There’s no time like summertime to entertain outdoors. But summer also means bees, mosquitoes and ants, all of which are more than capable of ruining an outdoor meal.
While many people prefer to avoid chemical insect repellents, natural solutions such as growing certain plants, using ultrasonic devices and eating certain foods are not necessarily proven effective, according to entomologist Robert Hall of the University of Missouri. “Everybody has their own story of what worked well for them, but whether that is actually valid is a lot harder to prove,” he says.
If you’re looking to deter pests this summer without resorting to chemical means, here are three natural methods that are proven to work.
Choose the right time and location
Planning when and where you hold your gathering will help mitigate pest problems. “In many cases, insects are there at the break of day or the close of day,” says Hall. “You can avoid those insects by simply having your outdoor function either in or close to the middle of the day.”
Avoiding heavily wooded areas can also help. “On my farm, if I want to get bitten by mosquitoes during the summertime, I can do that very easily by going into the woods,” says Hall. “I can avoid those insects just by where I choose to be.”
Create a barrier
Creating a physical barrier is a time-tested method of pest reduction. “I’ve seen picnics that are set up where you have a large, screened-in tent where the sides are screened mesh,” says Hall. “That probably is the most practical solution, but it does require that you get a big tent with mosquito netting.”
If a tent isn’t an option, you could wear clothing that acts as an insect screen. “You can try to keep the insects off you by wearing long-sleeved clothing,” says Hall. “Tuck your trousers into your socks to try to seal off that [area] as a place where insects can climb onto you. You can wear a hat with a head net. You can do a variety of things.”
Set up fans
Running fans in your backyard to generate a breeze can also help. “The idea of using fans and recognizing that natural air currents will deter weak-flying insects, including mosquitoes, has long been recognized,” says Hall.
Just be sure it’s not too strong a breeze to cause discomfort to your guests. “If you’re going to have a picnic and it’s a warm afternoon and it’s dead still and you’re able to set up some fans, why not?” says Hall. “It probably will make the environment more pleasant, and if it cuts down on the insect activity, that’s an added bonus.”
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