How to Avoid Sanibel Island Bugs in Summer

Sanibel island bugs

Sanibel island bugsYou’ve likely heard horror stories about the Sanibel Island bugs and most of South Florida during the summer months. While these insects can be pesky, with a little preparation you can avoid them during your vacation.

The easiest way to avoid mosquitos, no see ums and other Sanibel Island bugs is to know the places they like to congregate and stay out of those areas. Here are the places on Sanibel you need to avoid:

  1. Grass and bushes: These sneaky biters especially like to hang out in the dune grass and bushes that separate the beach from the condos on Sanibel. It can be tempting to set up your beach chair on the back of the beach near the grass for quiet and privacy but this is a BAD idea.
  2. Calm areas: A little breeze is your best defense.  Mosquitoes and no see ums are attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale to hone in on their “prey”.  I don’t know about you but I’m not much of a fan of being insect prey.
  3. Ding Darling:  Don’t get me wrong, Ding Darling is one of my absolute favorite places on Sanibel Island.  That being said, if you go there without any of the repellents we mention below you will get bit.  A LOT.  The dense vegetation and standing water along Wildlife Drive make it a mosquito paradise.

Repellents that actually work:

  • Avon Skin So Soft– Yes you heard it right. The skin moisturizer from those pushy Avon sales ladies is a fantastic bug repellent.  I buy a big bottle of it on Amazon (Avon Skin So Soft Original Bath Oil Spray with Pump, 5 Fl Oz) and it lasts me most of the year.  It works by keeping a layer of oil on your skin that no see ums can’t (or won’t) bite through.  Pardon my French but these ferocious creatures don’t give a damn about DEET.  But for some reason, they hate Avon, go figure.  You will see this used by locals all the time.  Effectiveness Grade: A+
  • Cactus Juice– You can find this product at Bailey’s General Store.  It works on basically the same concept as Skin So Soft, placing a thin layer of oil on your skin that makes you bite proof.  Cactus Juice is probably more all-natural than the Avon product if that is something that concerns you.  It’s usually a bit more expensive than Avon’s product, but not by much (Cactus Juice 6 oz Bug Repellent with SPF)  It isn’t really made of cactus juice, but it does smell nice.  You can even buy it with built-in sunscreen now.  Effectiveness Grade: A
  • Thermacell– A relatively new product, a Thermacell uses a little butane heater to heat a special bug repellent in the unit.  It gives you about a 15ft zone surrounding the unit where the flying vampires (usually) won’t go.  It isn’t 100% effective, there is always going to be a few hardy bugs that make it through the zone.  A combo of a repellent like the two above and a Thermacell will keep nearly 100% of the bugs away from you.  You can pick up a Thermacell MR300 on Amazon or Walmart for about $20 (Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repeller, Black; DEET-Free, Scent-Free).  Effectiveness Grade: B
  • Deep Woods Off– It smells.  It’s probably not very good for you.  Alas, here’s our DEET option.  It does work extremely well at keeping mosquitoes away.  No see ums? Not so much.  They laugh at DEET.  If no see ums aren’t around and you want to smell awful, by all means, use this stuff.  Effectiveness Grade: C


As you can see by our picks, keeping no see ums from biting you is the name of the game.  You can try to keep them away from you altogether, but that’s easier said than done.  Sanibel Island bugs and summer are often synonymous, but with these tips, you should be able to enjoy your vacation without worrying about getting bit.

1 Comment

  1. Thank you for this article, I read it too late. I went to Sanibel and got attacked by Noseeums. Ver bad experience, and was checking to see if there was a resource out there, that could warn about “insects” in this island, your article came up. I’m concerned about parents going there with little kids. I don’t want anyone to go thru this bad experience. I am allergic to the bites, so ended up taking antibiotics and other medications for it. I checked the Island’s visitor website, but did not see any warnings about these insects. Now that I know what they are called, I’m finding lots of information about them.

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