Control bugs this summer

Jul. 06, 2013 @ 11:00 PM


Have the biting bugs of summer got you down? Here’s a review of the most common ones, and how to make sure they don’t ruin your outdoor activities.

Ticks — This one is close to the top of my “most despised” list. These pests usually get you by grabbing onto your shoes, pant cuffs, or ankles when you walk through weedy or brushy areas. Avoid them by staying clear of such areas, and applying repellents to lower legs and shoes when walking through them. Some repellents are for clothing and shoes only, in which case the garment should not be worn until the spray has dried thoroughly. Also, be sure to do a thorough tick check of your body soon after outdoor activities.

Chiggers — Like ticks, they frequent overgrown areas, especially tall weeds and grasses. Repellent products help some, but mowing down such areas is better.

Mosquitoes — One of the best defenses against mosquitoes is to scout your yard weekly for standing water. Even small quantities, such as found in dishes under potted plants, can provide adequate breeding habitat. Fogger type sprays can provide relief for a few hours if, for example, you are planning a backyard barbecue. Mosquito traps and plants with strong scents have not been proven effective.

Yellow jackets — These small yellow and black wasps are notorious for building nests under shrubbery or at edges of lawn. Scouting the yard before each mowing is wise, and also provides an opportunity to check for other hazards (small toys, rocks, sticks, etc.). When a nest is found, apply an aerosol insecticide at dusk from a safe distance (about 10 feet). They will not return to the same nest next year.

Fire ants — With the amount of moisture we’ve had, fire ants should be active through fall. Their mounds tend to be wider and taller than typical ant hills, getting larger as summer progresses. Under the right environmental conditions (low humidity and mild temperatures) bait products work well. However, they are slow-acting and spoil rapidly. For quicker results, drench the mound with an approved insecticide. I’m frankly dismayed that I’d even have to mention what a stupendously horrible idea it is to pour gasoline onto a fire ant mound.

I should briefly mention that each spring I get calls from someone who observes numerous bees hovering over a yard. Usually this is just one of the species of ground-nesting bees. In general they are non-aggressive, short-term visitors who perform valuable services such as pollination.

Likewise, an occasional wasp or hornet should not be cause for alarm (or action) unless a nest is found. Of course, those with severe allergies should exercise all due caution. And the many bees that visit your flower and vegetable gardens should be welcomed, if not celebrated!