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If you spent the past year transforming your backyard into a sanctuary space during quarantine, chances are you’ll cherish it just as much this summer.
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Since this outdoor space is where your summer memories are made, the last thing you want to think about is the intruding insects you may encounter—ticks, mosquitoes, flying insects, oh my. Not only are they annoying to deal with, but they can cause you serious illnesses like EEE and Lyme.
Pesticides are a go-to for many homeowners, and they're full of pros and cons. Spraying your yard with an insecticide ahead of prime season can be an effective preventative measure. Derek Gaughan, founder of Bug Lord, recommends using a product with the active ingredient bifenthrin; this is an insecticide that combats several backyard bugs, including ticks, ants, flies, and mosquitoes.
With this said, many homeowners—especially those with children—want to avoid exposure to harmful chemicals and toxins. Several insecticides are also considered toxic to cats and dogs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, there are environmental reasons to avoid pesticides, including harm to birds, fish, aquatic invertebrates, and pollinators like honeybees.
Whether you choose to use a pesticide or not, there are plenty of other ways to take the offense against these pests. Here are several ways to keep mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects out of your outdoor sanctuary.
1. Add bug-repelling tech to your backyard
If an insecticide isn’t for you, or it is and you are looking for additional bug-repelling tactics, a few high-tech products can make a difference.
Try an outdoor bug zapper. These do not emit any scent or sound; rather, they work by luring insects to a UV light, which then electrocutes them. Zappers can be effective, in the right environment.
“The only downside is they're only really effective at night,” says Gaughan. “If you have competing light sources, like street lights or porch lights, they won't be as effective.”
Gaughan suggests looking for a bug zapper with a UV lamp, which makes it most effective in luring surrounding bugs. Dynatrap’s sleek flying insect trap easily blends in on a patio or deck, and it also passively emits carbon dioxide, which attracts even more insects.
Different from a bug zapper, a fuel-powered repeller burns repellent into the air once you power it on. This flameless Thermacell repeller protects up to 15 feet with silent, chemical-free repellent, making it best for relaxed hangouts in a smaller outdoor space.
2. Replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs
If your patio or deck is adorned with twinkling string lights, you may want to rethink the bulbs you’re using. There’s no doubt that bugs will be attracted to light sources no matter what, but more so to bright and hot lights more than other styles.
Gaughan suggests switching out any traditional incandescent bulbs with warm-colored LEDs, like orange or yellow hues. These outdoor LED string lights create a warmer glow than an incandescent counterpart.
3. Use citronella as a bug repellent
Whether city dwellers or country folk, most consumers have used citronella candles in their outdoor space. These are an easy and affordable option, and while these candles aren’t nearly as powerful as bug zappers or insecticides, they are a more atmospheric option that fits seamlessly with your outdoor decor.
This set of ornate soy wax citronella candles sold at Amazon burns with notes of the green citrus and fresh clean fragrance. Each has a burning time of 26-30 hours. For maximum and widespread citronella power, try buying a large pack of citronella tea light candles.
Another, much more natural, citronella option is to stock your outdoor space with citronella plants, whether you have a few of the annuals in pots, or plant them around your patio.
4. Get physical with a patio enclosure
You can physically keep bugs out of your patio paradise with a patio enclosure. These are typically built with a mesh screen that blocks bugs while still allowing sunshine or moonlight and a cool breeze to flow through.
This pop-up gazebo is the perfect portable option for those who don’t want to commit to a constructed enclosure in the backyard. For something more permanent, this aluminum patio enclosure features sliding windows and doors for easy access to the rest of your outdoor space.
For something more custom, work with a contractor or even consider the DIY route in building a patio screen enclosure for your backyard. Fiberglass screening like this one keeps bugs and mosquitoes out and can be installed on your own.
5. Groom your yard
One of the best ways to keep bugs out is by tidying up what you already have in your outdoor area. “Preventative maintenance is the best repellent,” says Gaughan.
Mosquitoes love standing water, so it’s no surprise that among the most common insect attractions are your outdoor potted plants—specifically, any plant drainage tray that may be holding onto water.
The same goes for your garbage cans. These are enticing hot spots for bugs and pests alike, so make sure your garbage can lids are secured tightly to avoid any intruders from hanging out inside.
Lastly, Gaughan says keeping a clean and well-maintained lawn does wonders for preventing mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. Don’t let grass grow unruly—keep it at a short length with minimal weed and plant clutter.
6. Spray yourself with bug repellent
For protecting yourself from buzzing and bites, you’ll need a personal, body bug spray.
Gaughan suggests using a DEET repellent spray, which the Environmental Protection Agency states does “not present a health concern” for humans. This one from Ben’s claims to provide 10 hours of protection against tick and mosquito bites.
For a more natural solution, look toward a plant-based repellent like the oil of lemon eucalyptus. Gaughan recommends a spray like this one by Repel—it’s DEET-free and provides protection without that sticky or greasy feeling.
Try Avon’s Skin So Soft Bath Oil, which is an old favorite among moms. It also has an interesting origin story as a bug repellent—as in, it wasn’t meant to be one. The bath oil has glowing reviews for keeping mosquitoes away.
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This article originally appeared on Reviewed: How to repel bugs: Best way to get rid of backyard insects