How to Control Backyard Bugs

Bees are critical to your garden – but that doesn’t mean you want them at your picnic.
Bees are critical to your garden – but that doesn’t mean you want them at your picnic.

Warm weather means the start of many annual traditions: barbecues, picnics, outdoor games, and plenty of time spent in your yard. But it can also mean an invasion from less welcome signs of summer: insects. Whether your backyard is facing a population of ants, flies, bees, mosquitoes, or aphids, you can find a way to live in harmony – making the most of the gorgeous weather while keeping biters, stingers, and creepy-crawlies at bay.


If you have ants inside your home, then getting rid of them can require everything from DIY non-toxic sprays to traditional traps or even professional exterminating. But there’s also the chance that they’re coming in from an outdoor nest. Keep trees leaves away from your roofs and windows to minimize their access points, and make sure your kitchen is crumb-free to make your home less enticing. If you do need to move a colony, the easiest, least-toxic ways involve simple solutions: suggests pouring soapy water in the hill – some of the colony will die, and the remainder will move. You can also use boiling water to flush out an anthill (but keep in mind this will kill the grass around it as it kills the ants).


Aphids and ants often live near each other, since the sticky “honeydew” liquid that aphids leave behind becomes food for local ant populations, who then protect the aphids from predators and even watch over aphid eggs. But these tiny insects can do major damage to your vegetable garden and those flowers you spent all spring planting: extracting the juices from the roots, buds, and leaves; encouraging the growth of molds and fungi; and moving diseases from plant to plant. Get them out of your garden by spraying your plants with the hose, or by making a tomato leaf-based spray that will kill them naturally.


Is any summer insect more annoying than the mosquito? Keep yourself, your guests, and your kids free of itchy bites with simple prevention techniques – bug spray, long sleeves, citronella candles – and prevent your backyard from becoming a breeding ground by getting rid of standing water in baby pools, bird baths, buckets, and plant pots. If you have a serious mosquito problem, then traps, insecticide sprays (approved for home use) and misting systems can help lower their numbers. (See “4 Tips for Backyard Mosquito Control” for more.)


Before you figure out how to deal with a beehive, you need to know what kind of buzzer you’re looking at: honeybees and wasps require different types of treatment. If you’ve identified your hive as full of honeybees, then killing them should be your last resort: Bees are critical to pollination and the life cycle of your plants, and are also facing population threats and colony collapse disorder. If you are protecting someone with a dangerous allergy, you can kill the bees with soap and water, almond oil, or insecticide spray. Otherwise, call a professional bee remover to give the bees the best chance of being relocated without being killed.


Flies may not be dangerous, but they sure are annoying. The first step to keeping them out of your way is to give them no reason to come around in the first place: Keep food covered and your kitchen cleared of crumbs. Fly paper and water traps can help get rid of flies who have already decided your backyard is the place to be; you can even build your own non-toxic trap from a plastic bottle, wire, and water (which will eventually drown the flies). Planting herbs that repel flies is another way to keep them at bay – try basil, bay leaf, mint, rosemary, or other herbs that help dissuade flies while giving you a bounty of fresh herbs for cooking.

More Great Links


  • “Least Toxic Control of Indoor and Outdoor Ants.” (June 7, 2013)
  • “Get Rid of Aphids with Tomato Leaves.” TLC. (June 7, 2013)
  • “Aphids.” Animal Planet. (June 7, 2013)
  • “Four Natural Ways to Deter Mosquitos.” TLC. (June 7, 2013)
  • “What’s the Difference Between Bees and Wasps?” How Stuff Works. (June 7, 2013)
  • “How to Kill Bees.” How Stuff Works. (June 7, 2013)
  • “Make an Organic Fly Trap.” TLC. (June 7, 2013)
  • “7 Herbs That Deter Flies Naturally.” TLC. (June 7, 2013)