Enjoy the Bug-Free Outdoors
Summer is one of my favorite seasons. I love that we can spend a bulk of our day outside doing all sorts of activities—from bike rides, to swimming to playing backyard games, there’s no shortage of things to do. This summer has already started to offer challenges, though. Bugs. While it’s virtually impossible to have a bug-free summer, this year looks to be especially troublesome. Since we had such a mild winter, there seems to be a higher incidence of the pests earlier on than in years past. Already, we’ve found a tick on our dog, ants in the house and mosquitos everywhere outside.
Keeping Ants Outside:
As a child, I recall ants being quite a nuisance. My mom tried a lot of different remedies, but the one that always stands out in my mind is cloves. My grandmother told my mom that ants will not cross cloves, so my mother lined the windows and doors with cloves, and sure enough, the ant problem was solved. While researching the internet, it became obvious that a lot of other people are using cloves with success, as well. You can buy cloves in the spice aisle of your grocery store, or you can buy them online in bulk.
While cloves are safe (people DO cook with them), I’m not sure they’re the right option for my family. I have a dog who will eat just about anything that hits the floor, and I’m afraid he’ll simply eat the cloves which will completely defeat the purpose. The method I’m getting geared up to try involves Peppermint Oil. There are several articles about the use of Peppermint Oil and how to use it. As with cloves, ants do not like the smell of peppermint. You can simply fill a spray bottle with water and add 10-15 drops of peppermint oil. You then spray it around the areas of your home where you see ants, and I would also do around the windows and doors. It is important to keep the oil from being rubbed around the mouth and nose of an infant because it can cause an asthma-like reaction. With that in mind, the best time to apply may be while your little one is napping (or sleeping for the night).
I am so tired of feeling like I’m a mosquito’s dinner when I’m outside with my kids. Even worse, when my daughter gets a mosquito bite, it always swells up and looks just awful. Obviously, I don’t want so spray harmful pesticides (that probably won’t even work), but I do want to do something. One method that I think is wonderful, is to build or buy a Bat Box to keep somewhere in your yard. The National Wildlife Federation offers a set of instructions to build your own Bat Box which could be a fun project to do with the kids. A Bat Box mimics the environment where bats like to live—narrow dark places like the space between the bark and a tree trunk. With a nice “home” for bats, you’ve just invited a natural predator to mosquitos to live in your yard. Bats can capture between 500 and 1,000 mosquitos in one hour! And, since bats are nocturnal, they shouldn’t be too bothersome. I certainly feel they’re less bothersome than mosquitos—especially when you consider the diseases you can get from a single mosquito bite.
If I don’t end up making or buying a bat box, I might consider calling my local tree service company because they offer an organic spray that they treat the yard with to repel mosquitos and other pests. I suggest looking for a service in your area that offers organic treatments, and also one that takes a holistic approach to caring for plants and shrubs. I actually had someone from my local tree service at my home today to get an estimate on trimming trees and learned that one of our trees needs to be removed because it had several issues posing a danger to my yard—one of those was an infestation of carpenter ants. I trust this person because he is well-educated in all aspects of what he does, and I truly feel that he only recommends tree-removal when it is necessary. This is the type of person I want as my partner when it comes to taking care of my yard—shrubs, trees, bugs and all.
When we found a tick on my dog, we felt terrible. Luckily it was a dog tick and not a deer tick. After the extremely mild winter we had, both our veterinarian and our pediatrician confirmed that tick activity is especially high this year. The main fear with ticks is contracting Lyme Disease. While you can become the victim of a tick anywhere, I think it helps to take certain steps in your own backyard, since this is where you’ll probably spend a bulk of your outdoor time. Emax Health offers instructions on how to make natural tick repellents that you can spray on yourself, your children and your pets before going outside. I also found a great handbook provided by the state of Connecticut about tick management. There’s a whole section that discusses using the natural environment to make your yard less hospitable to ticks—for example, fencing your yard, spreading a barrier of wood chips around the perimeter of the yard and keeping your lawn well-manicured. It’s also important to remember to do body checks at the end of each day to make sure there are no ticks on your body. And, according to my pediatrician, if you do find one, you should put Vaseline (or something similar on it) to immobilize it before removing it with tweezers. The Vaseline will ensure you get all of the tick off of you because you don’t want it leaving legs behind.
I’m going to take as many of these steps as I can to protect my family this summer, but at the end of the day, we cannot live in a bubble. Bug bites will happen, we just need to be proactive in trying to prevent them. Hopefully this year we can keep our bites and all of the pests to a minimum.