flowers. Insects like the smell of fruit and flowers and will be attracted to it.
  • We always light mozzie coils and/or citronella candles before sunset. We find them effective and they smell nice.  If you have a big area to protect against bugs, consider the Mortein NaturGard Auto Protect Outdoor Insect Control System (what a mouthful).  It also smells like citronella and protects against mosquitoes and flies.  The system does require batteries but once you set it, you can forget it until it’s time for bed.
  • Try eating some garlic and vinegar, or rub them on your skin. This not only keeps bugs away, but people too.
  • Be selective in your choice of a light source. Yellow light globes attract fewer insects than normal ones and bug zappers make some cool sounds, but burning bugs don’t make any cool smells.
  • If you don’t have a set of chopsticks and the patience of Mr Miyagi, go buy yourself a fly-swatter. They’re cheap and fun!
  • When all else fails, flail your arms and legs around like a wacky waving inflatable arm flailing tube man…

 

miyagi_chopsticks2

 

If they get you:

  • Don’t scratch! It might seem impossible, but scratching often irritates the bite or sting making it last longer.  The more you scratch, the worse the itching gets because you’re actually spreading the poison!
  • Try using an anti-itch product like Stingose or calamine lotion – Juz went through a bottle in a couple of days. We tried one product that was a 2-in-1 repellent and stop-itch cream which worked really well and smelt like ti-tree.
  • This kind of goes without saying, but if you have any sort of strange reaction to an insect bite or sting, go see a medical professional.
  • Other creative remedies include the hot teaspoon, the slap, using your fingernail to make a cross in the bite, vinegar, skin toner, metho, or even taking an anti-histamine.

 

So that’s our list of annoying bugs that can bugger off – what annoying bugs have you come across and how did you deal with them and their bites?

 

 

 

Cape Leveque

Experience : Dampier Peninsula

Just north of Broome is the Damiper Peninsula, an area known by the local aboriginals as Ardi, which means northeast.  There are several aboriginal communities on the peninsula and you can visit some of them, learn how they used to go fishing and hunting and about bush foods and medicine, family and community.  You will probably have to get a permit or pay an entry fee into the community – feel free to inquire at the Visitor Centre in Broome.

 

The road in was made of red dirt and as we drove through massive puddles, the Troopy got covered!  The dirt was so red, it looked like a blood bath!

 

 

Cape Leveque

This was our primary destination – red cliffs contrasting with pale sand and blue ocean – we were bursting with excitement until we arrived at some resort caravan park and were told that we had to pay $5 each to look around.  We had come about 200km from Broome to see these cliffs, so there was no way we were going to leave without seeing them.

 

 

We started our walk at Western Beach, which looks out over the Indian Ocean and is not recommended for swimming.  We walked past the red cliffs, noticing the layers and variation in colours, and ended up at the point of Cape Leveque to see a small island about 100 metres offshore. We would have loved to explore the island.  It too was made of red cliffs and sandy beaches but there were also green plants and palm trees – it looked like a tropical paradise.

 

As we came down the eastern side of the cape, we stopped at the swimming beach for a dip.  The water was so warm, it was like having a bath!  Juz did some snorkelling amongst the oyster-covered rocks and after a quick freshwater shower, we strolled past the lighthouse towards the Troopy and headed to our next destination.

 

 

Beagle Bay

Beagle Bay was named by J. C. Whickham in 1838 as he surveyed the northwest coast aboard the HMS Beagle, the same ship that Charles Darwin was on when he came to Australia. The Nyul Nyul people are traditional owners of the land and they were initially visited by the Trappist Monks from France, who came to Beagle Bay in 1890.  They built a bush monastery and dedicated it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, they learnt the Nyul Nyul language, performed their first baptism in 1896 and began to teach French and Latin before leaving Beagle Bay in 1900.

 

The French were replaced by the Pallottine Missionaries of Germany, who continued to run the mission for the next 90 years.  When World War One erupted, the German priests and brothers were placed under house arrest with a police guard at the mission.  During this time, they began to build a church as a statement of faith.  It took two years to build from clay bricks and one year to decorate with shells and mother of pearl.  The result is absolutely beautiful.

 

 

The Sisters of St John of God arrived from Ireland in 1907 and dedicated themselves to taking care and educating the Stolen Generation children brought to Beagle Bay under government orders.  We were lucky enough to be in Broome while a ‘Relationships’ exhibition was on at the Sisters of St John of God College and learnt a lot about the work that the Sisters did in Beagle Bay.

 

Point Quandong

The sun was low on the horizon when we arrived at our campsite at Point Quandong.

 

 

Juz went gaga at all the hermit crabs that were creeping along the ground, and we had a small path down to the beach, which was covered in hermit crab tracks.

 

 

Night of the Mozzie Massacre

As soon as the sun went down, the mosquitoes came out and before we knew it, we were enveloped in a cloud of blood-sucking, disease carrying miniature vampires.  The Troopy was wide open because it was a hot, humid day and we just had dinner, and in a very short amount of time, our bedroom was swarming with mozzies.

 

We started with insect repellents and none of them were effective – even the tropical strength stuff that our friends got from Thailand.  We lit mozzie coils and they did nothing.  The only thing we could do was to climb into the Troopy and lock ourselves in with hundreds of mosquitoes.

 

We spent about two hours smacking, pinching, clapping and squishing.  We only had two windows open – the ones covered in flyscreen – and we were sweating profusely, which didn’t help because mozzies are attracted to sweat!  Dave worked the back while Juz managed the front and by 8pm, we were both exhausted.   We knew there were more mozzies to kill but we couldn’t carry on.  We went to sleep sweaty and covered in blood splatter and the corpses of our enemies.

 

 

During the night, the rains came but the mozzies remained.  The rising sun was a welcome sight – we survived the night but Juz suffered – she was covered in bites.

 

Delica vs. River Road

The mozzies were still around in the morning so we packed up and headed for Broome.  Unfortunately, the rain during the night turned the road into a river and there was no way to get around it.

 

We decided to wait it out and see if the water level would go down, and about 30 minutes later, a pair of grey nomads in their 4WD turn up who were escorting Swedish backpackers in a Delica van to the airport in Broome.  Dave and the backpackers hitched up their shorts and waded in to the water to assess the depth.  The worst of it was about thigh-deep and we watched as the Delica gave it a go, only to stall in the middle of the puddle because the diesel engine filled with water.

 

 

Another 4WD arrived to suss out what was happening and we advised them (they were French tourists), that because their vehicle was petrol, they shouldn’t go anywhere near the water.  Another two 4WDs arrived, and these guys knew what they were doing.  One pulled the Delica all the way back to the tarmac road, while the other dragged the petrol 4WD through the worst of it.

 

The Troopy had no worries and drove through the puddle like it was nothing.  We had a few red mud splashes on it from the previous day, but after going through the road river, the Troopy got a good metres worth rust-coloured dirt all over it and all through the engine bay.  Everyone was a winner that day – except for the Swedish backpackers, who probably destroyed their engine.