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Backyard Campout Weekend: Don't Let the Bugs Win

PHOTO: camp fire. Credit: Deborah Smith
PHOTO: camp fire. Credit: Deborah Smith
June 22, 2012

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - This weekend is the Great American Backyard Campout, designed to get families outside and away from electronics.

The National Wildlife Federation promotes the event in Maryland, and naturalist David Mizejewski says recent polling he conducted uncovered the reason why people hesitate to sleep outside: They don't like the bugs - specifically, mosquitoes, bees, wasps and ticks. All can be present in Maryland yards.

To keep mosquitoes away, he advises making sure they don't have places to breed - and rain gutters are a favorite.

"They're sort of 'out of sight, out of mind,' and if they get clogged with leaves, they can actually hold little pools of water and the mosquitoes love to breed in there."

Mosquitoes aren't good at flying, he says, so a fan also can keep them away. He adds that bug sprays can be effective - although they have to be reapplied.

Bees and wasps are attracted to sweet smells, so he says to leave off the perfumes for backyard campouts.

Although ticks can carry disease, Mizejewski says, they're easy to foil. Do regular tick-checks, he says, and if you see one, just pluck it out. Don't worry about whether the head sticks or not; you can pluck that out, too.

"You never want to use Vaseline or alcohol; those things will kill the tick, but they'll also make it likely it will regurgitate its contents right into the open wound - which makes it more likely that it will pass on diseases."

He suggests looking at bugs as an educational opportunity during the campout.

"You have far more to worry about by cooping yourself and your kids up indoors - that sedentary indoor lifestyle that so many Americans are leading."

More tips for backyard camping are online at

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD