The Bugforce Scale

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    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wine Country

    Those who are sailors will be acquainted with the Beaufort Scale, which is used to grade the force of winds at sea. A force ten gale is something fierce, and the scale tops out at twelve–a full-blown hurricane. Each step is accompanied by a description of the sea at that force of wind. A good system.

    So we were thinking…

    What if we had a similar scale for mosquitoes in the wilderness? We could call it the Bugforce Scale. Here’s our suggestion:

    0–Zero. Really. No mosquitoes.
    1–I think I may have seen one. But maybe it was a gnat.
    2–OK, I saw one, and heard one, but didn’t actually get bitten,
    3–Yeah, there were some in a few spots. Only the timid put on organic bug juice.
    4–Got a few bites, but I got more of them than they got of me.
    5–Time for DEET at dawn and dusk. Hiking, we just slapped and sped up.
    6–DEET while hiking. Headnets at dawn and dusk
    7–Pick your camp spots carefully, up on the ridge in the wind. Bites between hat and sunglasses–how do they get in there?
    8–Long sleeves and long pants, I don’t care how hot it is. Pray for wind.
    9–Headnets while hiking, or you’ll breathe in at least one bug per mile. DEET dissolves sunglasses
    10–Clouds of mosquitoes waiting on the trail and on the screen of the tent. Open warfare. DEET dissolves watchband, and it’s stainless steel.
    11–We made it out alive.
    12–They got Larry. RIP, Larry.

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    I love this. I stashed it away to reference in the future:

    If you find better refinements send me a note and I will update the page

    Would be interesting if this could be quantified like the number that land in a sq ft in 1 minutes… but we know different people are more “attractive” which seems be driven by both genetics and lifestyle.

    Hmm, that’s maybe ok, bug-force is about what you experience. Hmm… we could rate people’s susceptibility by putting them in a space with a well known number of bugs and count number that attach in a unit of time.  I sure this could be an interesting project for someone :)

    The other thing to consider if make it more generic (not just mosquitoes) but not sure how to normalize.  For example the black flies in Canada that can nearly fly off with a small child.



    Jeffs Eleven
    BPL Member


    Locale: NePo

    Verber what do you mean by lifestyle?  I know blood or genetics whatever. But you mean like banana eaters what for lifestyle?  I am not familiar with that.

    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member


    We have pesky noseeums here in the mountains of TN and NC/Georgia—and they really suck.  Aka midges.

    Carpenter Ants
    Yellow Jackets

    You know things are bad when it’s 97F with 100% humidity and you have to stay in your zipped up tent to escape the midges—which often does not work since they are tiny.

    Deet works against them in camp as does burning a stick of citronella incense in the tent vestibule.  As a last resort I build a smudge fire—small stick fire to produce a lot of smoke—and hover next to it.  A burning mosquito coil might also work well.

    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    lifestyle was not the best word.  should have said environment what you eat, what you do, past exposures which might make your body react differently, etc.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Puget Sound

    HA! rip Larry

    Lemongrass, citronella and catnip essential oils mixed in jojoba as a carrier oil. It works for me. They just hover around and fly away if they get too close. But I also eat lots of bananas

    Alex Wallace
    BPL Member


    Locale: Sierra Nevada North

    I like it, Paul.

    No kidding – I once saw a guy in the Yosemite backcountry wearing a banana suit costume. At the time I thought he was crazy, but now I wonder if he was on to something.

    d k
    BPL Member


    OK, I’m indoors, and just read this out loud to my partner, Larry (you see why I had to).  Not one minute later I hear the whine of an actual incoming mosquito in my ear.  Coincidence?  I think not…

    matthew k


    High Sierra Topix uses a scale of 1–5. it seems simpler to me.

    Diane “Piper” Soini
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara

    I think I’ve been at level 10 before. How I survived:

    Bought a cotton t-shirt at an Oregon resort general store to protect my shoulders and elbows (the short sleeves were almost elbow-length on me) from being bitten through my long-sleeved nylon hiking shirt.

    Bought a giant can of fogging DEET at same resort store.

    Bought a hippie tie-dye skirt at a store in Ashland.

    Fogged my hat several times per day.

    Fogged my bare bottom before emerging from my tent in the morning.

    Wore my hippie skirt over my pants to protect my butt and knees from being bitten while I bent over putting tent away. Also worked for filling water at streams.

    After packing up, proceeded to a good cathole location. Drop my pack 20 feet from cathole location. Run to cathole location and dig. When mosquitoes find me, run back to pack and wait. When mosquitoes find me, run back to cathole and be quick about it. Hope the pack remains a fairly decent decoy.

    While hiking during the day, wear head net, keep shirt buttoned all the way up. Swat them away whenever they find the tiny triangle of visible skin between the collar and headnet. Hold trekking poles so the straps flop across my knuckles to keep mosquitoes from biting between my fingers. Put DEET on palms so they don’t bite there.

    Run as much as possible.

    Pee in your cookpot inside your tent so you don’t have to go outside in the middle of the night. Pee gets burnt-on pasta to come off your pot pretty well. Use a urinary device for added precision and aim. Don’t use a plastic container with a lid. It might crack and fill your loaner tent with urine. (Don’t ask me how I know.)

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    I’m in Fairbanks, Alaska. We are very much at a 10 right now. Very muchly. I’d post a photo but I’m not going into the yard right now! When I have to, I wear a full bug jacket with hood.  Deet is useless, literally. It doesn’t even deter them. We have zapper racquets in every room of the house, including the bathroom. I’m considering putting up my bed net that I bought in Thailand, but so far the window screens are holding, despite gangs trying to push them in. Worst year since some time in the 1990s.

    However, I went backpacking last weekend and I’m still going backpacking this weekend!

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