Don’t Bug Out: How to Keep Insects From Ruining Your Picnic, BBQ, or Party


As families rush to soak up the last rays of summer sun and spend as much time outdoors as they can, it’s likely there’ll be a number of picnics, backyard barbecues, and outdoor get-togethers that take place within the next few weeks. Being able to enjoy the nice weather is a blessing — but dealing with outside pests may not be. Although the U.S. pest control industry grew by 2.9% between 2012 and 2017, an exterminator won’t be able to keep bugs from infiltrating your festivities if you’re at the park or in your yard. But that doesn’t mean it’s a hopeless situation; there are plenty of ways to keep insects at bay, even when you’re hosting a delicious outdoor feast.

Choose the Right Spot (and Time)

Often, keeping a get-together free from pests may come down to the location and the time of day you choose to gather. If you’re going on a picnic, try to stick to shelters, picnic tables, and well-maintained park areas rather than wild meadows or spots right by a pond. It’ll still be just as picturesque without posing the risk of ants, mosquitoes, or ticks dropping by. Be sure to check for ant mounds and position yourself away from any trash receptacles to avoid bees and flies. The time of day is important, too. Sunrise and sunset tend to be periods of increased activity for mosquitoes, so try to schedule your get-together for midday or late afternoon.

Keep Food (and Yourselves) Covered

Of course, you’ll be excited to enjoy all the delicious treats at your BBQ or picnic. But if at all possible, you should keep these items tightly covered until the very last minute. This will limit the yummy smells that are dispersed around the area, making it less likely for insects to come and investigate. Instead of open drink containers, opt for cups with lids or bottles with closable twist caps. Of course, you may not be able to keep every edible element completely covered. If you’re grilling on an open pit, for instance, you may not be able to cover the cooking meat or other accouterments. However, if you’re cooking ribs and need to apply the BBQ sauce within the last 30 minutes of cooking, you can ensure the sauce stays covered until you need it. In addition, you may want to cover yourself with long pants or a long-sleeved shirt (if the weather isn’t too scorching) to keep mosquitoes and ticks from feasting on you.

Use Repellants Both Chemical and Natural

Of course, wearing longer layers and covering up your food may not do quite enough. That’s when it becomes important to embrace some sort of insect repellant. Switch out perfumes for insect repellant and bring along some citronella candles. If you’re in an area with electricity, you may even want to bring some fans to plug in, as the breeze will keep bugs away. If you can go natural with your repellants, you’ll be helping beneficial wildlife (like bees, who help pollinate 30% of crops and 90% of wild plants). Interestingly, wasps don’t like sliced cucumbers, lemons, or garlic, and ants don’t like cornstarch or baby powder! You can also put a mixture of soap and water into a spray bottle to keep wasps and other bugs away if they try to come near.

Cut Down on Sugar and Alcohol

A picnic or BBQ can be a great occasion to indulge in your favorite foods and drinks. But you may want to think twice about loading up the table with sugary beverages, desserts, or alcohol. Unless you have a cover for every lemonade, iced tea, and soda (and you’re diligent about using them), these drinks alone are likely to attract pests. The same goes for fruit and alcoholic drinks. However, you can use alcohol to your advantage: create a diversion with a cup of sweet red wine and place the glass far away from your guests. Fruit flies and other pests will be attracted to the cup and may just leave you alone.

A completely pest-free picnic or barbecue might not be realistic. But by following these tips, you should have an easier time keeping the bugs at bay and your party stress-free.

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