Keeping Your Yard Safe from Bugs and Bites

Summertime is in full swing, which means grass and weeds are growing and bugs and pests are thriving. Some of the best parts of summer are gardens, flowers, and the time spent outside; however, bug bites and other pests can ruin the fun quickly. There are things you can do to prevent pests from chasing you indoors or ruining your garden crop.

When faced with pest problems, most people first think of insecticides and pesticides for keeping bugs at bay. While these are effective at stopping pests, they are poisonous to people and animals as well. Most pesticide brands do make organic versions that are made with plant parts rather than harmful chemicals. However, these are often more expensive than their synthetic counterparts. If you have pets or small children, however, it's worth the extra money to keep everyone safe.

Maintenance First

While you may need to call an exterminator for truly bad infestations, there are many natural ways to keep your yard and garden free from annoying bugs and pests. Begin with proper yard maintenance. By eliminating any standing water, you can quickly eliminate the most unwelcome summer guest: the mosquito. Pooling water can occur because of thatching, the mat of dead grass and debris that forms a web on your lawn, making it difficult for water to drain. To remedy thatching, you can either aerate your lawn or use a dethatcher.

Another problem is poor drainage due to the slope of the yard. This problem can be more costly to fix as it often requires having your yard professionally graded. Standing water can also occur in gutters and drains if they are not regularly and properly cleaned out. Piles of leaves and other yard/garden debris can also be breeding grounds for mosquitoes and other pests.

Even with the best prevention, some mosquitoes will probably still lurk about, especially if it’s been a rainy summer. Most conventional bug sprays contain DEET, a chemical that has been linked with a host of health issues including cancer, birth defects, and seizures. Instead of slathering on the poisonous repellent, try a natural method to deter mosquitoes from preying on you and your family.

Natural Methods

There are quite a few oils and extracts in natural bug deterrent combinations that have proven effective in repelling mosquitoes. Oil of lemon eucalyptus is said to be the most effective, but oil of citronella, soybean oil, and lavender oil are all capable repellents as well. Citronella, while effective for some, can cause rashes on sensitive skin. Mosquitoes are attracted to fragrances and dark colors, so wear lighter-colored clothing and ditch the perfumes and colognes if you are going to be spending time outdoors. There are also Natural Insect Repellents,

Certain plants are also deterrents for mosquitoes. Tansys, Marigolds, Lemon Grass, Citronella Grass, Catnip, and Garlic are all uninviting for mosquitoes.

Mosquitoes are not the only pest that can be discouraged from making your yard and garden a permanent hang out. Aphids and potato beetles, both common garden pests, hate aromatic herbs such as mint, fennel, basil, and lemongrass. In fact, some of these herbs not only repel the pests, but they invite the predators that eat the pests.

Beneficial Bugs

To attract beneficial bugs to your garden, try planting herbs. Dill, caraway, coriander, and fennel all attract Lacewings, which eat aphids, mites, and other insect eggs. Ladybugs, especially the young ones who are not able to fly yet, are excellent garden denizens. Again, herbs attract them, but so do marigolds, sunflowers, and yellow-leaf ferns. Queen Anne's Lace, Lavender, and types of daisies attract hoverflies, which most people mistake for bees. Hoverflies lay eggs that hatch into maggots that devour mealy bugs, aphids, and other pests.

Other good predators for your garden include bats, lizards, toads, and snakes. You can attract bats to your garden by placing a few bat boxes at differing heights, facing different directions. Bats also like woodsy areas, so if possible, place your garden near woods. Snakes are easy to attract. They love a place to hide, so create ample spots using pieces of wood or an old stump or rock piles near your garden.

While bats will go to work on bugs at night, birds can also help rid your yard of unwanted pests. Warblers and swallows are known to dine on mosquitoes. To invite birds, put up some bird feeders.

When the natural predators and plant deterrents don't cut it anymore, it could be time for a spray. Luckily, there are quite a few natural recipes to try at home before spending the big bucks on organic stuff from the store. For general pest control, use heavily scented roots and spices such as cayenne, horseradish, mint, onions, etc. and boil them in just enough water to cover them. Then let them sit over night. Strain the liquid and discard the solid. This will keep for several weeks unless it freezes. Using garlic only will deter pests such as rabbits and deer.

You don't have to spray your yard and garden with chemicals that could harm not only bugs, but your family and pets as well. With a few adjustments, the addition of certain plants, and the placement of herbs in your garden, you can work to get rid of the bad and welcome the good.

Insect Bite Relief & Insect Repellents

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