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Insects are part of the game. It doesn't matter where or when you hike, they’ll be there waiting for the next convenient meal to pass by. Chances are that it will probably be you. From bull ants to mosquitoes, sandflies to ticks, the Australian bush has them all. Bees and wasps. Trees, logs and rock hollows are nicely sheltered nesting places but you can also find
them housekeeping in huts or picnic shelters. Wearing any sort of scent while hiking should be
avoided but insects are the main reason. Use unscented soaps and/or deodorants if you have to wear
them at all. Naturally coloured clothing is better to wear because bees and wasps are attracted to bright
Midgies. These insects love running water (and trout love them), so camp well away from running
streams. Midgies are tenacious, so you'll want a tent with netting on its windows and doors. Don’t
leave you tent open with a light inside. Midgies will zero in and fill up your tent very quickly.
Mosquitoes. These airborne attackers love stagnant water and it doesn't take much of it to induce the
female to lay her eggs. Camp in an open and even breezy area to reduce their impact. Avoid dark
clothing and try to wear something that is too thick for the mosquito to penetrate. When mosquitoes
are particularly bad, a head net will help keep them at bay. Long sleeve shirts and long pants help but
can be uncomfortable depending on the season.
Scorpions and centipedes. Sleep in a zippered tent. Bring your boots inside at night to remove the
threat of finding a visitor in them the next morning. Always check your boots before putting them on.
Ticks. These little heat-seekers can stake out tall grass, brush and coastal forests for a long a time
while awaiting their next meal. Particularly coastal forests. If you must pass through a grassy area or
coastal forest, stick to the middle of the track. Light-coloured clothing is the best because you'll spot
ticks more easily. Long-sleeve shirts, long pants and hats are the best attire. A repellent with a
permethrin base works best. Apply it to your clothing. It takes a couple of hours for a tick to firmly
implant itself, so check yourself thoroughly upon making camp. Have a friend check the hard to see
places, like the back of your thighs, back, neck and head.
Leeches. They love wet, shady places, including creeks and streams. Tiger leaches lurk about on the
top of grass stems beside tracks waiting for any mammal to wander past. They’ll squeeze themselves
through the lace eyelets on your shoes. Many a walker has removed their boots to find socks bloodied
by a bloated leech getting squashed inside the boots. Apart from the anti coagulant, they’re not really
dangerous at all.
Bees and wasps. To reduce the possibility of infection, ensure any stingers have been removed and
wash the bite with clean water. If you can apply something cool to the bite for about 20 minutes, even
a handkerchief soaked with stream water, you might reduce the swelling. An oral antihistamine like
Benadryl will also help. If you're allergic, make sure you carry along a sting kit whenever you hike. It
contains a couple of shots of epinephrine and antihistamine tablets for the severely allergic who might
go into anaphylactic shock.
Mosquitoes. Don’t scratch. Once again, wash the bite with water to reduce possibility of infection. An
oral antihistamine will help reduce the swelling and itching as will a tropical antihistamine cream.
Scorpions and centipedes. Despite popular myth, Australian scorpion or centipede stings are no more
dangerous than that of a hornet or wasp. They just hurt more. Treat in the same way and try bathing
the bite with warm water.
Ticks. While a bit painful, the best technique is to grasp a bit of skin with tweezers directly below
where the tick is attached. Pull up quickly, removing both the tick and a bit of skin. In this way you
ensure that you remove the head, which may otherwise break off and stay buried in your flesh,
possibly causing infection. Wash the area thoroughly with water and apply Bettadine upon removal.
Leeches. If you happen to get one on you that won’t take the hint when you flick it, there are four
things that will make it go home. Liberally sprinkle some salt on it, splash some methylated spirits on
it, poke it with hot things (matches, coals, magnifying glass (ouch!), etc.) or just leave it and it will
drop off when it’s full. They don’t eat much. The only danger is the anti coagulant so clean the wound
and put a Band-Aid on it until it stops bleeding.


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