Managing The Bugs of Assateague Island and the OSV - Tips
Updated: Jun 4
Assateague Island National Seashore is a natural habitat. Unlike in cities and urban areas, there are no chemicals sprayed to eliminate the bugs and mosquitos. They are a vital part of nature and the ecosystem, and with proper knowledge and preparation, visitors to Assateague Island and the OSV can have a better chance of not letting insects take over their vacation! The bugs on Assateague Island are usually prevalent from May through November.
Check the wind forecast: Understanding wind direction and the bugs at Assateague Island
On a west / offshore wind, with the wind blowing from the beach to the ocean, the bugs will get blown towards the ocean, you and your vehicle. This is when the bugs can be at their worst. However, this also creates clean conditions in the ocean, perfect for surfing. On days with a west wind forecasted during the summer months, it's likely there will be more bugs.
With an east / onshore wind, the bugs are often less of a nuisance or non-existent. They are getting blown away from the ocean and into the marsh, and remain away from you and the vehicle on the OSV. However, this causes the ocean to become choppy and potentially rough, which is not ideal for surfing or swimming.
With north and south / cross shore winds, it is tough to predict the bugs and their intensity, but it is often more manageable than with an offshore wind.
*The winds shift constantly on Assateague Island and the OSV. You can check the hourly wind forecast using the Weather Channel app before you plan your trip in the summer.
Preparing for the bugs
Bring Bug Repellent, and a Variety: Bull Frog is recommended by a local Berlin, MD resident who has been visiting Assateague Island OSV since he was a kid, as the best repellent against biting flies if you also want sunscreen included.
We have also found success with bug spray containing Picaridin as the active ingredient.
Repellent with Deet – According to the National Park Service, Repellents containing DEET (20% to 30%), can be very effective, although we usually use a higher content of Deet as a last resort.
Stay dry – bugs prefer wet to dry skin. Make sure you dry off after exiting the ocean and cover up if they’re really bad.
Stay covered – we’ve witnessed some bugs biting through clothing when it gets really bad. However, keep covered and it can act as a deterrent. Bring long sleeve and long pants that are loose fitting. If they are skin tight, the bugs have a better chance of biting through.
Make a campfire – this might be tough in the heat of the summer, but smoke can help eliminate some of the bugs.
Position yourself in the wind – You’ll often see bugs gathering on one side of a vehicle while on the OSV to protect themselves from the wind. Head to the other side where they aren’t!
Get a screen house – Set up a canopy with a screen house and jump inside to escape the bugs.
Stay close to the ocean – On really bad days, the bugs might even follow you into the ocean and bite while on a surfboard! However, we’ve noticed that the closer to the ocean and further from the dunes and bay side, can help.
Get in the vehicle – The great thing about being on the OSV is that you are right next to a vehicle. You’ll often find that bugs will enter your vehicle right when you open the doors or roll down the window. This is an annoyance, but on really bad days, there are obviously less in the truck than outside!
Visit a different time of day – Dawn and dusk are known to be the most active times for bugs and mosquitos to emerge, although they can strike at any time.
Visit at a different time of year – After the first major freeze of the year, the bugs at Assateague have disappeared and are gone for the late fall, winter, and early spring. However, as early as October and as late as April there can be very few if any bugs. Other than just the bugs, the offseason is a great time to visit Assateague Island.
Understand why they are there – We often see bugs as a nuisance, but they play a vital role in nature and the ecosystem. Being near the bottom of the food chain, their larvae are an important source of food for fish that call Assateague and its surrounding waters home. They are a vital source of food for birds and other animals. Without bugs, Assateague wouldn’t be home to as much wildlife and the ecosystem could be drastically impacted.
As we've been visiting Assateague Island and the OSV for years, we have developed some tactics for avoiding bugs and take everything above into account on our tours. However, even the most seasoned Assateague beachgoer can never completely distance themselves. Join us on a tour and we'll do our best to ensure you and your group have a pleasant experience!