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7 Worst Encounters With Insects In Our Travels

No matter where you come from, hitting the road in an RV for any length of time will expose you to new experiences, vegetation, weather, wildlife…and insects. Over our years of traveling the United States and beyond by RV, we’ve had several particularly terrible encounters. Chances are, as you RV travel, you’ll come in contact with some of these as well.

1. Fire Ants

Our Experience: Fire ants are aggressive and their bites can be very painful! They usually result in insanely itchy welts. We’ve found that they like to crawl up your feet and legs, then bite in a synchronized attack. My latest experience left me with 9 bites all across my feet that itched like mad. 

Where You’ll Find Them: Fire ants are common in warm climates and can be found in regions such as the southern United States. We’ve had our worst encounters in Florida and Alabama. Fire ants build nests in soil, often in sunny areas like lawns, gardens, and parks. They build sandy mounds, so keep an eye out! After rain, we’ve noticed that they seek higher elevation on blades of grass or your RV’s fresh water hose.

Unhappy tom with icepacks on his feet after a fire ant bite
Tom looking very unhappy after a fire ant encounter. He has ice packs on his feet where they bit him.

Recommended Remedy: If bitten, you’re going to want to use an anti-itch cream often to numb the bites. Minor local swelling is a common reaction, and we’ve used ice packs and anti-histamine medicine to help stop and relieve it. The bites can last quite a while. Depending on how much and severely you itch them, they can take upwards of two weeks or more to heal.

2. Mosquitos

Our Experience: Mosquitoes are annoying pests that can ruin all outdoor activities, as well as indoor ones. The zzzzzZZZZZZZZZzzzzz sound they make as they fly around our heads can ruin dinner, movies, and sleeping. If we’re not prepared for battle, we might as well go home.

Where You’ll Find Them: EVERYWHERE. But we’ve noticed that they are definitely worse in some places, like Michigan, Alaska, and Florida. They thrive in areas with standing water, such as marshes, swamps, and urban areas with inadequate drainage.

Recommended Remedy: Our favorite mosquito deterrents are picaridin (instead of DEET), ExOfficio bugsaway clothing, screen tents, and the Dynatrap insect catchers.

Picaridin is just as effective as DEET and way less nasty. We’ve converted to it as our insect repellent of choice across the board.

We wouldn’t have survived our Alaska expedition if we didn’t have our Bugsaway clothing. We wore the pants and the jackets daily, and was way nicer than dousing in bugs spray every time we stepped outside.

bug clothing alaska
Wearing our ExOfficio bugsaway clothing on the Dalton Highway in Alaska.

We’ve also been using the Clam Screen Tent at our Michigan property for years. You simply can’t sit outside and enjoy nature without a screened area of some sort.

Finally, the Dynatrap helps us eliminate the mosquitos that inevitably slip inside the RV. We turn it on at night in the living room to draw the mosquitos away from the bedroom and into its deadly trap.

3. Pantry Moths

Our Experience: We did not know of these things until they had completely infested our RV pantry. It was gross and horrifying! Pantry moths, also known as Indian meal moths, infest stored food products like grains, flour, and cereal. They multiply like crazy, lay eggs in all your dry goods, and the larvae crawl out and over everything. 

Where You’ll Find Them: I honestly don’t know where we picked up these moths, but I think it’s safe to assume they came in some dry goods that we bought. Once inside the RV, they flourished.

Recommended Remedy: We found that the only way to get rid of these moths was to discard infested food items, thoroughly clean the pantry food areas, and use pheromone traps to capture the adult moths. The brand we used was Dr. Killigans.

Even though this incident happened two years ago and we haven’t seen a moth since, we still have these traps set up in our pantry, just in case. For the detailed recommendation, check out our post all about it.

pantry moth trap in RV pantry

4. Stink Bugs

Our Experience: Stink bugs emit a foul odor when disturbed and can become a nuisance when they invade homes in large numbers. It seems that every fall, these little bugs find their way into our camper and annoy the crap out of us. 

Where You’ll Find Them: Stink bugs are native to Asia but have spread to other parts of the world, including North America and Europe. They are often found in agricultural areas and can become household pests when they seek shelter indoors during the cooler months.

stink bug crawling on our RV

Recommended Remedy: We’ve honestly never been able to completely keep these guys out of the RV. Even if we seal up potential entry points, they somehow wriggle their way in. The best thing we’ve found is to catch and kill them as quickly as possible, and without getting them to release their stink! We have the full detailed recommendation here.

5. Cockroaches

Our Experience: Cockroaches are resilient pests that can spread diseases and trigger allergies. At the very minimum, they give us the serious creepy-crawlies!

Being from northern Michigan, we hadn’t really experienced cockroaches until hitting the road and traveling to the southeastern United States. Here we were met with the new challenge of keeping cockroaches from moving into our home on wheels. 

Dead cockroach on floor, pest control concept

Where You’ll Find Them: Cockroaches are found worldwide, particularly in urban areas with dense populations. They thrive in warm, humid environments, and can be found in nearly every state in the United States. Florida, Texas, California, New York and Georgia are some of the most common states to find them. 

Recommended Remedy: Traps and chemicals are, unfortunately, the only way to really get rid of these little buggers. Prevention is the best way to avoid a toxic showdown. 

  • Don’t stack gear or debris under or alongside your RV, as this attracts them. 
  • Don’t leave out food or crumbs on your counters or open in your pantry
  • Clean regularly to help get rid of odors that may attract them inside.

6. No-See-Ums

Our Experience: No-see-ums, also known as biting midges, are tiny flies that leave itchy welts after biting. Tom is super reactive to them and will get big red welts wherever they bite him. The worst thing is you don’t know they are there until they have bit you, hence the name: No-See-Um.

The thing with No-See-Ums is that they are so tiny they fit through a lot of standard screens. This means that you need to find the special fine screen to block them out of your camper if you want to leave the windows open. 

Where You’ll Find Them: No-see-ums are found in many parts of the world, particularly in coastal areas and regions with freshwater or saltwater marshes. They are common in areas with warm, humid climates, such as the southeastern United States. We spend a lot of time in Florida for the winters, and this is where they get us the worst! As soon as the sun goes down or the coastal breeze stops, we immediately start feeling the little bites. 

Recommended Remedy: Usually, we just close up all the windows and stay inside during No-See-Um time. However, you can sometimes use fans to create airflow to blow them away. If we want to be outdoors, we use plenty of picaridin insect repellent. We also find that wearing long sleeves and pants, especially the Bugsaway clothing, helps.

6. Ladybugs/Japanese Beetles

Our Experience: We’ve had several ladybug / Japanese beetle infestations in our RV campers over the years. While ladybugs are generally harmless and beneficial in gardens, Japanese beetles can be destructive to plants and vegetation, posing a potential threat to the surroundings. Having either of them inside the confined space of our camper became a nuisance.

Where You’ll Find Them: Ladybugs and Japanese beetles can find their way into RV campers seeking shelter from harsh weather conditions. They may also just appear in swarms for migration or food source reasons. In either case, they easily enter the RV through small openings around windows, vents, or doors.

Recommended Remedy: To address a ladybug infestation in an RV camper, start by sealing any cracks or gaps that may serve as entry points. Use screens on windows and vents to prevent ladybugs from entering.

Vacuuming up ladybugs and releasing them outside can help manage the infestation without harming these beneficial insects. Additionally, consider using natural repellents like citrus-scented sprays to deter ladybugs from entering your camper.

No Matter Where You Roam, There Are Bugs

Bugs are everywhere. While we’ve found that the drier climate of the western states generally has fewer flying insects than we are used to in the Midwest, they still have their share of pests. Fortunately, none of these encounters will derail your trip if you’re prepared!

green leaf katydid insect

Additionally, some insect encounters might actually be pretty fascinating. For instance, we met this leaf-like katydid insect in North Carolina.

We’ve also encountered quite a few spiders…but since those aren’t technically insects, we’ll save those stories for another day. 😉

Thanks for reading, and we hope you’ve learned something from our experience. Safe travels!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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Jack Jones

Tuesday 18th of June 2024

Always store your dry goods like flour, corn meal, oats, etc. in zip-lock bags or airtight Tupperware style containers. This has kept me from getting a moth infestation in my home for a long time. I have wondered if the Bugsaway clothing worked as advertised. Have had some occasions where I wished I had had something like them. Keeping the underside ofyour RV washed off at a carwash during trips can help with insects. You would be amazed at how many you take from place to place under your rig. It also helps to stop taking invasive insects (most of the insects you mentioned are invasives) to new homes.

MadDog

Monday 17th of June 2024

Wait until you see the entire ground covered for miles with Potato Bugs (Jerusalem Crickets).