Tips for a bug-free backyard barbecue
What fun would a backyard barbecue be without special people to share it with? Your guests are as important to the fun as great food and good weather. However, there’s one type of “guest” everyone can do without this summer – bugs. Stinging and biting insects can wreck even the best backyard gathering, unless you take steps to keep them away.
With increasing concern regarding Zika virus in the U.S., everyone’s least-favorite summer pest can be more than just an annoyance; mosquitoes may post a serious health risk, especially to pregnant women. What’s more, while no one wants to get a mosquito bite, stings from wasps, hornets or yellowjackets may be more concerning for people with insect allergies as a sting can be life-threatening. Keeping insects away from your outdoor gathering is an important way to ensure everyone stays healthy and enjoys the party.
The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) offers some tips for how you can keep pests like mosquitoes, ants, flies, hornets, wasps and other stinging and biting insects away from your party and guests this summer:
Prep for the party
* Guests will be coming in and out of the house throughout the barbecue, so be sure doors close securely. Check screens for holes and repair any you find; small holes in screens can allow insects to get inside.
* If possible, plan to serve food and beverages indoors. Food left sitting outside on a patio or picnic table is more likely to attract insects, so reserve outdoor space for eating, entertaining and fun.
* Check around your backyard to ensure there’s no standing water. Birdbaths, wading pools, tire swings, children’s toys, garden ponds and even puddles that collect in low spots in the yard can all serve as breeding locations for mosquitoes.
* If you’ll be entertaining outdoors at dusk and after dark, have plenty of insect repellent on hand for guests. Choose one with an EPA-registered active ingredient like DEET or Picaridin. While mosquitoes that carry Zika virus are active throughout the day, most mosquitoes are active at dusk and dawn, so consider using fans to keep insects away from outdoor seating areas.
During the party
* Strong fragrances from shampoo, perfume and candles can attract stinging insects like yellowjackets and wasps. They’re also attracted to the aroma of food and drink. Suggest guests avoid using scented items before the backyard party. Serve beverages in clear plastic cups; aluminum cans and plastic bottles provide hiding spots for stinging insects.
* Use sealed coolers and containers to protect all food and beverages. The containers will not only keep bugs out of your food, they’ll reduce the aroma that can attract insects.
* If spills occur, wipe them up immediately from tables and other surfaces to reduce the chance they’ll attract ants or other insects.
* Clear trash away from your entertaining area immediately, and store it in sealed receptacles away from the entertaining area. Rinse all beverage bottles and cans before sealing them in the closed recycling or trash container.
* After a good meal, and surrounded by friends, you may be tempted to let the dishware and utensils sit for a while as you chat with guests. Resist the temptation. Take utensils and dishware indoors right away to reduce the chance the smell of leftover food will attract unwanted insects.
These simple preventive measures can help ensure your backyard barbecue remains as pest-free as possible. If you have a serious pest infestation, you may need to bring in a pest control professional. You can find a local, licensed pest control expert at www.pestworld.org, the website of the NPMA.