Do You Need Bug Spray in Big Sur?

How would you like to spend time in one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world? Everything about Big Sur is refreshing and rewarding to adventurists of all kinds. Whether you want to hike, explore, camp, or swim in Big Sur, the environment in this rugged and mountainous region is just great. Unfortunately, you may be forced to share your adventure with pesky bugs!

Do you need bug spray in Big Sur? Bug spray is a must in Big Sur. There are numerous mosquitoes and ticks which can bite and transmit various diseases. Additionally, there are other bugs such as centipedes, millipedes, spiders, and scorpions whose bites can cause irritation, pain, swelling, and in some instances, cause very serious allergic reactions.

In this article, I have highlighted mosquitoes and other common bugs in Big Sur. I have also gone further and given a few tips on how you can combine some measures with the use of bug spray to protect yourself.

Are there Mosquitoes in Big Sur?

There are plenty of mosquitoes in Big Sur. The reason being is that Big Sur has natural and seasonal water areas where mosquitoes breed easily. Once they mature, mosquitoes can fly for long distances away from their breeding sites and hide successfully in Big Sur’s vast wilderness waiting for the right time to attack. 

Mosquitoes are not only noisy: their bites cause itchy bumps on your skin that can take several days to clear. Worse still, they can transmit numerous diseases among them malaria, Zika, West Nile virus, dengue fever, elephantiasis, and yellow fever.

Mosquitoes feed on nectar but the females also feed on blood because they need a protein found in the blood in order to make eggs. 

While there are mosquitoes in Big Sur all year round, they are especially abundant in May and June, the last month of spring and the first month of summer respectively.

Notably, it rains in winter (Dec-Feb) and spring (March-May), so there’s still some water remaining during these two months. Seasonal streams and creeks have also started to gradually dry up, leaving pools of stagnant water behind as summer progresses.

Mosquitoes lay fertilized eggs in stagnant water. Surprisingly, mosquitoes don’t need much water to lay eggs in. For example, they would find perfect breeding grounds in a pool of water, a can with a little rainwater, or even an old tire with water in it.

Once they mature, mosquitoes don’t need water to survive. They can hide in bushy and shaded areas during the day and get active from the evening into the night. Additionally, they can travel a long way and they live for 5-14 days or more. 

That said, you don’t need to be near water to get bitten by mosquitoes in Big Sur. As long as they have places to breed, they can spread out over large areas looking for hosts.

Related: A Complete US National Park List

Are there Bugs in Big Sur?

There are numerous bugs in Big Sur but only mosquitoes will bite on purpose. The rest will only attack if they feel threatened. Even so, most are venomous enough to cause serious allergic reactions.

So, which bugs are you likely to encounter in Big Sur?



Are there ticks in Big Sur? Ticks are common in Big Sur in areas with natural vegetation and wildlife. In Big Sur, there are different types of ticks. Besides causing irritation and leaving bumps on your skin, one, in particular, known as the western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) transmits the Lyme disease, a bacterial infection that affects joints, muscles, and the immune system.

Ticks stay on the tips of plants and especially grass. Then they will attach to your clothes as you pass by. Once in your clothes, they bite into your skin, suck blood, and remain attached.

If you find a tick on your skin, remove it with tweezers and apply an antiseptic on your skin.

Centipedes and Millipedes


Are there centipedes and millipedes in Big Sur? Centipedes and millipedes are common bugs in Big Sur. They are multi-legged creatures characterized by segmented bodies. They are found in dark and damp places. They especially do very well when the climate is wet. While centipedes are aggressive towards their prey, they are generally not aggressive towards humans. 

The difference between the two is that centipedes have one set of legs per each body segment (located on each side of the body) while millipedes have two sets for each segment (located on the underside of their bodies).

Centipedes feed on insects and worms and produce venom to paralyze their prey.  

Nevertheless, they may bite if provoked. Their bites can be very painful and can cause swelling. Also, their venom can lead to severe allergic reactions, especially if people are allergic to bee and wasp stings.

Millipedes on the other hand eat decomposing plant materials. They are not poisonous but they produce an acidic defensive spray that can cause a burning sensation in your skin. They live in damp places and you are likely to find them in places with rotting plants.


Jumping spider

Are there spiders in Big Sur? In Big Sur, it is common to encounter different kinds of spiders. Examples include different species of tarantulas, black and brown widows, the jumping spiders, and camel spiders.

Tarantulas have large and hairy bodies while the black and brown widows have definitive hour-glass shapes. The jumping spider, as the name suggests, jumps. The camel spider resembles a scorpion more than a spider due to its pale peachy color. The camel spider is one of the non-venomous spiders. 

Fun Fact: Did you know that jumping spiders can jump up to 50 times their bodies’ length?

Most spiders are venomous but they rarely bite unless they feel threatened. In fact, they try to get out of your way as much as possible. A tarantula may throw its defensive hair to you instead of biting you as a first defense mechanism. The hair can irritate your skin and your eyes. 

A spider’s bite is painful but not fatal. Most people will experience irritation and swelling that can go away with anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory medication. Nevertheless, some people, young children, and old people can experience some severe reactions, especially from the more venomous black and brown widows.

Spiders live in dark and quiet places so in Big Sur, you will likely find them under rocks, under trees, and in cracks. 


California Common Scorpion

Are there scorpions in Big Sur? There are over 1000 known scorpion species in the world but in Big Sur, you are more likely to encounter the California Common Scorpion (Paruroctonus silvestrii). It is yellowish with brownish tips and can be found under rocks, in the sandy coastlines, or in the forested areas of Big Sur.

Like so many other bugs in Big Sur, scorpions will only attack in self-defense and their sting though painful is not fatal. 

Other common bugs in Big Sur include bees and wasps. Notably, bug spray does not work against stinging insects and luckily, they will not come looking to sting you if you avoid disturbing them.

Tips to Protect Yourself from Mosquitoes and other bugs in Big Sur 

While using bug spray is effective against bugs in the outdoors, you can use it in combination with other measures to make your interaction with mosquitoes and other bugs as minimal as possible. As usual, I have shared tips that I have tried and tested in my adventures.

  • Use the highly recommended Bug Spray/Insect repellent; it is the first line of defense against mosquitoes, ticks, spiders, and other bugs.

Bug spray with 20-30% of DEET is effective. However, keep it from your mouth and eyes as it can cause complications. Also, you can use permethrin repellent on your clothes. It lasts through several washings.

  • Keep to the center of the trails when hiking and avoid bushy areas where bugs usually hide
  • Check yourself for ticks from time to time. If you have a pet with you, keep checking your pet for ticks as well
  • If the weather allows, wear loose clothing as it makes it easier for you to check for ticks and harder for mosquitoes to bite through
  • To stay away from bees, avoid areas with blooming plants as bees are naturally attracted to nectar
  • If you can, avoid being outdoors from dust to dawn when mosquitoes and other bugs are most active. If you are out, use bug repellent and coverup as much a possible
  • Fill up pools of stagnant water and drain any containers with water in or around the campground to discourage mosquitoes from breeding
  • Don’t leave out food leftovers. They may attract ants which then attract bigger bugs like spiders. Spiders can also attract even bigger bugs like scorpions hence creating a dangerous food chain around you.
  • Don’t go looking for trouble; apart from mosquitoes and ticks, the rest of the bugs in Big Sur will not attack you, unless they feel threatened.

Final Words

There are mosquitoes and other bugs in Big Sur. If you want to enjoy your adventure, better be prepared with a can of bug spray to keep these bugs off your back. Also, the above tips have worked for me and hopefully, you can also enjoy your time in Big Sur without sharing it with bugs.

Recent Posts