It’s common to encounter bees while camping, as they are part of nature and that’s what you are out there to experience! Crossing paths with the occasional bee is usually pretty benign, but when they are swarming your campsite and getting in your way, you have a problem.
Those anxious buzzing sounds and the possibility of getting stung are some of the things that accompany these pesky little insects, so in this article, I’ll cover how to get rid of bees while camping!
Know what attracts bees
Bees don’t just aimlessly fly around to bug you (as much as it might seem that they do!). When they leave their hive, they are on a mission to find pollen and nectar.
This means they are attracted to sweet scents and other objects or smells that could be mistaken as a pollen or food source. When they’re in your campsite, they’re not really trying to mess with you. They’re just going about their day!
Other than collecting pollen, bees are thinking about how to protect themselves and their hives from predators. When it comes to getting rid of bees, thinking like one will be your best tool in keeping them away from your campsite.
10 Tips to Keep Bees Away From Your Campsite
1. Pick a bee-free campsite
Prevention is the best way to solve a problem. To an extent, you can prevent bees from invading your campsite before you even set up your tent. When scouting out an area to set up camp, look for signs of bees, bee activity, and things they might be attracted to.
Is there a flower field nearby? How about actual beehives in the trees?
Long-term campsites where people have left behind garbage can attract bees due to the food scent, so be aware of this. Don’t set up your tent next to a dumpster or trash can! Small, standing water sources like ponds or puddles often attract bees as well.
These are some of the things I look out for when choosing a campsite. It’s always a good idea to be aware of your surroundings while camping, so keep up this practice when it comes to bees!
2. Avoid scented and fragrant products
Don’t use products with a sweet, fragrant smell that bees could mistake for a flower. Think about what you’re taking with you while camping and try to bring an unscented version of it instead.
This includes products like deodorants, soaps, and perfumes. Even your sunscreen can give off a sweet smell, so be extra conscious of what you’re wearing!
3. Wear the right clothing
Bees can mistake your possessions for flowers not only through what they smell.
This also happens through what they see. Bees are attracted to items they visually confuse for flowers. Brightly colored clothing can be an issue because of this, so wearing neutral or pastel colors can help deter bees.
Make sure to stay away from clothing that can resemble bee predators as well. Furry animals such as skunks are common predators for bees, so don’t wear a lot of fuzzy clothes while camping.
Also, avoid threatening colors such as black and red.
Choosing the right fit of clothing can help you prevent a sting if you do happen to run into bees. Extremely loose and flowy clothes can create a lot of space for a bee to get inside!
Clothes that are either cinched or tighter around opening points such as the sleeves and waist are ideal for when you come across bees.
You also want to wear close-toed shoes around your campsite in case you step on a bee. In a high bee activity area, they often go unnoticed when crawling on the ground, and a bee sting on your foot can ruin your whole trip!
4. Start your campfire early
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to deter bees from the general area beyond getting rid of things that attract them.
One great, natural option is to smoke them out. Bees flee from smoke and fires, so if you’re planning on having a bonfire at night, consider starting it early. Even a small fire (as long as it produces smoke!) will help deter bees.
For situations in which you can’t have a fire or don’t want to burn through all your wood, try other smoke-producing methods such as incense. This can work surprisingly well, but keep in mind that one small incense stick might not do the trick.
You want to produce enough smoke to trigger a stress hormone in bees to keep them away. Use multiple sticks of incense. The thicker the incense stick, the better!
5. Practice proper food and trash management
Handling your food properly is a very important factor for bee management. It’s also correct camping etiquette as well.
Here are some do’s and don'ts regarding how to handle your food:
Do clean up as soon as you’re finished cooking or eating. The longer your food is out, the more likely the smells will waft into the surrounding environment and make it easier for bees to find it.
Do store your food in an airtight container when you’re not using it. This keeps the bees from smelling it!
Don’t pack lots of overly sweet foods if you can avoid it. Foods with more sugar (natural and artificial) like fruit and soda will attract bees more than will foods such as vegetables and grains.
Don’t leave your trash out! This goes further than just putting things in garbage bags. Make sure your open trash bags don’t linger around your campsite.
You want to store them properly or away from your campsite so they don’t lure bees. Keep your trash in airtight containers/bags, dumpsters, or cars if you have to.
6. Lure bees away with sugar water
This method is great because it’s simple and doesn’t harm the bees. It uses the information I’ve provided about what attracts bees and takes them to another location!
Mix things like apple cores, banana peels, and other sweet foods that attract bees into a disposable plastic bottle. Then add lots of sugar and fill the bottle partially with water.
Hang the bottle in a tree several meters away from your campsite. Unlike with your food, make sure the bottle is not airtight. You want the bees to smell the sweetness so that they are attracted to the bottle instead of your campsite.
7. Trick the bees into thinking enemy hives are at your campsite
Bees are very protective of their hives, so separate bee colonies don’t usually mess with each other or spend time near hives that are not their own.
With this knowledge and some brown paper bags, you can trick bees into thinking that your campsite contains enemy hives, so that they won’t want to come near.
Blow up a few brown paper bags or stuff them with balled-up plastic bags. Tie off the brown bags and hang them in trees or other areas where there would likely be a beehive. It’s that simple!
However, this method is not foolproof, so use it as a supplement rather than as your only bee deterrent. Bees are intelligent, so they will eventually figure out that the brown bags are not actually beehives.
8. Use natural bee repellents around your campsite
Fortunately, there are tons of foods, oils, and materials that repel bees and don’t contain harmful chemicals. Natural bee repellents are great because they’re convenient and inexpensive.
Plus, you can easily find them at a local grocery store.
Here is a list of some of my favorites:
Distilled Vinegar: This has a strong smell that bees don’t like. It can mask the smell of sweeter scents you might have around your campsite. Just having an open cup of distilled vinegar on your picnic table or around your camp can help prevent bees from invading your campsite.
Garlic: Not only do bees dislike garlic, but it tastes delicious! Crush up garlic cloves and put them on your picnic table to create a strong smell that gets rid of bees. Don’t forget to cook with it too!
Eucalyptus Oil: You may have noticed the trend that bees don’t like strong, non-sweet smells. Eucalyptus oil falls into this category. Handcraft Eucalyptus Essential Oil is a great product that’s easy to take camping with you. Put drops of the oil on your wrists or neck to make yourself unattractive to bees.
Vanilla Extract: While small quantities of vanilla can make baked goods taste sweet and delicious, pure vanilla extract has a pretty intense flavor. If you’ve ever tasted it, you would know! Dilute it by putting a few drops in some water and then rub it onto your skin as a bee repellent.
Citrus: Most fruits attract bees, but citrus is the exception. Many bugs, such as spiders, are also repelled by citrus, so there are added benefits for using it to bee-proof your campsite!
Make your own bee repellent spray by boiling the peels of citrus fruits in water and then straining and pouring the mixture into a spray bottle after it has cooled.
9. Use a screen
Up to this point, I’ve discussed a variety of practices you can use around your campsite to get rid of bees. Now it’s time to introduce some products for extra insurance that your campsite will remain bee-free!
One way to keep bees away is to use a screenhouse. These are great because no matter what type of food you bring or where you choose to camp, you’ll have a guaranteed bee-free area.
Keep in mind that this is not the optimal solution if you're trying to conserve weight or space.
However, if you are willing to bring extra gear, this is a great option. It’s a simple solution, does not interfere with the natural environment, and works really well! It even provides sun protection.
10. Burn citronella candles
Citronella candles are great for masking smells that normally attract bees. It’s another method that’s extremely simple and does not interfere with the environment or the bees after you go home.
These candles are a great option, as they don’t cost much and will burn for many hours!
Light a citronella candle and keep it on your picnic table, before, during, and after cooking. It also repels other annoying insects like mosquitoes!
In this article, I’ve covered 10 different ways to get rid of bees while camping. It’s important to keep in mind that there are tons of different species of bees.
This means these methods can work better or worse depending on what type of bee you’re dealing with. That’s why I recommend using a combination of these methods rather than just one!
Make sure to always use proper camping protocols when it comes to dealing with your food and garbage, and then choose some of these additional methods to make your campsite extra bee-proof.
I hope this guide has been helpful to you and that you enjoy your bee-free campsite!
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Sara is an experienced outdoorswoman that works and travels seasonally throughout the western U.S. She holds a B.S. in earth science from the University of California Santa Barbara. Other than camping and writing, she's interested in skiing, surfing, peak bagging, and studying plants!