Enjoying summer weather means putting up with some not-so-fun visitors around your home and yard. Here are some tips for getting rid of, or at least coexisting comfortably with, insect pests that can find their way inside your home or make eating dinner, entertaining, or working outdoors a challenge.
If your kitchen welcomes a parade of ants each year looking for a snack, they could be nesting inside the walls of your home or sending out food scouts from outside. If you find that the ants are living inside, you will need to either call a professional exterminator or use toxic bait that the ants will carry back to the nest. If you can’t find evidence of an ant nest indoors, the best defense is to remove any of the tiniest traces of food in cabinets, on countertops or on the floor that will encourage them to come back. Ants leave a scent trail for others to follow that can’t be eliminated with soap and water. Spray the areas where you have seen ants with a mixture of one part vinegar to 3 parts water, or a mixture of lemon juice and water. Other natural barriers you can try and sprinkle along windowsills, under doors and along exterior walls include crushed chalk, food grade diatomaceous earth, salt, cinnamon, or peppermint oil. The texture and/or scent of these materials will set up borders ants don’t want to cross.
Spraying your skin and clothes with insect repellent is the best line of defense against mosquito bites when you are outside this time of year. To keep mosquitoes around your deck or patio to a minimum, eliminate or change out standing water that collects in pots or birdbaths, use fans to circulate air, and light tiki torches or a fire pit to create some smoke that deters the insects. Body heat and carbon dioxide attract mosquitoes, which is why light colored and lightweight clothing will offer more protection than dark clothing. The jury still seems to be out on whether citronella candles effectively keep mosquitoes away, but citronella oil and other essential oil mixtures such as lemon eucalyptus and cedar can repel insects when sprayed outdoors. Other fragrant plants that can work to keep mosquitoes away are rosemary, basil, catnip, marigolds and bee balm, so try and plant these in beds or pots around your house.
Ticks are probably the most talked about insect these days due to concerns about Lyme disease and other tick- borne illnesses. Ticks are found where there are also deer and mice, so installing deer-proof fencing and plants and removing prime mouse habitat like wood piles and leaf litter can help reduce the tick population around your yard. If your property abuts a wooded area, you can keep ticks out of your yard by laying a 3-foot-wide path of bark mulch of gravel along the property line. Ticks prefer shady and moist terrain, so keep trees cut back and your lawn cut regularly.
Like ticks, fleas don’t like hot, sunny weather. But they also don’t like lots of water. Lots of heavy rain will naturally kill fleas in your lawn. When the weather dries up, keep grass cut short and periodically flood your lawn with a hose to keep the flea population down. If you own a dog or cat that goes outside, make sure they are being treated with a preventative flea medication. Otherwise, you will be doing battle with these tiny insects indoors all year long. Check areas of the yard where your pet likes to lounge — try walking around in white socks to see if you spot any of the tiny insects hitching a ride. If you choose to resort to an insecticide spray, you can concentrate on the areas of your property where fleas are a problem.
There’s no need to let Mother Nature’s tiniest critters keep you from enjoying outdoor activities this summer. Keeping up with yard work, lighting some candles or an outdoor fire pit, and planting a few beneficial plants can all add to the ambiance of your outside spaces as well as deter summer pests.