Your home doesn’t end with your back door, it extends to your backyard! But common posts can make outdoor living less enjoyable.
Unfortunately, some pests turn up and ruin your backyard, at worst, or just diminish your quality of life. Fortunately, these culprits are well known and there’s something you can do about each of them.
Here are some of the top pests that invade homeowners’ outdoor living spaces, and how to handle them.
1. Carpenter Bees
A common sight in the spring and summer is the carpenter bee, which can cause more than scares — it can damage your home.
This insect bears a striking resemblance to a bumblebee but there’s one distinct difference between the two: their tummies. Bumblebees have fuzzy abdomens, whereas carpenter bees’ stomachs are hairless and smooth.
Carpenter bees’ scare is worse than their sting. While males may look menacing around people who approach nests, they lack a stinger. And females rarely sting.
But those females can wreak havoc on your home, leaving round, smooth openings — roughly 3/8 to ½ inch in diameter — in deck and fascia boards. Here they lay their eggs, and future generations often use the same areas for their needs, excavating additional tunnels.
To remove these pests, build a carpenter bee trap from pressure-treated wood and a mason jar.
Read How to Build a Carpenter Bee Trap for more information.
Gardens are mole magnets, and those of us who love to garden are guilty of attracting them.
These mammals love a moist, earthworm-rich area, and gardeners create the perfect habitat after tilling, mulching and watering.
If you don’t have a serious mole problem, don’t worry about these critters. They’ll take what they can eat and move along soon enough.
But if moles are making a mess in your backyard, here’s an action plan to stop them:
Shrink Your Lawn: Lawns are a likely target for mole damage. Replace part of your lawn with shrub plantings and wildflower gardens. Adding hardscaping is another option.
Reduce Watering: Saturating your soil attracts earthworms and moles to the surface. Cut back on irrigating your lawn, and choose drought-tolerant grasses and plants.
Replace Plants: Native plants are less damage-prone and require less water than imported varieties.
Prevent Entry: Protect raised beds by lining them with ¼-inch metal hardware cloth. You can also add a mole barrier around the perimeter of your yard. Bury hardware cloth or sheet metal at least two feet deep. It should stick up about 6 inches.
Scare Them: Moles aren’t popular with predators, but your dog or cat might enjoy hunting them or scaring them off.
Nothing ruins a cookout like constantly swatting mosquitoes and being bitten. Of course, mosquitoes are not only annoying; they also can carry serious diseases.
Fortunately, there are natural ways to repel these pests.
Here’s the action plan:
Protect Your Skin: Create a natural mosquito repellant with 20 drops of essential oil — like eucalyptus, cinnamon, or lemon oil — and two tablespoons of olive oil. Rub the solution on your skin as a non-toxic alternative to chemicals such as DEET.
Blow Them Away: Place a fan on your deck, patio or porch so it blows on you and prevents mosquitoes from landing.
Disgust Them: Grow plants that mosquitoes don’t like, including marigolds, lavender, sage, rosemary and lemon Thai grass.
Smoke ’Em: Soak a sprig of fresh rosemary in water for a few minutes and place it on a hot grill to create mosquito-repellent smoke.
Snakes tend to slither in plain sight during the spring and fall, when it’s not too cold or too hot outside.
Most snakes are nonpoisonous and tend to avoid contact with people, but they can still startle you in the garden.
Here’s how to avoid them and control them:
Clean Up: Tall grass, piles of debris and lingering children’s toys offer ideal shelter for snakes. Mow your lawn regularly and declutter your yard to keep snakes out of it.
Watch While Watering: Well-watered, mulched areas (such as shrub beds and vegetable gardens) attract frogs, lizards, birds and rodents that then attract snakes. These areas also offer cool shelter for snakes escaping high temperatures, so be careful when walking or working in these areas.
Control Rodents: Snakes snack on rodents, small reptiles and birds. To minimize their presence around your yard, keep bird feeders and nesting boxes far away from the house, and work to reduce the rodent population.
Fleas are parasitic bloodsuckers that rely on you and your pets to survive. And if they hop on either of you, there’s a good chance they’ll make it inside your home.
Just one flea is trouble — that’s all it takes to lay 50 eggs a day, resulting in multiple generations that could leave up to a trillion fleas per year.
Getting rid of a flea infestation can be challenging, but fortunately, it’s not impossible!
Here are tips to control fleas.
Mow Your Lawn: Fleas thrive in tall grass, so mow your lawn, but make sure the grass isn’t too low; otherwise, beneficial spiders and ants — which snack on fleas — won’t thrive.
Also get rid of thatch, debris and other hiding places.
Repel Them: Mint repels fleas, so grow pennyroyal and mist areas with essential oils in water to prevent fleas. In addition, mulch your garden with cedar, another flea repellant.
Destroy Them: Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around your yard. This fine powder, available at your local garden center, contains microskeletons of fresh and saltwater diatoms (a form of algae). Its tiny, sharp silica particles destroy insects’ exoskeletons and dehydrate them.
Buy garden-grade, rather than crystallized pool-grade, to reduce the potential health risks from inhalation. Wear a dust mask when sprinkling it around your yard, and keep pets indoors until the powder has settled. Check directions on the package for details, or have a professional apply the product.
Treat Your Lawn: There is a large selection of commercial insecticides on the market. Some can feed your grass while killing fleas. Just make sure the product at least contains an insect growth regulator, which sterilizes any surviving fleas.
Also, keep in mind that any repellent or insecticide product will affect beneficial insects as well as pests — there is no way to target just fleas.
- How to Control Three Common Vegetable Garden Pests
- Natural Pest Control: 3 Critters to Help Your Garden
- 5 Tips to Keep Your Home Pest-Free This Winter