We love being outside in the summertime for a backyard barbecue or an evening gathering around the fire pit. Unfortunately, the bugs love it too. If you’re tired of itchy mosquitos, armies of ants, and other pesky pests, read on. We’ve got the answer for what bugs you!
Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks to keep backyard bugs away.
1. Start with scents.
Bugs hate strong smells of mint and citrus. They’re also not fond of some other scents. Here are some ways to use these smells against them.
- Put mint-flavored mouthwash in a spray bottle and spray your tables, chairs, and patio perimeter.
- Place a few drops of essential oils on cotton balls and place them around your entertaining area. Choose scents of peppermint, citrus, lavender, or eucalyptus.
- Make fly-repelling sachets of potpourri using cloves and bay leaves.
- Burn a citronella torch or candle. Citronella is made from bug repellant grasses and helps to mask the smell of carbon dioxide and human lactic acid, both of which attract some bugs.
2. Place your plants.
Some herbs and flowers are natural pest deterrents. Bringing them into your garden and around your entertaining areas can help keep bugs at bay. These plants are often bug-specific.
- To protect against mosquitoes, try basil, catnip, lavender, citronella, lemon-scented geraniums, lemon thyme, marigold, and rosemary plants.
- To ward off flies, try basil, catnip, and lavender plants.
- For moths and fleas, use lavender.
- Chrysanthemums help protect against roaches, ants, ticks, and fleas.
- Garlic and rosemary plants can repel biting insects.
- A chive and lemongrass garden can ward off other pests.
3. Mind your mulch.
Too much mulch gives cockroaches and ants the perfect home for nesting. You don’t want that too near your entertainment area or your home.
- Keep mulch at least 12 inches from the foundation.
- Consider replacing mulch with inorganic rock or gravel.
- Do make sure to have some mulch, grass, or ground covering. Yellow jackets make their nests by tunneling into bare dirt.
4. Turn on the fan.
Fans work in two ways to keep mosquitos away. Mosquitos aren’t strong fliers and so the breeze can prevent them from getting close. Fans also help disperse carbon dioxide and other chemical cues that mosquitos use to locate their hosts.
- Turn on the patio fan or bring a portable fan outside. Both will work. Set them on medium or high settings.
- Oscillating fans may be even more effective, as they help to move the air in different directions.
- Consider several fans blowing in different directions to cover your entertaining area.
5. Redo your outdoor lighting.
Bright white or bluish lights attract insects because they emit shorter wavelengths. Bulbs that burn hotter also attract their share of bugs. Switch your outdoor lighting to reduce the number of your nightly “visitors.”
- Replace white light bulbs with longer wavelength colors like yellow ones. The orange or yellowish glow is less visible to some insects.
- Replace your incandescent and halogen bulbs, which give off a lot of heat, for ones that don’t. LED and fluorescent bulbs emit much less heat than others with the same wattage.
- Reduce the wattage. Rather than 100 watts, try 60. Dimmer bulbs are harder for insects to see.
Pro Tip: If you are using older LED bulbs, you will need to replace them. Early versions had a coating that gave off more heat than current models.
6. Address standing water.
Standing water is the perfect nursery for mosquitos, gnats, and other bugs. Make sure you don’t have any standing water on your property, or if you do, take steps to eliminate or reduce the risk.
- Remove standing water from gutters and downspouts.
- Keep kiddie pools, buckets, and watering cans empty when they are not in use.
- Get a birdbath with running water to reduce the chance of mosquitoes breeding.
- Treat standing water with mosquito dunk pellets. This will allow them to fly but they will be sterile and cannot reproduce.
7. Build a bat house.
Attracting the predators that eat bugs can help you naturally reduce the insect population. One small bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquitoes an hour, which is a great reason to buy or build a bat house.
- Buy or build one that is at least 24 inches high by 16 inches wide.
- Bats prefer to roost on buildings or concrete structures rather than trees. It helps protect them against their predators.
- Mount the house at least 10 feet off the ground and 20-30 feet from the nearest tree if possible.
- The location should have a nearby water source and at least 6 hours of daily sun.
8. Build a bug trap.
Commercial bug traps are available, but it’s easy to make your own from materials that you probably already have around the house. Put your bug trap outside a few hours before you entertain or anytime you want a bug-free area.
- Start with a 2-liter soda bottle. Take off its cap and throw that away.
- Measure about 4 inches from the top of the spout and mark that. Use that line to cut around the bottle so that it is now in 2 pieces.
- Insert the spout inside the open top so it points back down to the bottom.
- Tape the pieces together to seal them.
- Fill with soda or a sweet liquid to attract bugs, bees, wasps, etc.
Pro Tip: Fill a small bowl of apple cider vinegar and mix in a few drops of dish detergent. The scent will attract fruit flies and the soap will create a barrier that prevents their escape.
9. Keep it clean.
Keeping your patio or deck clean will help deter bugs. That’s because any morsel of food or sticky substance can attract them.
- Sweep any crumbs. Wipe away spilled liquid.
- Make sure all your garbage cans and recycling bins have covers to prevent breeding flies. Move them away from your entertaining spots.
- Fill a spray bottle with a mixture of one part hydrogen peroxide to two parts water. Spray your patio or deck surface and perimeter. Be careful not to mix this with food or drinks.
- Ticks like to hide in tall grass so keep your grass mowed and maintain your lawn. Trim back bushes or tree branches that touch your home, and which help pests get inside.
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