Keep pests from interrupting your peace with these simple, preventative steps for creating a serene bug-free patio.

A private outdoor space is bliss — the perfect refuge for gathering and resting, a place to enjoy the fresh air and warm weather from the comfort of your home. But a patio or balcony can quickly turn into a battleground: you against irksome insects. 

In the spring and summer, there are larger populations of mosquitoes, flies, bees, fleas, and ticks as they search for places, especially in humid regions, with food, water, and a spot to breed. These pesky scavengers will relentlessly zig and zag around or land on your food, ruining the moment. And even if you remember to apply bug spray — I often forget to — insects have a stealthy way of finding a tiny area of exposed skin to leave an itchy bite — or five. 

As an alternative to sprays, traps, and swatters, here are some preventative tips and tricks for turning your outdoor space into a bug-free zone. 

empty planters on patio

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Read more: The Best Natural Bug and Tick Repellents

Keep It Clean and Dry

Whether you enjoy eating alfresco or your patio accumulates the natural grime of being an outdoor space, the first line of defense is to routinely clean the area and patio furniture. Pick up, sweep, wipe, and get rid of crumbs, dirt, liquids, and trash. If you keep a garbage bin nearby, check that it’s sealed. Flying and crawling insects love to use a trash can as a hiding spot and feeding ground because it’s warm and dark.

While you clean, eliminate standing water to decrease the likelihood of an infestation. Water collectors like gutters, planters, buckets, lids, and birdbaths, even with the tiniest of puddles,  are hydration sources and breeding grounds for insects to lay their eggs. Reconsider a decorative fountain as well. Black flies can lay hundreds of eggs in or near moving water.


Choose Warmer Lighting

Insects appear to be fans of artificial lighting but are likely just confused. Celestial compasses, like the sun and moon, help insects with navigation, but the interference of string lights and lamps steer bugs toward them. Studies show that artificial lights disrupt their perception and ability to fly forward, trapping and causing them to orbit and stall. 

During the day, you may notice flies hovering around your windows, that’s because they gravitate toward the UV light of the sun. If you need lighting for your patio at night, swap out incandescent bulbs that emit cool blue UV light for warm LED bulbs. They won’t draw in as many flying bugs because these insects can’t see warmer color temperatures like yellow and orange. 

family having snack outside on patio

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Read more: Why We Need to Protect Pollinators

Plant a Garden

Herbs and flowers contain essential oils with scents that are repulsive to some bugs. Here are natural repellents you can plant in a garden container or multiple pots to spread the fragrance around your outdoor space. 

Non-Toxic for Pets

  • Thyme repels mosquitoes, earworms, maggots, hornworms, and whiteflies.
  • Basil repels flies and mosquitoes.
  • Rosemary repels mosquitoes, beetles, and slugs.
  • Lemon balm repels mosquitoes.
  • Marigolds repel mosquitoes.

Toxic for Pets

  • Mint repels mosquitoes, fleas, moths, beetles, aphids, and ants.
  • Catnip repels mosquitoes and cockroaches. It can be toxic if too much is consumed. 
  • Lavender repels mosquitoes, flies, fleas, and moths.
  • Lemongrass repels mosquitoes.
  • Chrysanthemums repel ticks, fleas, beetles, cockroaches, ants, and spider mites. 

If gardening doesn’t interest you, buy candles or diffusers with an essential oil like citronella or one from the above plants. 

Read more: 12 Edible Flowers You Can Grow at Home

A Few Extra Precautions

It’s harder for insects to fly and detect alluring scents when there are stronger winds. Set up a fan to help throw them off their path to you. 

  • If you live somewhere with cooler summer nights, purchase a bug-repellent blanket with fibers bonded with odorless repellent.
  • Want an added layer of protection? Install a retractable bug screen, drape, or net to continue enjoying the fresh air and a view while keeping unwanted pests out. 
houseplants on a wooden terrace

Photo courtesy of Pexels.

Read more: How an Endangered Butterfly Inspired Hope and Healing

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