How to Reduce the Number of Harmful Insects and Bugs in Your Backyard
Stop mosquitoes, ticks, and spiders in their tracks.
As we head into the warmer months, we're all turning our attention to our yards—for some people, that means doubling down on our pest control efforts. "Many yards are breeding grounds for insects such as mosquitoes, ants, and other nuisance species," notes Timothy Wong, Technical Director at M&M Pest Control. "Like all living creatures, they require food, water, and shelter to survive and thrive." Wong reminds us that finding insects in your backyard is normal—it's their natural habitat, after all— but it's important to keep their populations at bay so they don't start searching for food and shelter too close to your home. To help you do so, we tapped our experts to share a few simple ways to reduce their numbers.
Eliminate Standing Water
"Mosquitoes thrive in warm, wet areas and only need as little as half an inch of water to breed," notes Dr. Jim Fredericks, Chief Entomologist and Vice President of Technical and Regulatory Affairs for the National Pest Management Association. "This means that backyard items such as kiddie pools, frisbees, and birdbaths can become potential breeding grounds." To reduce mosquito populations, survey your space once a week and eliminate any puddles that may have accumulated. "It's also important to ensure gutters are free of debris to allow water to flow easily," he adds.
Keep a Tidy Yard
Insects (ticks, especially) like overgrown, organic spaces—think "shady areas of tall grass to protect them from the sun," notes Wong. Conversely, they don't like manicured lawns or landscaped garden beds (less room to roam or hide!), so keeping your yard in tip-top shape should reduce their population. Wong suggests cutting grass short (it should never grow higher than three inches) and raking leaves as soon as they fall. Ensuring your lawn is healthy, too, is another line of defense. "Like healthy trees, healthy grass has the necessary natural biological defenses to fight insects," adds Wong. "Water grass regularly and use a nitrogen-based fertilizer at the beginning of every season."
Removing decaying tree stumps—which attract beetles, termites, ants, and many other wood-boring pests—is another option, as is storing firewood "at least 20 feet away from your home," to keep spiders and ants from taking up residence, notes Dr. Fredericks.
Store Trash Correctly
"Some insects, such as ants, have four- to five-times more odor receptors than others," says Wong. He recommends removing trash storage from your backyard to prevent pests from infiltrating the space. Use a properly fitted lid with a tight seal to prevent cockroaches, other insects, and stray animals from invading. When not in use, trash cans should be stored away from the house if possible.
Know When to Call for Help
Wong says that pesticides should be a last resort, and applied only by a licensed exterminator. "When considering pesticides, work with companies that offer green solutions," he says. "For example, garlic oil-based insecticides are exceptionally effective against mosquitoes, and relatively harmless to people and pets."