El Codo's Tricks for Bug-free Camping

Insects have their place in nature, but that doesn’t mean I want to act as their source protein. The school of hard knocks has allowed me to accumulate some tricks that may be of interest to fellow travelers.


Few insects are more resistant to sprays and baits than are ants and poison is not cool. There is a better way, it’s not bad for you or the environment. But the “better way” must be purchased in the US and carried in a bag. Thank goodness it’s lightweight. Found at larger hardware stores and swimming pool supply stores, “diatomaceous earth” is exoskeletons of tiny sea animals that have dried up like dust. The “earth” is not at all hazardous, except to ants, scorpions and other crawling insects. The powder works its way up into their joints and destroys the bug. A quarter-size barrier around table legs will virtually destroy invaders in two to three days. A strip of earth in front of a tent flap will do the same. A sprinkle of Diatomaceous earth around the opening or a red ant hill takes care of the critters – the whole lot of them. Note: morning dew, rain, and other moisture will degrade the exoskeletons in a hurry, so reapplication will be necessary.


I feel yellow-jacket were put on this earth primarily to torment campers. They are attracted to open bottles and cans of sweet drinks, meat, and most everything else. They also have foul tempers and will sting without provocation. Like any other wasp, yellow jackets can sting multiple times. Control of yellow jackets is more challenging than with other pests but it can be done. You will need a large dish, a smaller dish, an eighth of a kilo of raw hamburger, a dash of hot chili sauce, and some water.

Place the raw hamburger in the small dish. Sprinkle some habanero hot sauce on the hamburger but don’t overdo it. The chili is there merely to discourage dogs from dining on your bait, so don’t mix it with the hamburger. The wasps will ignore the chili sauce unless you get carried away and apply too much.

Now take your plate of bait, the larger plate, and a bottle of water well away from camp— say a hundred feet or so. Place the small plate of bait within the big plate. Then fill the big plate with at least a half inch of water. Don’t let it rise to the level of the bait dish.

The yellow jackets will come, by the tens of dozens – they adore raw hamburger. They’ll alight on the meat, and do what yellow jackets do best – stuff themselves until they cannot fly. They’ll crawl away, fall into the water and drown. In a day or so, spill out the dead bodies, and recharge with fresh hamburger and water. It takes several days, but greed and lust will bring them and doom them by the hundreds. After a couple of days the number of yellow jackets will decrease markedly.


Palm frond shelters are a favorite hangout of these potential pests. They tend to hang out in the roof and fall on unsuspecting guests. Decades ago I started to use mosquito netting beneath the roof of enramadas (palapas). Hardware stores carry the netting and also short roofing nails, the kind with extra large heads to better hold the netting. Don’t bother to try and spray for scorpions. If there is a treatment that helps to eradicate them it isn’t sold in a spray can. One time, I found a barbed intruder in my shower. I grabbed a can of Raid, House & Garden and sprayed the denizen until it was a mound of white foam. Seven minutes later the creature was still very active. Poisons aren’t cool for the environment but since this was an experiment I felt I could take an exception. It was a humbling experience.


I hate ’em. Dirty, sneaky little son of a …..

Boric Acid powder is now pretty common in México and isn’t really harmful to the environment (but be cautious around fish tanks and aquatic life with it). The disgusting creatures sample taste anything they crawl across, and when they encounter boric acid, they sample it as well. Surprise! The powder is toxic to cockroaches. Twelve hours later the repulsive denizen is on its way to cockroach heaven wherever that may be. Similar to diatomaceous earth in application, a ring of boric acid around table legs will doom a cockroach.

Use plastic zip ties to secure garbage bags from the pests. On a side note: If you are worried about scavenging dogs ripping into your trash, buy a handful of extra potent fresh chilies at the store, boil a handful in a liter of water (slice them lengthwise first) for fifteen minutes or so. Let cool then sprinkle on the outside of your bag of trash. A dog may start to tear into a plastic trash bag but that’s as far as he’ll get before his mouth mimics Mount Vesuvius or Mount St Helens. My neighbors erupted into hysterical laughter when I recommended this to cure the habit of a neighbor’s fat pit bull. When the dog wandered off whining and pawing its snout, Amparo and Cruz pounded the table in delight. It really works.


Outdoor kitchens and dining areas are a natural point for bits of food to drop to the sand or ground. Even cooking oil is a natural attractant and food bits will be irresistible to many insects, including mosquitoes, fleas, and the dreaded jejenes, or no-see-ums. Raking fresh sand or earth to overlay these areas is better than nothing, but sprinkling a weakened mix of chlorinated water is more effective. Sprinkle the water around, then mix it in good with the sand or earth. The bugs will take a hike. Wiping down table tops, shelves and stoves with the diluted mix is yet another way to eliminate camp followers.

About Kelly Nowicki