There is something highly inconsiderate about creatures whose sole impulse is to suck your blood. We hear about them every day and we rarely hold them in high regard: vampires, lawyers, salespeople. To protect ourselves from their constant advances, we often retreat to the comfortable embrace of the backcountry. Beware though, because even there, lurking in the shadows, are creatures that "vant to suck your blood!" I am talking of course about mosquitoes. It’s important to consider prevention rather than just treatment, so here's an index to help you handle the mosquito factor on your next outdoor adventure.
Level Green—Low to Insignificant Chance of Bites
You're probably at level green if your campsite is positioned away from standing water and is close to, if not above, tree line. Mosquitoes hate colder, windier climates. Take a nice hike on up to the majestic front range of the Absorakas and your elevation alone should almost entirely mitigate the threat of bites.
Also, mosquitoes rely heavily on scent—they are supposedly attracted to sweeter scents and repelled by garlic. So if you’re suffering incessant bites on your next campout, maybe you should try roasting some garlic bread instead of marshmallows.
Level Yellow—Bug Bites are Intermittent but Infrequent
Taking a raft or tube down one of the Gallatin Valley’s many scenic winding rivers will surely bring you in contact with a mosquito every now and then, especially come summer. Scientific evidence suggests that mosquitoes hone in on movement and color contrast. This supports the benefits of green clothing. Mosquitoes also tend to go for the highest part of exposed skin they can find. Some people believe that holding an object above your head will help. Try to reduce unnecessary movement, which is good advice in general when floating on water.
Level Orange—Nuisance Threshold is Crossed and Bites are Common
At this point mosquitoes are actually interfering with your recreational enjoyment. Combat this unpleasantness by covering your skin. Wear long-sleeves, socks, and a hat. Wear a mosquito net over your head at night and for goodness sake keep your tent screens closed. Fairy Lake is wondrous on a warm summer evening, but if you don’t keep yourself covered and don't avoid wearing perfumes, colognes, hair sprays, and lotions, you’re going to be too busy swatting the air to even notice the sunset.
Level Red—Bites are Imminent
If you find yourself near marshy wetlands on a warm, humid summer evening with little to no breeze, prepare to be eaten alive—you're in optimal mosquito conditions. Your first line of action should be to avoid their turf altogether, but if this is not an option you need to have every square inch of your skin covered. Mosquitoes will find that little exposure of flesh that you forgot about and suck it dry. Pretreat your clothes with permethrin repellents, but do NOT use them directly on your skin. Set up a campfire; carbon emissions tend to send mosquitoes scurrying. In a place like Red Rock Lakes (just outside of West Yellowstone) you are not going to get relief unless you follow similar protocol.
The angry yellow bees
know not of my fear.
The sharp, sudden pain
of being struck or stabbed—
so intense when I hear
the sound of bees.
The sound of bees—
like the wail of
a screaming fire engine—
incites a blazing panic.
Go quickly or be impaled
by her venomous bayonet.
The searing sting of
throbbing, swollen skin
reminds me again of
the yellow, buzzing horror
the bees will bring.