What Are My Options for Backyard Insect Repellents?

Backyard BBQ | Backyard Insect Repellents

It’s not just the weather you need to consider when trying to extend outdoor life during fall. In Georgia it usually stays quite warm and inviting until mid-October; the problem is though this clement weather also attracts bugs.

So what can you do to get rid of those pesky insects that threaten to spoil the last days of so-called summer living?

Backyard BBQ | Backyard Insect RepellentsFirst you need to identify which bugs are likely to invade your backyard; then you need to determine what effective options will get rid of them. While chemical repellents remain the most common method of getting rid many irritating insects, there are other options. You can also:

  1. get rid of whatever attracts bugs to your backyard
  2. use essential oils that repel insects
  3. plant grasses, herbs and flowers that are known to repel bugs
  4. use natural insect repellents that many bugs don’t like
  5. stick with good old fashioned fly swatters and more recent bug zappers

There are different types of backyard insect repellents that may be right for you and your home…

Chemical Insect Repellents

The most common active ingredient in insect repellents is a chemical called N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (known as DEET). Available in various forms including lotions sprays, liquids and various impregnated materials, DEET is known to provide effective protection from illnesses carried by mosquitoes and ticks, including malaria and Lyme Disease. Originally developed by the US Army in 1946 and released for public use in 1957, DEET is designed for use on the skin, so instead of killing the bugs, it repels them.

Registered with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), DEET has been tested and found to be safe for use on humans. According to the EPA it has no toxic effects and will protect against ticks and mosquitoes for anything from two to 12 hours. The Agency recommends the use of DEET when certain diseases are endemic.

A more recently discovered insect repellent, VUAA1, is said to be 1,000 times stronger than DEET, and effective against just about every bug there is. Discovered in 2011 by researchers at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, whose application for a US patent is still pending, VUAA1 is not yet available commercially. However, researchers have stated that it is likely to open the door for development of insect repellents that get rid of “nuisance insects” in a backyard environment, pests that attack crops, as well as bugs that carry disease. To date there haven’t been any reports that look at the ecological impact VUAA1 would have.

Tidy and Clean Your Backyard

Mosquitoes are attracted by stagnant water, where they lay their eggs. Flies love trash and are attracted by uncovered food of any sort. So simply tidying up your backyard and keeping it clean can reduce the number of mosquitoes, flies and other bugs that are likely to be lured towards your outdoor living areas.

Empty stagnant water from containers, and regularly top up birdbaths and water features with fresh water. Store recycling bins and trash cans away from patios and barbecue areas, and keep them well sealed. Always rinse recyclable items before discarding them, especially those that have been used to store sweet, sugary foods.

Use Essential Oils

Essential oils from trees and shrubs have effective ingredients that can be used to get rid of bugs. For example, oil from eucalyptus and pine trees works incredibly well against mosquitoes. Essential oils extracted from lavender, tea tree, limes, peppermint, basil, thyme, and bergamot are also effective.

Citronella candles and torches are another effective form of repelling insects, though they will only provide protection for a radius of about 4 ft or 1,2 m. These contain the essential oil extracted from citronella, a South Asian grass.

Plant What You Know Insects Don’t Like

There are a number of plants that are known to be natural insect repellents. These include citronella grass, lavender, catnip, yarrow and marigolds, which will add color to your backyard as well. Scented geraniums (or more correctly, scented pelargoniums) are fantastic when it comes to repelling insects, particularly mosquitoes, flies and large horseflies. The artemisias (southernwood, wormwood, mugwort, wildeals, and tarragon), all richly fragrant – though not in a sweet-smelling way, are also excellent insect repellents, as is santolina.

Additionally, there a number of edible herbs that are natural insect repellents, so why not plant a herb garden close to your outdoor living area? Rosemary, Russian sage, basil, lemon verbena, mint, winter savory and rue will all help to repel pesky bugs. Garlic and chives are also good insect repellents, and petunias (believe it or not) will help repel beetles.

Natural Insect Repellents

Many of the plants listed above may be used to make natural insect repellents. But one of the most effective is pyrethrum, an ancient insecticide discovered more than 2,000 years ago. Grown alongside minty pennyroyal it will help repel mosquitoes and flies; dried and crushed, its small, white daisy-like flowers may be used to repel many bugs. A word of warning: pyrethrum, though easy to grow, is toxic to humans and animals. For this reason, the flowers should be snipped off before they dry out, and stored safely until required.

Tansy, with its small bright yellow, button-like flowers, can be used to make a spray that will repel insects, and a vase of tansy flowers will keep flies away. Fresh sprays of tea tree will repel ticks and fleas, as well as bird lice and ants.

Bug Zappers and Fly Swatters

Fly swatters have been around in various forms for a very long time, and electric bug zappers since 1934 when they were first patented. While they are manually operated (which can be tedious) you can decide which pests to zap.

Whichever options you decide on, you should be able to extend and enjoy outdoor living on your patio and in your backyard for longer this year.