For most of us, summer means barbecues, trips to the beach, and as much time spent outside as possible. Unfortunately, summer can also mean insects, and that means bites, rashes, and stings – not to mention a ruined picnic or two.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to keep the bugs away so you don’t have to spend the summer indoors or constantly searching for ways to beat the bugs.
Mosquitoes are one of the most common summer bugs, and with the increase in insect-borne diseases like the Zika virus, it’s become more important than ever to avoid getting bitten.
The best defense against these bloodthirsty pests is to keep them from coming in the first place. They are drawn to water, so be sure to get rid of any standing water in your yard every 24 to 48 hours. This includes kiddie pools, buckets, and even tarps that aren’t drawn taut that can collect water on them. If you have a swimming pool, proper maintenance (including adding the right chemicals, regular vacuuming, and backwashing the filter) will help prevent mosquito larvae from growing. Of course, don’t forget to get rid of standing water on the pool cover as well.
Mosquitoes aren’t only found near water, though. By keeping your grass short and clearing out leaves and debris, you take away the hiding places for mosquitoes, ticks, and other critters. And of course, using a high-quality insect repellant on yourself and your kids when you enjoy outdoor summer activities is always a good idea, especially if you are outdoors during dawn or dusk when the bugs are most active. Ideally, the repellant should contain DEET for maximum effectiveness, but natural blends with citronella and other essential oils can also be effective.
According to public health officials, cases of Lyme disease are expected to reach an all-time high in 2017, due to an explosion in the tick population. While the majority of cases of Lyme have been in the Northeast and Midwest states, ticks can be found anywhere, and present a health risk to both humans and animals.
To help keep ticks away, again, clearing away tall grass, leaves, and debris will reduce the number of insects in your yard. When you do go outside, use a bug repellant that contains DEET, and if you’re hiking or camping in heavily wooded areas, wear long pants and sleeves, a hat, and socks, preferably in a light color so that you can spot the bugs easily. When you get home, use an adhesive lint roller over your clothing to catch any small bugs (ticks can be as small as the head of a pin) and shower immediately to rinse off any stowaways. Do “tick checks” on your kids every night, paying close attention to the head and neck, and if you find an embedded tick, remove it immediately.
Generally, ticks need to be embedded for 24 hours or more to spread disease, so if you catch it quickly, there may be no need for concern. However, if you don’t know how long the bug has been there, call your doctor for advice.
Ants and Flies
Houseflies and the typical ants that we encounter in the summer tend to be more annoying than harmful, except for carpenter ants, which can do significant damage to your home, and fire ants, which will inflict painful stings on anyone unlucky enough to stumble into their nest.
Getting rid of ants generally requires to some sort of professional intervention, whether that is using poison “ant traps” from the store, or calling an exterminator. Ant traps are usually effective for the common house ant; the ant enters the trap and takes the “food” inside back to the colony, poisoning and killing ants. Because ants tend to be drawn to moisture, watch for leaks or standing water in your home and fix problems as soon as they pop up. For carpenter or fire ants, it’s best to call an exterminator to help.
The best way to deal with houseflies is to keep them outside. Keep doors closed, and check your screens for holes that can let them in. Flies can also come in on produce, so check your fresh foods carefully before you bring them home, and take out the garbage regularly to avoid attracting them indoors. If you do get a pesky fly, a good old-fashioned fly swatter can take care of the issue, or you can invest in an electric version to catch more bugs. You can also set out fly traps, using sticky fly paper or a homemade version using a jar, paper cone, and something sweet, like honey.
Insects are as much a part of summer as s’mores, but they are a lot less fun. Don’t let them ruin your day though – use repellant and get rid of water and debris, and you won’t have as many issues.