Are biting insects ruining your holiday experience? It doesn’t have to be that way. After spending many months travelling in the tropics, we have tried every product and home remedy imaginable. These are their top tips for dealing with the bugs while caravanning and camping.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 3 years, you’ll know that the northern states, particularly Queensland and Northern NSW have had to deal with floods of unimaginable proportions. And not just once. There have been several severe rain events that have left great swathes of the country sodden. This has resulted in ideal breeding conditions for mosquitoes and other bugs. If you’re the sort of person who seems to be a smorgasbord for biting insects, you’re in for a hell of a holiday.

My wife is one of those poor individuals who attract the mozzies like no one else I know. What’s worse, she has the most severe reactions to the bites, coming up in large, itchy welts that drag on the suffering for weeks. It’s gotten so bad that, in warm and humid conditions, she has to spend most of her time inside our caravan.  It’s not much fun.

To make her life more bearable, we have scoured the internet for solutions. Well, there is a multitude of remedies out there ranging from the scientifically plausible right down to the outright ridiculous. 

Over the years, we’ve tried many of these concoctions. At times, poor Kylie has ended up smelling like a hospital-grade pickled onion but none have made any substantial improvement to her life.

Why are some people more prone to insects than others?

That’s a really good question. There are many theories around but the one that makes the most sense to me is that we all excrete pheromones and some of those attract biting insects. To complicate matters, insects rarely just bite you. They either inject you with a substance to make your blood flow freer or, more disturbingly, they excrete their waste matter onto you. Many people are allergic to these excretions which is why they come up in great welts that last for days or even weeks. 

So what do we do?

In all honesty, there is nothing you can do to prevent the situation from happening other than staying home. But there is quite a lot you can do to discourage the insects from coming near you in the first place and then landing on you for a feast. Further, if you do get bitten, there are a few simple treatments that can be very effective in minimising the reaction to the bites.

These are the things we do to minimise the impact of biting insects on our lives.

Keeping them away.

Orange Lights: If you’ve ever travelled up north, you’ll have noticed all the lights outside most buildings are yellow or orange. These lights do not attract as many bugs as white lights. There are several theories on why this is so but the popular one is that most insects see will in the blue end of the light spectrum but they do not see will in red spectrum light. That’s why mosquito zappers have a UV light to attract the bugs to them.

We tested this up in the tropics by leaving an outside white light on and compared the number of bugs that accumulated around the light to the number that came to an amber light and the difference was staggering. 

Amber lighting solutions are available for almost all applications including exterior flood lights, interior lights and portable lights. We fitted the Magnetic LED Light Strips from Drifta Camping and 4WD to the interior of our van and we couldn’t be happier with them. They provide both amber and white lights. They are available in three sizes. Visit for more information.

Turn off the TV: If you have a TV in your caravan or camper and use it at night, you may as well have an open invitation for the bug to get inside. LED TVs are very bright and the changing pictures are like the strip in Las Vegas to insects. 

And it doesn’t matter how well-sealed you think your caravan or camper is, the bugs will always find a way inside.   

Use a bug zapper light: While running amber lights inside your RV will deter the biting insects from coming inside, placing a UV light-based bug zapper outside will attract insects away from the inside of your RV. 

We have had excellent results using those USB rechargeable UV bug zappers. They are very portable and can be hung just about anywhere and, thanks to their internal, rechargeable battery that lasts all night, they are perfect for free camping. These can be purchased from Kmart or camping retailers for around $15 each.

Keeping the biting insects off you.

Tea Tree Oil: The next step in your defence is to deter the bugs from landing on you. There is a plethora of sprays on the market but most of them are based on harsh chemicals. We have tried all sorts of home remedies made from all sorts of stuff like vinegar and Dettol and none of them has proved very effective. It was on a trip to Townsville that we learned how the locals keep the bugs away. They use Tea Tree oil in just about everything. Their shampoo, soaps and moisturisers all contain Tea Tree oil and it does appear to work quite effectively. You can even add a couple of drops of tea tree oil to your moisturiser before applying it to your skin to achieve the same effect. We have used the range of tea tree oil-based products from Thursday Plantation with great success. They are available from most supermarkets and chemists. Visit for more information.

Be aware some people do have an allergic reaction to tea tree oil so, if you have never used it in the past, try a little on a small patch of skin and check for any reaction.

Nature’s Botanicals: Another incredible product that works extremely well at repelling insects is the range from Nature’s Botanicals. We got onto this thanks to our niece who used it on her horses to keep the flies away from them. It contains all-natural ingredients including Rosemary and Cedarwood oils. You can find more information by visiting 

Cover up: I know a lot of people will not like this suggestion, especially when travelling in the heat of the tropics but if you wear long sleeves and long pants, the bugs won’t have anywhere to land on you and bite you. 

Thermacell: This is another useful device that will help keep the bugs away from you. Thermacell uses a gas-fired heating element to warm a pad soaked in insect-repelling oils to create a vapour around you that the biting bugs will not appreciate in any way. They are quite effective when used outdoors however you’re best to keep them near yourself for the best results. They have several different models to choose from. Visit for more information.

Treating bites.

Heat the bite: No matter how careful you are, if you’re one of those people who seems to attract biting insects, you will probably be bitten at some point regardless of the measures you take. If you do get bitten, it is possible to treat the bite before it becomes a welt by applying heat to the bite itself. Many people advocate using a teaspoon heated up with hot water but if you’re not careful, this could result in a burn.

We found a product called Bite Away that takes the guesswork out of this form of treatment. Made in Germany, Bite Away uses a small electrically heated pad to treat the bite. Simply turn it on, put the heating pad on the bite area and press the button. The pad heats up to around 50 degrees denaturing the insect’s poison. You will feel a slight burning sensation but the relieving effect on the itch of the bite is almost immediate. For more information, visit 

Itch Ease Plus: If the thought of placing a hot pad on your skin is not to your liking, you can use a cream called Itch Eze Plus. This stuff is amazing. It contains both an anaesthetic and an antiseptic in one cream. You only need to apply a small amount to the bite to get almost immediate relief from the itching and pain.

Itch Eze Plus is only available in Queensland so if you want some you’ll have to travel up there and stock up on supplies. We haven’t seen it for sale anywhere else. It is best kept in the fridge and applied cold. 

Please note at the time of writing, Itch Eze Plus was unavailable due to a shortage of a key ingredient. There is no estimated time for resupply.

Tea Tree Oil: As well as being an effective repellent against insects, tea tree oil is also excellent for providing natural relief from the itching of an insect bite. Adding a few drops to a small amount of moisturiser and slathering it around the bite area can provide effective relief. 

Antihistamines: As good as these treatments are, some people just cannot get any relief without resorting to medication and this is usually in the form of Antihistamines. Before taking any form of medication, always speak to your doctor or a medical practitioner to determine if any medication is appropriate for you to use before taking it.  

At the end of the day, bugs and biting insects are going to be prevalent throughout much of Australia thanks to all the rain we’ve had in recent months. And no matter what you do, there will be times when the pests will find a way through your defences. In the war with the bugs, the odds are stacked very much against the humans. 

The tips and tricks we’ve detailed here are what we have found to work over many months of camping in tropical Australia and they work very effectively for us. Perhaps they will work for you too.

Safe travels.

By Marty Ledwich

Marty Ledwich is a writer and photographer who is on the road full-time with his wife, Kylie, towing their off-road Roadstar caravan with a Toyota Land Cruiser 200 series. Marty was a volunteer in the Victoria Sate Emergency Service for 30 years and has travelled extensively around Australia.

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