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Protect Yourself and Your Family When Camping

Posted in Pest Advice on December 09, 2019

Don't Get Bitten 

Camping in New Zealand is a wonderful, and largely safe, way to holiday and see the country’s iconic natural beauty up close. However, there are a few pests that could ruin it for you. Here we give some simple advice on preventing pests biting or stinging you or your family.

New Zealand, although relatively close to the biting, stinging, land of Australia, has few truly nasty insects and spiders. However, there are some that can cause considerable nuisance and irritation.

Sandflies and Mosquitoes

  • The female sandfly or New Zealand blackfly (namu in Māori) is a curse to campers and walkers near beaches, lakes and rivers; they are particularly common on the west coast of the South Island. She needs a blood feed after mating in order to develop her eggs. They usually bite in the morning or towards dusk. The insects pierce the skin with a slicing ‘tooth’ releasing a drop of blood that they suck up. The bites are painful and itchy and can become infected.
    There are 16 mosquito (waeroa in Māori) species in New Zealand. As with sandflies it is the females that bite. They have hypodermic like mouthparts that are inserted through the skin and blood is ‘sucked’.  Mosquitoes will bite at night and are found close to still water such as lakes and swamps.
    • In areas where sandflies are breeding keep moving, cover up and apply a good insect repellent to exposed skin. Repellents containing DEET (diethyl toluamide) are most effective.
    • Mosquito coils are useful in keeping mosquitoes and sandflies at bay around your camping area. Don't wear perfumes or perfumed cosmetics as these can attract mosquitoes and other insects.
      Both warm and cool LED lights attract about half as many insects as yellow compact fluorescent lights which are often recommended for camping as they attract fewer insects. Many LED bulbs emit almost no UV light, and they also put off almost no heat.
      When sleeping use mosquito nets to keep mosquitoes from biting you during the night. Nets can be treated with NO Spiders or NO Fleas Total Protection for further protection.
      The anti-coagulants in the insect saliva that is injected to stop blood clotting cause an allergic response that is often itchy. Antihistamine creams can relieve the itchiness and inflammation of sandfly and mosquito bites.


  • Dealing with flea infestations may be one of those tasks you do before leaving on your camping holiday. See 6 Things to Do Before You Go on Holiday. However, it is possible that you will bring the problem with you or you will find fleas waiting for you when you camp, particularly if the camp allows pets. In the warm weather when you are likely to be camping fleas can survive outdoors and could easily hop into your tent for a feed of your blood.


  • Although flies can contaminate your food, when camping they are mostly a nuisance, bothering you in your tent or around your campfire/barbeque.
    Each species of fly has a preferred habitat. Most flies enjoy the shade where they can find damp, rotting food to feed upon.
    • So carefully consider your tent placement, cooking area, and fire/barbecue location and then think about where the flies will be at different times of the day. Insect repellent work to keep flies away as well as sandflies and mosquitoes.
      Don’t pitch your tent too close to latrines, bins, grazing animals, lights, or decaying vegetation. If using portable toilets, ensure they are covered, and the sanitiser is topped up. Clean-up and dispose of food scraps soon after eating.

Bed Bugs

  • Bed bugs are occasionally encountered when travelling and could be carried with you in your baggage or vehicle to campsites. In crowded campsites, bed bugs may be able to move from one tent to the next.
    • Treat your luggage and tent before travelling with NO Bed Bugs Total Solution to prevent being unwitting transport and food for bed bugs.


  • Many New Zealand parks are plagued by stinging wasps. The invasive common and German wasps feed on honeydew produced by sap-sucking scale insects in beech forests and can breed to very high densities. Nests are often found in holes in the ground, hollow trees and sometimes hanging from trees and bushes in the open. If nests are accidentally disturbed, large numbers of wasps may attack the cause of the disturbance. Many stings can be lethal.
    • Take care not to camp near nesting wasps or bins and other food sources that would attract wasps. Nests that are discovered can be destroyed with NO Wasps Eliminator so long as you have permission on the site.

Whitetail and Redback Spiders

  • Few spiders in New Zealand pose a threat, however, whitetail spiders can give a painful bite and their natural habitat is amongst leaf litter.
    The Australian Redback is becoming more common in New Zealand but it is still rare. It, and it's very rare cousin the native Katipo, can give more painful bites
    • Be careful to erect your tent in an open area and wear gloves and footwear when in and around leaf litter.

Argentine Ants

  • New Zealand is lucky that there are few ant species that bite here. The fire ants that are painful pests in Australia and the Pacific Islands have, so far, not been allowed to get established in New Zealand through prompt and effective action by biosecurity. However, Argentine ants can bite, and should you place your camp on or close to an Argentine ant colony you may find they defend themselves by biting bare, unprotected skin.
    • Look for open sites to camp and check for ants in the grass or vegetation in and around the proposed campsite.


  • Ticks are known for latching onto their hosts and feeding off their blood, resulting in a wound. Hard ticks are found in vegetation, such as forests and fields, where females lay eggs on the ground. Soft ticks are more likely to be in the nests of hosts.
    Tick wounds can become itchy and red but are not usually painful.
    • If bitten and the tick is still attached to a person’s skin, it should be removed immediately. The area where the tick has bitten should then be cleaned and disinfected to prevent infections.
      Keep to tracks and cleared areas. When travelling through vegetation keep skin, particularly lower legs and feet, covered up at the level of the vegetation. Apply insect repellent.

These precautions will help you and your family enjoy your camping holiday without pain and irritation.

David Brittain

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