A Botheration of Bugs!


Biting insects are abundant on the mainland and some of the islands including Whitsunday Island, home of the famous Whitehaven Beach. Populations may depend on the time of year and recent weather conditions. Below are the Bug Big Four that may give you grief on your travels: best to be prepared.

Mosquitoes – we all know these bloodsuckers and that high-pitched whine near your ear that announces their presence.


Sandflies (or biting midges) – another bloodsucker, their bites can be less painful to start with, leaving little red circles on your skin. But they swell up like mossie bites just the same…


Green tree ants (or weaver ants) – plentiful in the Whitsundays, these ants are usually busy doing their own thing, but can give you a painful nip on your toe or ankle that’s sore for a few days.

Green Tree Ant (from Wikipedia)

March flies (or horse flies) – another bloodsucker that are particularly annoying, as they seem to bother you just when you’re busy doing something that requires two hands (chopping veggies, rowing a dinghy, collapsing a tent), and choose that moment to keep landing on you and biting, landing and biting, landing and biting incessantly, reducing you to a raving flapping shouting madman as you try to get them off you. Or just get them, full stop.

March Fly

Despite best efforts, it’s pretty hard not to lose your rag with these things, especially when you’re dutifully wearing long sleeves, long pants, socks and shoes in 30 degree temperatures, mosquito coils lit and repellent on your hands, face and neck – and you’re STILL getting bitten. Even the most benign, nature-loving individual can transform into a raging, murderous one. You get quite good at the various moves required to banish them from your person.

For mossies and sandflies, you need to master the quick-as-lightening Sumarai Handclap. For green tree ants, a swift Finger Flick does the trick. For the March fly, the easiest is the Thong Thwack (or Flip Flop Flap), with a slow approach and fast execution. More advanced combatants swear by the Blindside Power Flick or even the Anticipatory Hand Clap – a more strategic move in which the combatant times a swift clap some inches above the fly, knowing the fly will expect to be hit in situ and fly upwards into the line of fire. When you’re busy with something that requires both hands, like chopping veggies, you need a companion to do these March fly moves for you – to avoid stabbing yourself!

To ensure your camping trip isn’t spoiled, your camping kit should always include the items listed below, and remember you may not be able to rely on just one of them to keep the bugs away:

  • Long pants, shirt, socks and shoes are essential;
  • Mossie coils may help to a certain degree. Remember to take matches or a lighter.
  • Insect repellent. There are many on the market including: Rid spray which is easy to apply but just okay in its efficacy; Moov natural repellent containing melaleuca oil (tea tree) which works well and means less strong chemicals on our skin day in, day out but is a thick gel that sits on top of your skin attracting dust and dirt, so you feel quite feral after a while. Bushman’s also has an excellent reputation. Local pharmacists will be happy to recommend a product suited to your needs. A good bite cream. For example Tiger Balm which provides a cooling senstation that distracts from the itch, but it’s a bit of a pain to apply and you always get some under your fingernail then later manage to rub this into your eye, which is not a pleasant sensation. Itch-Eze Plus – an antiseptic tea tree oil cream that contains an anaesthetic called lignocaine is also effective. Again, local pharmacists will be happy to recommend a product suited to your needs.
  • Antihistamine tablets to reduce the itch and swelling – you can get non-drowsy or drowsy ones – again pharmacists can advise you on the best ones for you.

Bug repelling gear

Going for a reefwalk, swim or paddle will give you a break from all but the March flies. And when all else fails, a tent with ‘No-see-um’ insect mesh doors and windows is a godsend!

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