Probably 99% of the insects that find their way into your RV are flying insects. Common houseflies, gnats, mosquitoes, and moths are the most common.
Spiders are perhaps the most common non-flying creepy-crawlie that will find their way into an RV. It’s rare to find earwigs and centipedes crawling into an RV, but sometimes it just depends on the location.
Oddly enough, ants rarely crawl into an RV when boondocking on open, public lands. Ants are more of a problem in RV parks and paid campgrounds because they’re trained to find food in RVs. Otherwise, out in areas where boondockers go, ants generally keep their focus on the ground. The same is true with termites, bees, and wasps.
Keeping Bugs From Getting Into Your RV
1. Keep doors closed – The most obvious answer is still the most effective strategy. You’ll have to designate yourself as, “door captain” and make sure it remains fully closed when everyone else is running in and out of the RV.
2. Keep lights turned off at night – Flying insects are attracted to light. If you leave outdoor lights on at night, you’ll see hoards of moths and gnats resting near the door of your RV, waiting for the opportunity to get in. Keep your indoor lights off if you’re planning to spend an evening huddled around a campfire.
3. Examine your window screens – Small gnats and mosquitoes can find gaps between windows screens and the window frame. Examine your screens closely and make sure they’re pushed snug into the window frame. Use colored Duck Tape (to match the color of your window frame) to keep a secure seal.
4. Minimize what’s touching the ground – If you have a trailer, make sure your tow-chains are off the ground. If you have a patio table outside, make sure it’s not touching the RV so that bugs can’t crawl up from the ground and into the trailer. Make sure no plants are touching your RV.
5. Do not put up bird feeders or spread bird seed – Even though hearing song birds can be a pleasure, birds are some of the biggest carriers of disease-borne fleas and ticks.
6. Don’t leave trash outside your camp – Flies are attracted to trash, as are flea/tick-carrying rodents. Leaving bags of trash in the bed of your pickup truck will attract more insects. Keep trash inside your RV until you’re ready to throw it into a dumpster somewhere. Note, you can also burn trash (including scraps of food) in your campfire; it’s only the cans, glass, and larger pieces of plastic that you’ll have to throw into a dumpster. Keep a separate trash bin in your RV for “burnables”.
7. Citronella oil and candles – These work “OK” to keep some flying insects from coming into your camp. To make these work better, you’ll need several tiki torches of citronella oil and surround your camp with them. One is never enough. If you prefer citronella candles, you’ll still need several of them burning outside your camp. They tend to work better with gnats, and are somewhat effective with mosquitoes. If you’re camped by a lake or river, definitely use these. Even if they only work on 50% of the gnats and mosquitoes, you will still have won half the battle.
8. Thermacell Mosquito Repellent – These actually work pretty well, but just like citronella oil, you need several of these to work effectively. Have one burning by the front door of your RV, and a couple more by your patio chairs and patio table.
9. Deet Spray – Deet-based sprays (Cutter, Off, Repel, et al) are still the most effective repellents against mosquitoes and other biting flies. Instead of spraying it on your skin, spray it on a hoodie and make sure it gets on the sleeves and hood. Then, wear it outside. It won’t prevent them from entering your camp, but it will prevent them from landing on you, and thereby prevent them from getting a free ride into your RV.
10. Avoid wearing white clothing – White shirts, blouses, pants, will attract bees, wasps, and hornets. The eyes of flower-bound insects are designed to pick up ultraviolet light, which is what most flowers are designed to reflect. The color white also reflects a lot of ultraviolet light. Hence, wearing white will attract more bees to you and your camp. Interestingly, many laundry detergents will cause clothing to reflect ultralight violet light because they contain low levels of bleach. If you’ve ever used teeth whiteners, your teeth will also reflect ultraviolet light.
What To Avoid
1. Do not use bug lamps – Even though bug lamps are pretty effective at attracting flying insects and killing them, the problem is that they’ll attract insects from up to a half-mile away. You’ll kill a lot of bugs, but your camp will be inundated with them.
2. Do not use bagged fly traps – These are those small, clear plastic bags that you fill with water and hang in the air. They contain a very smelly attractant, usually a chunk of fish guts. They work really well at trapping flies. The problem is that they attract flies from up to a 1/4 mile away. You’ll never actually achieve a fly-free zone, and will end up with a very stinky camp.
3. Don’t spray your RV with bug repellent – Most of these sprays use some kind of oil to help make the repellent last longer. Those oils will attract dirt to your RV and make it harder to keep clean. Some of the more effective repellents use a type of gum that eventually turns sticky.
4. Don’t spread Borax or Diatomaceous Earth on the ground – Many RVers rely on these products to prevent ants from crawling into their rigs. But when boondocking on open, public lands, ants almost never crawl into an RV. Otherwise, spreading these materials on the ground will only put other wildlife at risk after you’ve packed up and left camp.