Is your backyard protected by an iron dome? I’m guessing your answer is “no.” And if that’s the case, you’re going to have bugs. It’s inevitable.
Some of these bugs may only be annoying. Some may threaten you with pain. And some may be dangerous, disease-carrying bugs that could put you, your family or your guests in the hospital. Not to mention your pets.
Some bugs fly and others crawl. But all of them seem to have the same goal when they enter your property. They want to make you miserable and take the fun out of your backyard ventures.
There are a number of ways to try to control the bug population in your backyard. The problem is, most of them are either not effective enough or potentially more dangerous than the bugs themselves. Let’s go over a few of them.
Most bug repellants work to a certain degree. But they’re usually filled with harmful chemicals. And most of them don’t smell great. Your choices for mosquitos, for example, are over-the-counter sprays and rub-on’s containing DEET.
Among the brand names are Repel, Bug Shield and Cutter. They may be endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But you’ll get some unwanted chemicals with them.
DEET is the most popular insect repellant in America. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Among the biggest complaints against DEET is skin irritation and reactions.
If you’re going to use a repellant, apply it to feet, ankles, lower legs and wrists. Mosquitos like those thin-skinned areas because they can get to your blood easier. But wash it off thoroughly when you go back inside. Better yet, make your own concoction with natural ingredients.
Candles and torches
Another option is the citronella candle. It masks scents that are attractive to mosquitos. But because the oil evaporates quickly, these candles are usually only effective for a couple of hours.
Citronella is distilled from two types of grass. These candles have not been evaluated by the Environmental Protection Agency because they are considered a “minimum risk” pesticide.
Malaria Journal says citronella candles reduce mosquito bites by only about 50 percent. And the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals lists them as poisonous to dogs. They also present a fire hazard.
Tiki torches are a popular party decoration that can create a tropical island aesthetic. They also contain citronella oil that can confuse mosquitos.
The oil hinders their ability to smell the carbon dioxide and lactic acids that attract them to humans and animals. Perhaps the biggest drawback is that Tiki torches have very little range. Maybe six to seven feet.
Some folks hire professionals to try to make their backyard bug free. These services can be effective. But they can also be expensive. They normally use chemicals that can be harmful for you and your pets.
That’s because they use pesticides. There are many different pesticides and they contain different levels of toxicity. There’s no question they kill most bugs – including harmless ones. But some have been linked to serious health issues.
Pesticides can be found in DEET, weed killers, herbicides and even your wooden deck. A pesticide called Chromated Copper Arsenate is often used to prevent wood from rotting.
Pesticides can cause a number of problems. They can leech into groundwater and other water sources. This can throw the ecosystem off balance. Some pesticides turn into a gas or vapor after being sprayed, allowing them to travel through the air.
In addition to all the outdoor issues with pesticides, there are indoor problems to consider. Pesticides used in your backyard can easily be tracked into your home from your footwear.
What to do if you’re bitten
Below are a few tips for what to do if you are bitten by a bug. Despite whichever precautions you take.
First, clean the area with mild soap and water to remove contaminated particles. Next, apply an ice pack to the area to reduce swelling.
The most common side effect of a bug bite is itching. Acquire an over-the-counter product BEFORE you spend time outdoors that will help with this.
Such as hydrocortisone creams including Cortaid and Cortizone. Or topical and oral antihistamines such as Benadryl. Or calamine/zinc oxide such as Calamine lotion.
Another way to make a bite more tolerable and speed up the healing process is not scratching the itch. This is much easier said than done.
Even if you’re disciplined enough to avoid scratching an itch from a bite all day, some bites itch so much we scratch them in our sleep.
Scratching will irritate the area at best, and break the skin at worst. Which increases the chances of an added infection. If your condition has not improved after several days, you may want to consult a physician.
Of course, prevention is the best medicine. So protect yourself before going outdoors with an effective bug zapper. Also, be careful about disturbing the habitat of bugs in your backyard and in wooded areas.
If you do see a bug on you, brush it off as quickly as possible rather than smacking it. That latter action could send its stinger into your skin. And examine yourself after returning to your home to make sure no bugs such as ticks are on your body.
In most areas of the country, there is still plenty of time to enjoy the great outdoors this year. But take back control of your backyard from pesky bugs before you do.