Monday, August 11, 2014

Purging The Pests

We love our summers in Minnesota.  There is a downside to summer, however.  Pests.  Whether it's the mosquitoes, the ants, the mice or the mosquitoes, there are definitely plenty of pests around to ruin your summer. (Did I mention mosquitoes?).

Here are some ways that you can be sure to minimize your pesky pest situation.

1.  Mosquitoes

Okay, so we all know this is a big one in the Land of 10,000 Lakes!  It seems that mosquitoes are here to stay so it's best to figure out how to manage your life with them.  Most people in these parts know that mosquitoes need standing still water to reproduce.  This means if you live near a swamp or perpetually damp area, you're going to be harder hit than others.  But you can do all you can to make it harder for them to multiply.  Dump out or regularly change anything that collects or holds water like pails, bird baths, pails, wagons, wading pools.  Add fountains or ripples to ponds to keep mosquitoes from choosing that as a nesting site.

If you plan to spend time outdoors, keep in mind that mosquitoes like to hide in shady foliage during the day then come out in the early evening.  Keep shrubs and low-lying plants away from patios and decks where you tend to spend time outdoors.  You can also use a spray for your lawn and garden areas that repel mosquitoes so they don't like hanging out there.

2.  Creepy Crawlies

Spiders.  There are very few people who tolerate them and many who have an avid fear of them.  While most spider bites only cause minor irritation, there are a few in these parts, like the Brown Recluse, that can cause significant tissue damage if you happen to get bitten by one.

To keep spiders at bay, be sure to regularly take down spider webs around your house, both inside and outside, with a broom or mop.  Store your firewood pile away from your home.  Regularly clean out bins and boxes from your basement and garage.  Spiders prefer quite, dark, undisturbed places.  Expose them every chance you get and they may just choose another house to call home.

3.  Ants

Ants are a common problem in early summer when its warm enough for them to be out and about but many of the plants haven't flowered yet and aren't producing nectar.  This is when most take a short holiday inside your house, particularly the kitchen.  Usually, these ants move back outside within a couple of weeks, but if you provide enough food, they'll stick around all summer and into the fall.

There are as many ways to get rid of ants as there are people in the world.  Again, keeping the problem small is your best solution.  First, be sure to always keep a clean home.  Do the dishes, wash all the counters, clean up spills immediately, and sweep as often as you can.  If you're home looks like an ants version of Old Country Buffet, they are more likely to stick around, and tell all their friends about it.

And easy alternative that is natural, is to provide a great food source outside your home.  Many have shown great success by putting a shallow cup of sludgy sugar water about 10 feet away form the house in various spots.  The ants are drawn to this easy food source and are less likely to wander into your home.  You can lace it with Borax if you want to kill the little buggers while you're at it.

If you aren't averse to using some insecticides to help you, then the most helpful method is using ant powder around the entire base of your home.  The ants don't like crossing the powder and you are one step closer to no ants in your house.  If the ants are well established in your home, then there are many products available to draw ants to the insecticide which they then carry back to their colonies to kill.

4.  Four-legged Pests

Mice, rats, raccoons, chipmunks, opossums, squirrels, even dogs and deer...they all love an easy meal.  Be sure to rinse out any containers for your recycle bin, keep lids tight on garbage cans and pet food containers, don't throw meat, dairy, or fat products on your compost pile, and quickly pick up fruit that has dropped from trees in your yard.  Put a fence around your garden and put bird feeders away from trees or other structures that will help other critters get into them.  Keep vegetation trimmed near your home and garage and put away ladders, lumber, woodpiles, toys, storage bins that make great hiding places for the furry ones.

5.  Flies

Black flies, horse flies, and deer flies are all major summer pests.  Whether they are swarming our picnic or our heads while we take a walk, they are at the top of the list of most annoying pests.

Unfortunately there isn't much you can do about flies invading your picnic or your dinner on the deck other than keeping food covered as best you can.  You could spray a fogger-type insecticide, but then would you really want to sit in that while you eat?!  Choose a shady spot on a day with a light breeze since flies love sunny, hot still days.

For biting flies you just need to get creative.  Most flies like the color of royal blue and tend to shy away from white or light colors.  Flies that like to fly circles around your head tend to want to land on the highest part of your body, which is your head.  Be sure to wear a cap and bring something, like a pine bough, to use as a switch to shoe them away, much like a horses tail.

If you want to really get those guys, you can try this home remedy that people swear by.  Find a bright blue Solo cup (or anything blue), and cut four slits in it from the rim to the bottom of the cup so that the cup can splay out flat.  Then rub a super sticky substance called Tanglefoot all over the cup on the blue side (you can order Tanglefoot online or find it in most farming supply stores).   Using duct tape, affix the cup to the top of your cap and go mow the lawn or go for your walk.  You may feel a bit awkward at first, but when you get home, remove your cap and see all the flies stuck to your blue cup, you'll never leave home without it again!

6.  Stinging Insects

Nothing can ruin your day like a bee sting!  As summer wears on, it seems they come out in droves just to drive us nuts.  Bees, hornets, wasps, yellow jackets...the list of stinging badies goes on and on.

If you find a hive of bees, hornets, or wasps, be sure to wait until evening to try to deal with it when the bugs are at their least aggressive.  Use a long pole to knock down the nest, and have an insecticide ready to spray up into the nest.  Run if they start to come out looking for a fight!  Dispose of the nest as soon as possible and do regular inspections to remove nests and hives as soon as you see them.  A wasp's nest can grow from the size of a quarter to bigger than a basketball within one week!

Beware of walking on rotted wood where yellow jackets like to nest.  Old wood steps built into the ground (which many lake cabins have heading down to the lakeshore), fallen trees in the woods, or the bottom logs on an old wood pile are favorite places for these mean stingers to hide.

Keep bee-loving plants away from entry points of your house.  They may look pretty but having a bee in the house is so not fun!

Avoid wearing red and purple which are attractive to look like a flower!  And remember to always check your sweetened beverage can before taking a big swig.  Bees like to crawl in and have a drink once in a while.

Source:  Michelle Schwake for Stafford Family Realtors

No comments: