Home & Garden

7 ways to repel backyard bugs

Don't let mosquitoes ruin your summer night.

spraying mosquito repellent on an arm Credit: Getty Images / benhammad

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If your backyard is your sanctuary—and this COVID summer, it may be more so than ever—you likely spend time here grilling up a meal for your family, or relaxing by the fire pit with a good book.

Since this outdoor space is where your summer memories are made, the last thing you want to think about is the intruding insects you may encounter—ticks, mosquitoes, flying insects, oh my. Not only are they annoying to deal with, but they can cause you serious illnesses like EEE and Lyme.

So, take the offense and the defense against these pests. Here are several ways to keep mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects out of your outdoor sanctuary.

1. Spray your yard with an insecticide

Yard spray
Credit: Compare-N-Save / Chapin

Your first line of defense can be protecting your yard with an insecticide.

One of the best ways to combat insects is to get a jump on their prime season. Spraying your yard with an insecticide is an effective preventative measure.

Derek Gaughan, founder of Bug Lord, recommends using a product with the active ingredient bifenthrin; this is an insecticide that combats several backyard bugs, including ticks, ants, flies, and mosquitoes. You can buy bifenthrin like this indoor and outdoor insect concentrate from The Home Depot and fill it up in your own gallon garden sprayer.

It’s best to let yard spray dry up before allowing pets or children to play in the backyard. If you have pets, know that several insecticides are also considered toxic to cats and dogs, so be sure to check the labels before spraying.

For a reliable, less toxic option, try this natural yard spray by Wondercide that’s made with no harsh pesticides, fragrances, or artificial colors.

Get the Compare-N-Save Indoor/Outdoor Insect Concentrate at The Home Depot for $49.99

Get the Chapin 1-Gallon Plastic Tank Sprayer at Lowe's for $9.98

Get the Wondercide Natural Ready to Use Spray at Amazon for $34.99

2. Add bug-repelling tech to your backyard

Credit: Dynatrap

Silent, scentless, and effective.

If insecticide isn’t for you, or it is and you are looking for additional bug repelling tactics, a few high-tech products can make a difference.

Try an outdoor bug zapper. These do not emit any scent or sound; rather, they work by luring insects to a UV light, which then electrocutes them. Zappers can be effective, in the right environment.

“The only downside is they're only really effective at night,” says Gaughan. “If you have competing light sources, like street lights or porch lights, they won't be as effective.”

Gaughan suggests looking for a bug zapper with a UV lamp, which makes it most effective in luring surrounding bugs. Dynatrap’s sleek flying insect trap easily blends in on a patio or deck, and it also passively emits carbon dioxide, which attracts even more insects.

Different from a bug zapper, a fuel-powered repeller burns repellent into the air once you power it on. This flameless Thermacell repeller protects up to 15 feet with silent, chemical-free repellent, making it best for relaxed hangouts in a smaller outdoor space.

Get the Dynatrap Ultralight Insect and Mosquito Trap at The Home Depot for $33.90

Get the Thermacell Patio Shield Lantern at Amazon for $21.97

3. Replace incandescent bulbs with LEDs

Credit: Hampton Bay

Bugs love the light—but they love warm LEDs a lot less.

If your patio or deck is adorned with twinkling string lights, you may want to rethink the bulbs you’re using. There’s no doubt that bugs will be attracted to light sources no matter what, but more so to bright and hot lights more than other styles.

Gaughan suggests switching out any traditional incandescent bulbs with warm-colored LEDs, like orange or yellow hues. These outdoor LED string lights create a warmer glow than an incandescent counterpart.

Get the Hampton Bay Indoor/Outdoor String Lights with LED Bulbs for $39.97

4. Use citronella as a bug repellent

Credit: La Jolíe Muse

Citronella smells pretty good, too.

Whether city dwellers or country folk, most consumers have used citronella candles in their outdoor space. These are an easy and affordable option, and while these candles aren’t as powerful as bug zappers or insecticides, they are a more atmospheric option that fits seamlessly with your outdoor decor.

This set of ornate soy wax citronella candles sold at Amazon burns with notes of the green citrus and fresh clean fragrance. Each has a burning time of 26-30 hours. For maximum and widespread citronella power, try buying a large pack of citronella tea light candles.

Another, much more natural, citronella option is to stock your outdoor space with citronella plants, whether you have a few of the annuals in pots, or plant them around your patio.

Get the Set of 3 Soy Wax Citronella Candles at Amazon for $43.99

Get the Set of 50 Tealight Citronella Candles at Amazon for $12.99

Get the Set of 3 Live Citronella Plants at Etsy for $18.99

5. Get physical with a patio enclosure

Credit: Gazebo Penguin

Don't let bugs into your space in the first place.

You can physically keep bugs out of your patio paradise with a patio enclosure. These are typically built with a mesh screen that blocks bugs while still allowing sunshine or moonlight and a cool breeze to flow through.

This ready-to-assemble aluminum patio gazebo sold at Wayfair comes with screen paneling that claims to withstand rain, snow, and UV rays.

For something more custom, work with a contractor or even consider the DIY route in building a patio screen enclosure for your backyard. Fiberglass screen like this one keeps bugs and mosquitoes out and can be installed on your own.

Get the Gazebo Penguin Aluminium Patio Gazebo at Wayfair for $3,758.99

Get the BetterVue Pool and Patio Screen at The Home Depot for $135.31

6. Groom your yard

Lawn Care
Credit: Getty Images / HAYKIRDI

Make sure your lawn in tip-top shape to keep bugs and pests away.

One of the best ways to keep bugs out is by tidying up what you already have in your outdoor area. “Preventative maintenance is the best repellent,” says Gaughan.

Mosquitoes love standing water, so it’s no surprise that among the most common insect attractions are your outdoor potted plants—specifically, any plant drainage tray that may be holding onto water.

Same goes for your garbage cans. These are enticing hot spots for bugs and pests alike, so make sure your garbage can lids are secured tightly to avoid any intruders from hanging out inside.

Lastly, Gaughan says keeping a clean and well-maintained lawn does wonders for preventing mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. Don’t let grass grow unruly—keep it at a short length with minimal weed and plant clutter.

Get the Modern Ceramic Planter Base at Etsy starting at $10.72

7. Spray yourself with bug repellent

Credit: Ben's

Find the body bug spray that's right for you.

For protecting yourself from buzzing and bites, you’ll need a personal, body bug spray.

Gaughan suggests using a DEET repellent spray, which the Environmental Protection Agency states does “not present a health concern” for humans. This one from Ben’s claims to provide 10 hours of protection against tick and mosquito bites.

For a more natural solution, look toward a plant-based repellent like the oil of lemon eucalyptus. Gaughan recommends a spray like this one by Repel—it’s DEET-free and provides protection without that sticky or greasy feeling.

Try Avon’s Skin So Soft Bath Oil, which is an old favorite among moms. It also has an interesting origin story as a bug repellent—as in, it wasn’t meant to be one. The bath oil has glowing reviews for keeping mosquitoes away.

Get the Ben's 100% DEET Insect Repellent at Amazon for $9.99

Get the REPEL Plant-Based Insect Repellent at Walmart for $4.97

Get the Avon's Skin So Soft Bath Oil Multi-Pack at Amazon for $44.99

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