During the summer months, we’re so busy figuring out what bug sprays work the best, whether or not we should invest in tiki torches, and what essential oils keep the bugs away, that we never stop to consider what colors might deter the annoying little things. What color does not attract bugs? Better yet, is there a color that drives them away?

Insects see ultraviolet extremely well but yellows, oranges, and reds give them trouble. Although they can’t see that color very well, it seems to have the opposite effect in that the lighter colors attract insects, while the darker colors mostly just attract mosquitoes.

The problem with insects is not all of them are repulsed by the same colors and attracted to the same colors. You can’t paint them with too broad of a brush because one color applies to some, another color applies to others, and yet another color applies to its own set of insects.

The ideal scenario is to find a single color that is disliked in a more generalized way.

Categorizing bugs by color preferences

Fly on a dandelion leaf
Photo by Rob Pumphrey / Unsplash

First and foremost, what is the color that will dissuade most bugs from hanging out, especially when it’s hot and you’re out on the trail, not ready to be a buffet for whatever comes along with a weird, horror-movie mouth and an insatiable bloodlust?

The one color that no insect can see is the color red. While the science on the subject is more than a little iffy, it is assumed that insects see a shade of dark grey or black rather than red.

While it won’t dissuade all insects from attaching to your face when your hands are full of firewood and there’s nothing you can do about it, it’s a lot better than some of the other options on here.

Here’s a generalization of the colors that bugs are attracted to:

Bug(s) Color(s) that attract
Bees, wasps, & hornets Yellow
Mosquitoes Black
Horseflies All dark colors
Bees Purple, violet, & blue

Knowing what colors to wear can help you plan your camping trip or your hiking trail because, depending on the season that you’re in, you should have a pretty good idea of what’s out there.

Regardless of your aesthetic calculations, arachnids don’t count,  so it’s not going to matter what color you wear if you wander into a field that’s infested with ticks and banana spiders. You are just free game as far as they’re concerned.

One helpful thing is knowing to avoid yellow and black. At the very least, that will cut down on the major stinging insects as well as the flying vampires that are otherwise known as mosquitoes. If you dress up for the hiking trail looking like a bumblebee, you deserve what you get.

Also, bees like fluffy/furry clothing and leather for some reason. So, if you’re considering cosplay in the wilderness, stay away from leather and fur. Apparently, it’s enormously attractive to the worst of the stinging insects.

Insect color inclinations don’t end with clothing

Adventure in the mountains
Photo by Holly Mandarich / Unsplash

Let’s say you’re planning on a weekend backpacking tour and you like to strap your rolled-up hammock and sleeping bag to the outside of your pack.

You have a yellow hammock and a black sleeping bag. So, if you pack like you normally do, the science says you’re going to be a major target for some of the worst stinging and bloodsucking insects that nature has to offer.

Your pack is going to be a certain color as well and if you just have a whole bunch of mixed-up color schemes going on, the odds are against you in the bug infestation department.

The best thing that you can do during bug season is to pack your stuff in such a way that you minimize color displays.

Of course, this goes along with just about any outdoor activity that takes place for an extended period, whether you are camping out, going on a jog, hitting the trail, mountain biking, base jumping, or anything that puts you in their world.

Even your RV can serve as a beacon for bugs and unless you decide that you want to paint it red, which would be an interesting and unique choice, there’s not much you can do on that number.

What clothing can you wear to repel bugs?

Color is one thing but what if you could combine colors that are not attractive to bugs with something that is designed as a bug repellent? Fortunately, there are outdoor clothing options with built-in bug deterrents and all you have to do is pick out the best color.

Exofficio manufactures a line of clothing that has built-in bug repellents. The design combines the fabric with an Insect Shield bug repellent. They do have some options in red but not many.

Fortunately, pastel colors are something that you will find in abundance with Exofficio. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea perhaps, so it really just boils down to how much you loathe insects and what you’re willing to do to avoid them.

Clothing spray options

Permethrin Clothing Spray is an Off Insect Repellent for clothes. It also repels ticks which is a bonus during the summer. the spray is pretty long-term as well and will survive several rounds through the washer before you need to reapply it.

Clothing choices

Now you know what colors to go with but are there any additional options? Well, that depends on how hot you’re willing to get. Long sleeve shirts and long pants are a good way to fend off most stinging insects, as well as depriving you of the joy of hosing down the majority of your skin with bug repellent.

It’s best to stick with well-ventilated shirts and wear plenty of deodorants.

Camping gear choices

On the camping side of things, it’s difficult to control the variety of colors in all of your camping gear, however, you can control the color of the tent you decide to purchase, assuming you are camping with a tent and not an RV.

A red tent is the best but there’s more to it than just that. We all know that bugs love light as well as specific colors but when you’re camping with a red tent, you can have a light on inside the tent at all times and it won’t matter, as the red will shade it and essentially remove the light from an insect’s visible spectrum.

Screens are a good idea as well and, fortunately, most tents come with some sort of bug repellent screen, whether it’s a part of the tent windows or the tent porch.

You can always go all out and just buy everything in red, but that would get a little boring after a while.

What colors do spiders hate?

A picture of my female Avicularia sp Kwitara.
Photo by Julian Schultz / Unsplash

You can lump spiders into the slightly broader category of arachnids, which includes ticks and scorpions. These aren’t insects but to most people enjoying the great outdoors, they might as well be.

Light blue is the color of choice if you want to avoid spiders and their arachnid cousins. For some reason, this particular color is so loathsome to spiders that people paint their porches light blue because it effectively puts out the “No Trespassing” sign for these eight-eyed and eight-legged horrors.

There is also an additional benefit to wearing light blue. Wasps hate it. Since most outdoor aficionados hate wasps as well, it’s worth considering that baby blue shirt on your next outing.

Green happens to be a spider’s favorite color and, depending on how dark it is, will probably attract more than just spiders. The good news is that spiders are easier to avoid outdoors altogether because they are mostly nocturnal, even though their tick cousins could care less what time of day it is when they crawl up your ankle.

Additional insect repellents that will accommodate your colors

If you just hate the scent of bug spray and the color red, there are a few other ways to get rid of the bugs on your bike ride, backpacking venture, or camping trip.

  • Essential oils
  • Vinegar
  • Dryer sheets

While essential oils like lemongrass, eucalyptus, and peppermint aren’t going to smell terrific in your clothes, they’re a far cry better than Off repellent or some other generic brand of bug spray.

Vinegar is effective as well, though you should probably dilute it before. you spray down your pack but don’t bother putting any of it on your clothes.

The one option that smells better than all the rest is dryer sheets. Bugs don’t like the smell of it and it’s a lot better than vinegar, by a long shot.

Final thoughts

Red is your go-to color if you want to wear something that bugs aren’t going to pay any attention to, mainly because they can’t see it. Pastels and oranges are good choices too.

Remember to include your gear if you’re color scheming against the insect world as well. You can’t keep away every bug at the end of the day, but you can certainly diminish your overall appeal.