Four Ways to Keep Insects From Crashing Your Barbecue

Summer is a great time to entertain friends outside...

As the weather gets warmer, backyard barbecues and poolside parties surge in popularity. And you get all the health benefits of socializing and sunshine.

But if you don't take precautions, you might find yourself playing host to unwanted guests like mosquitoes, ticks, and wasps...

Nothing ruins a party faster than an invasion of bloodsucking or stinging bugs descending upon your guests. So today, I'm sharing some other tips to keep your outdoor space as pest-free as possible in the summer months...

1. Keep your yard clean and cropped.

Check your birdbaths, gutters, and pool and furniture covers... Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water. Once these larvae grow into adult mosquitoes, the population can quickly boom, feeding into a vicious, bloodthirsty cycle. Make sure to check your yard after it rains and dump any puddles of standing water whenever possible.

The American Mosquito Control Association also recommends drilling holes in the bottom of recycling containers to prevent water from collecting when it rains and changing the water in birdbaths at least once a week. Make sure you switch out the water in outdoor pet dishes frequently as well.

Another option is to sprinkle coffee grounds in standing water. A 2015 study in Parasites & Vectors found that standing water treated with coffee grounds not only disrupted the life cycle of mosquito larvae – it also discouraged female mosquitoes from laying eggs in the water in the first place.

Also make sure to remove leaves and debris, as these can collect water and are also ideal places for parasites such as ticks to hide. And make sure to mow your lawn – ticks like tall grass and shade.

2. Watch what you wear.

I've previously recommended wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants whenever possible if you're spending time outdoors. Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, so stick to outfits that are light and loose-fitting, which makes it harder for them to bite you through the fabric.

Light-colored clothes also make it easier to spot parasites... You can throw clothes into a dryer on high heat to kill ticks that have attached themselves to your shirt or pants.

And make sure to avoid strong perfumes, aftershaves, and other body care items, as these attract mosquitoes and stinging insects such as bees and wasps.

3. Use caution while serving food.

Stinging insects are common party-crashers when food is involved, so make sure to cover any serving dishes and bring dirty plates inside as soon as you can (and ask guests to keep doors to the house closed). Use wide-mouthed, clear cups when possible so you can be sure no bees or wasps have crawled into your drink.

In addition, keep cleaning supplies readily available in case of spills, and keep trash cans away from places guests are seated.

And remember, mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk... So plan your meal around those times to reduce the likelihood of being bitten.

4. Skip the candles and chemicals.

While commonly lauded as a safe and easy mosquito repellant, citronella candles might not actually be effective. In fact, the American Mosquito Control Association says citronella candles don't offer significantly more protection than other smoke-producing candles.

Regular readers know I've written before about the dangers of using diethyltoluamide-based insect repellants. Commonly referred to as "DEET," this chemical compound is associated with plenty of scary side effects like rashes, headaches, and even nerve damage.

So what does work – safely?

I've previously recommended natural alternatives to DEET-based sprays, like planting geraniums, mint, and lavender in your backyard. When it comes to repellants, I like Repel's lemon-eucalyptus spray. Oil of lemon eucalyptus has been listed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ("CDC") as a safe and effective alternative to DEET.

And if you plan on being outside at night, try replacing incandescent light bulbs with yellow "bug lights," which attract fewer insects than traditional bulbs.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
May 23, 2019