You and your family can’t get enough of the summer sunshine. You’ve already gone swimming, hiking, biking, camping, and more in celebration of the glorious weather. And the next item on your summer checklist is to have a picnic. But last year’s picnic was a disaster. The ants snuck into your sandwiches. The wasps hovered dangerously close to your drinks. And the mosquitoes left you so swollen with bites that you were scratching miserably for days. What can you do to ensure your next picnic stays pest-free? Try the following seven techniques.
- Light Citronella Candles
Citronella candles do more than add a romantic glow to your picnic. Studies (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8827606) shows that 3% citronella and 5% citronella candles and incense naturally repel mosquitoes. Individuals who placed citronella incense and candles nearby received 24.2% and 42.3% (respectively) fewer bites than those who did not. Keep in mind that citronella does not kill mosquitoes, nor does it offer complete protection against bug bites. But it works wonders when used in conjunction with additional pest-control techniques.
- Bring a Small Fan
According to the American Mosquito Control Association, mosquitoes are relatively weak fliers. They can only fly about 1 to 1.5 mph, depending on the species. If you place a large fan on your deck or patio, the stronger breeze will push the mosquitoes away with no difficulty. Furthermore, mosquitoes rely on carbon dioxide exhalations to pinpoint their prey. When you sit near an oscillating fan, the breeze disperses the carbon dioxide you breathe out, making you more difficult to spot.
- Don’t Forget the Lids
Soda and other sugary drinks attract pests almost as soon as you take your first sip. To keep bugs at bay, cover all your drinks with tightly sealed lids. This limits the smell and stops the insects from contaminating your drinks. Have a cup but no lid? Put an upside down cupcake liner over the cup’s opening. Then push your straw through the lining. Although the lid won’t create an airtight seal, it will discourage bees, wasps, and other bugs from sneaking a sip. In addition to covering your cups, don’t forget to store all your food in airtight containers. As with cups, you can make your own coverings for other dishes with plastic shower caps. Stretch the elastic around each container, and only remove the covering when you feel ready for another snack. If you spill a drink or drop food, clean the mess quickly so the bugs don’t have time to pick up the scent. And store all your garbage in a plastic bag.
- Try a Mesh Cover or Mosquito Netting
Although you can take the time to cover each dish individually, you still leave your friends and family exposed to the bites and stings of insects. If you want additional protection from the insects, consider draping a large mesh covering or mosquito netting around the area. The thin cover will still let you enjoy those summer breezes and sunshine-without those pesky bites and stings.
- Stay Away from Standing Water
Insects thrive in moist environments. Puddles, lakes, and other forms of standing water attract them from miles around. Mosquitoes, in particular, need standing water to lay their eggs and complete their lifecycle. To ensure your backyard stays pest-free for your picnic, empty, drain, or remove any items that can hold water after a rain. Turn over any tires, watering cans, or buckets to prevent dew and moisture from collecting in them. Empty any kiddie or wading pools on a weekly basis, and cover your swimming pool when it’s not in use. If you have any low points in your yard that refuse to drain after a rain, have an expert install a catch basin or drain. Just be sure the water doesn’t drain into someone else’s property. And contact your city management before you connect your drain to any municipal drainage system.
- Avoid Certain Times of Day
Mosquitoes tend to be most active during dawn and dusk, when the air is calm. So don’t let your late afternoon picnic extend too long into the evening hours. Additionally, the common housefly becomes most active when temperatures reach between 80 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep flies away from your picnic, you’ll want to avoid the hottest parts of the day. Although the sun is at its highest point at noon, the average temperature doesn’t peak until between 3 and 4:30 p.m.
- Call Pest Control
With these tips and techniques, you can enjoy your picnic without any uninvited insects crashing your party. However, if you note a large number of ants, bees, mosquitoes, or spiders lingering in your backyard, call a pest control expert for an evaluation. He or she can treat any infestations and recommend additional changes to your yard to prevent further pests from bothering you.