Pesky insects can put a damper on summer fun, but you can keep them under control without exposing your family, pets and the environment to harmful chemicals. Here are some tips for quelling three of the most common pests with effective, all-natural remedies.
Wipe Out Wasps For Good
Wasps are very territorial about their nests, but your mom was right – if you leave them alone, they’ll usually leave you alone. Unless they’re nesting near or on your home or in other high-traffic areas, it’s a good idea to do just that because they’re a beneficial bug that preys on other insects. Take a few tips on how to co-exist peacefully with wasps:
• Keep wasps out of your home. Prevent wasps from building a nest in or on your home by sealing off the places they can get in. Repair torn screens, seal cracks around windows and doors and cover unsealed vents to keep the critters out. If you suspect they’ve already invaded but aren’t sure where, follow their flight path to discover their point of entry.
• Keep food under wraps outdoors. This applies to anything a wasp would consider food. Wasps remember where they’ve found food and will keep checking back, so don’t provide any temptation for them if you can avoid it. When dining out on the patio, keep your food covered and put it away as soon as you’re done. If you have fruit trees, don’t leave the fallen fruit on the ground. Use lids or covers on your trash cans and compost heaps, and don’t leave food out for your pet. Take extra care when drinking canned beverages outdoors or you may find a nasty surprise has gotten into it!
• Walk away from a hovering wasp. It might be tempting to swat a hovering wasp, but crushing them releases a pheromone scent that attracts and agitates other wasps, encouraging them to swarm. If a wasp is hovering nearby, a tactical retreat is usually the best option.
• Don’t use perfume or wear brightly colored clothing when spending a lot of time outdoors. Hawaiian shirts look great at a luau, but looking and smelling like a big flower has its drawbacks! Like bees, wasps feed on nectar, so avoid hues and scents that they’ll find appetizing.
Early mornings and evenings are popular times for relaxing on the porch or patio – unfortunately, these are also the times when mosquitoes are out for blood. In addition to the many effective, all-natural traps and repellents now available, here are some quick, cost-effective and all-natural fixes you can do yourself:
• Set up mosquito traps. There are mosquito traps that lure insects with heat and light (instead of chemicals) and cover a wide area. Some run on propane, some are electric, some are gas-powered. Make sure they’re up and running and doing their job before you head outdoors.
• Change the water in your birdbath, pet’s dish or child’s wading pool regularly. Mosquitoes are attracted to standing water sources, so be sure to change the water in your birdbath or child’s wading pool at least twice a week to keep the population down. Make sure your pet has fresh water at least twice a day, and keep your rain gutters clear so they drain properly. Keep an eye out for – and remove – items in your yard or garden that collect water.
• “Fan” yourself. Use an electric fan outdoors? Believe it or not, it actually works – mosquitoes are hampered by a breeze, which is why they tend to seek pockets of still air in which to congregate. When dining on the porch or patio, aim a pedestal fan at the picnic table, or a small fan at your deck chair. You’ll not only blow the pests away – you’ll enjoy a nice breeze, too!
• Ward them off. We’re not sure about vampires, but it’s a proven fact that garlic makes an effective mosquito repellent. Cool! Mix one part garlic juice with five parts water, dip some cloth strips in the mixture and hang them around your outdoor sitting area for a localized deterrent. You can also tie the cloths around your wrists or ankles to prevent bites.
• Wear bug-repellent clothing. When hiking or camping, be sure to cover all exposed areas with long-sleeved shirts and long pants with snug cuffs. Hats and jackets with fine-mesh screens are a good idea, too.
• Spice things up. Using a charcoal grill? Toss a tablespoon or so of sage or rosemary on the coals to keep mosquitoes away (it smells great, too).
• Plant marigolds. The cheerful red, gold and orange flowers are not only pretty, hardy, easy to grow and tasty (try them in your salad!), they’re natural pest repellants, too! Plant them in pots or borders along your porch or patio to deter flying insects. They’ll even keep aphids away from your vegetable garden!
Shoo Away Flies
These common household pests are more than a nuisance – they’re a health hazard. A single housefly can carry over one million bacteria. Take a few measures to control flies in your backyard and your home, and you'll be healthier for it.
• Outdoor dining. When setting a picnic or umbrella table for a meal, use a small bowl filled with sweet basil and clover as a centerpiece. Keep an open container of the mixture near your pet’s food dish, too.
• Make use of scented herbs and essential oils. Mint deters flies, is easy to grow and comes in many varieties. Harvest some of the fresh leaves, crush them, and tie them up in small squares of cheesecloth. Place these sachets around your outdoor sitting areas (as well as inside the house) to discourage flies from hanging around. Bay leaves and cloves work well, too. You can also add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to a scrap of cloth and leave it in an area where flies are a problem.
• Stick ‘em up. Flypaper may not be pretty, but it works…to make your own, dip strips of brown paper in a mixture made from ¼ cup corn syrup, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon brown sugar. Let the strips dry overnight, then hang them with thread around your porch or deck.
Tired of being bugged? Come see Plow & Hearth’s entire selection of Outdoor Problem Solvers!