This section is from the book "Camping And Woodcraft", by Horace Kephart. Also available from Amazon: Camping and Woodcraft.
If ants are troublesome about camp, try to find the nest by following the workers; then pour kerosene or boiling water into it. Red pepper or oil of sassafras sprinkled about may discourage them, but repellent substances are not to be depended upon. Kerosene is the sovereign remedy.
A good smudge is raised by using cedar " cigars," made as follows: Take long strips of cedar bark and bunch them together into a fagot six or eight inches in diameter, about one strip in three being dry and the others water-soaked ; bind them with strips of the inner bark of green cedar. Ignite one end at the camp-fire, and set up two or more such cigars on different sides of the camp, according as the wind may shift. Punky wood piled on a bed of coals is also good. The ammoniacal vapors from a smudge of dried cow-dung is particularly effective. I have elsewhere referred to smudges made of dried toadstools ; these are peculiarly repellent to punkies. A toadstool as large as one's two fists will hold fire for six or eight hours. A piece of one can be carried suspended by a string around one's neck, the burning end out. If the fungus is too damp at first, it can soon be dried out by placing it before the fire.
Scorpions are not uncommon as far north as Missouri. I often used to find them in the neighborhood of St. Louis — little red fellows about 4 inches long. In the southwest, where they abound, they grow to a length of 6 or 7 inches. They hide by day under flat rocks, in dead trees, and in moist, dark places generally, and do their foraging at night. They are very belligerent, always fighting to the death. They carry their tails curled upward and forward, and can only strike upward and backward. They are sometimes unpleasantly familiar around camp, especially in rainy weather, having a penchant for crawling into bedding, boots, coat sleeves, trousers legs, etc.
The sting of a small scorpion is about as severe as that of a hornet; that of a large one is more serious, but never fatal, so far as I know, except to small children. After a person is stung a few times he is inoculated, and proof against the poison thereafter. If you get stung, take a hollow key or small tube, press the hollow with force over the puncture, causing the poison and a little blood to exude, hold firmly in place for several minutes, and, if the scorpion was a large one, you have a good excuse for drinking all the whiskey you want. Ordinarily a quid of moist tobacco locally applied eases the pain and reduces the swelling. Tobacco juice, by the way, is fatal to scorpions, tarantulas, and centipedes, and will set a snake crazy.
An uncommonly severe bite should be treated like snake-bite (see Volume II).
I first witnessed the leaping powers of a tarantula one night when I was alone in a deserted log cabin in southern Missouri. The cabin had not been occupied for fifteen years, and there was no furniture in it. I had scarcely made my bed on the board floor when a tornado struck the forest. It was a grand sight, but scared me stiff. Well, the electric plant was working finely; just then, the lightning being almost a continuous glare. A tarantula that spread as broad as my hand jumped out of the straw that I was lying on and — it was hard to tell which was quicker, he or the lightning. He seemed disturbed about something. Not being able to fight the tornado, I took after the big spider with an old stumpy broom that happened to be in the cabin. When the broom would land at one side of the room, the tarantula would be on the other side. I was afraid he would spring for my face, but presently he popped into a hole somewhere, and vanished. The cabin somehow stuck to terra firma, and I returned to my pallet.
The tarantula's habits are similar to the scorpion's. The fangs are in its mouth. The bite is very severe, but not fatal to an adult. Cases of men being injured by either of these venomous arachnids are extremely rare, considering the abundance of the pests in some countries, and their habit of secreting themselves in clothes and bedding. If you want to see a battle royal, drop a scorpian and a tarantula into the same box. They will spring for each other in a flash, and both are absolutely game to the last.
I have had no personal experience with centipedes. Paul Fountain says:
"The centipedes were an intolerable nuisance for they had a nasty habit of hiding among the bed-clothes and under the pillows, attracted there to prey on the bugs, as I suppose; one evil as a set-off to another. But the centipedes were something more than a mere nuisance. It is all very well to be blandly told by gentlemen who think they know all about it that the bites of centipedes and scorpions are not dangerous. It may not be particularly dangerous to have a red-hot wire applied to your flesh, but it is confoundedly painful. Yet that is to be preferred to a centipede bite, which will not only make you dance at the time of infliction, but leave a painful swelling for many dav? after, accompanied by great disturbance of the system".
The cowpunchers' remedy for centipede bites, ac-. wording to Mr. Hough, was " a chaw of tobacco on the outside and a horn of whiskey on the inside, both repeated frequently. "
In northern woods the porcupine is a common nuisance. It is a stupid beast, devoid of rear, and an inveterate camp marauder. You may kick it or club it unmercifully, yet it will return again and again to forage and destroy. The " porky " has an insistent craving for salt, and will gnaw anything that has the least saline flavor, anything that perspiring hands have touched, such as an axe-handle, a gunstock, a canoe paddle, and will ruin the article. He is also fond of leather, and will chew up your saddle, bridle, shoes, gloves, belts, the sweat-band of your hat, or any sweaty cloth or rope. Foodstuffs that are salty or greasy are never safe from him unless hung up on wires-Porcupine quills, being barbed, are hard to extract. When they break off they work deep into the flesh. They are poisonous, in a way, and cause severe pain.