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Ten Smart Ways to Keep Pests Away This Summer

Summertime and the living is ... not so easy. At least it's not so easy when you have insect problems. Send these 10 common summer pests packing.

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mosquitoSurapol Usanakul/Shutterstock

Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes know how to spoil a good time. Planning a little R&R in the backyard after sunset? Mosquitoes will likely be on the guest list, whether you invite them or not. Mosquitoes aren’t just a nuisance; they can carry dangerous diseases like dengue fever and malaria and can transmit heartworms to pets.

Protect yourself by wearing mosquito repellent — either one containing DEET or an organic variety. Cut down your yard’s mosquito population by eliminating sources of standing water and using mosquito dunks.

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tickbonder.olka/Shutterstock

Ticks

Ticks are a common insect pest in summer when people are out and about. They are especially prevalent around overgrown shrubby areas and uncut grass. Tick populations are increasing due to milder winters and a rising population of the deer and rodents they feed on. Ticks, especially deer ticks, can carry a number of diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

When hiking through tick-infested areas, wear tick repellent or tick-repelling clothing. Also tuck pants into socks, and afterward do a thorough body inspection for ticks.

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Japanese beetleI love Photo and Apple./Getty Images

Japanese Beetles

These common garden pests, not to be confused with the Asian lady beetle, like to have their cake and eat it too. As immature grubs dwelling underground, they devour plant roots. Then when they emerge as beetles, they skeletonize foliage. In both stages, Japanese beetles injure, weaken and disfigure plants.

Cut down on infestations by applying a grub killer in spring and treating beetles in summer. The latter can be done by flicking them into a container of soapy water and letting them drown. A plastic coffee canister is the perfect size and even has handles. They are less active and easier to capture in early morning and just before dark. Another option is to spray with neem oil or insecticidal soap.

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FliesEileen Kumpf/Shutterstock

Flies

Put off picking up your pet’s business for a day and you’ll quickly discover you have flies. Although they serve a definite ecological purpose, flies are frankly a pest around the yard and home, especially when you’re entertaining or trying to serve an alfresco meal. And when they enter your home, they can be a chore to hunt down and swat.

To discourage them, don’t leave anything around the yard to attract them, from dog poop to kitchen scraps in your compost pile (which should be buried or kept in a closed compost bin). Keep a tight lid on your trash can. And hang sticky flypaper in key areas such as the garage, near the back door, and under the roof of your porch or gazebo.

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waspTimin/shutterstock

Hornets and Wasps

We’re all keen on protecting pollinators like honeybees, but ornery hornets and wasps aren’t so easy to love. They set up nests under eaves, porches and decks, or in woodpiles and other yard debris. And if you accidentally disturb this nest, they will chase and sting you. This game of revenge is particularly dangerous to people prone to allergic reactions to stings.

There are over-the-counter hornet and wasp killers that shoot a long stream of spray so you don’t need to be too close to the nest, but the safest bet may be to call an exterminator.

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Termite BEJITA/Shutterstock

Termites

Termites do billions of dollars in damage to homes each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. This wood-eating pest is especially active in spring and summer and is a serious threat to homes and other wooden structures.

Infestations are treated with termiticides applied by trained pest management professionals. However, non-chemical biological control agents such as nematodes and fungi can be applied by homeowners. Sound home maintenance practices can help, such as grading the soil to keep dirt and moisture away from the foundation and exposed wood.

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fleaschankz/Shutterstock

Fleas

Pets that spend any amount of time outdoors are prone to fleas. You’ll see your pet biting and scratching, and if you’re not careful the fleas will end up in your house. Worse, fleas can transmit tapeworms and bacterial infections.

Safeguard pets with a flea collar, oral medication or topical solution. If fleas infest the house, pest control will be needed, usually in the form of an aerosol insecticide applied anywhere fleas might hide: furniture, rugs, pet bedding, etc.

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SLUG Romashka D/Shutterstock

Slugs

They may be slow movers, but they’re not slow to munch around prized plants. Slugs are often found in shady, damp areas feeding on hostas and other leafy ornamentals. There are various ways to get rid of slugs and snails, including trapping them in tuna fish cans filled with stale beer. (They’re attracted to the yeast, fall in and drown).

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Fire antsAtqiya Abdullah/Getty Images

Fire Ants

The red imported fire ant has become a serious pest in the Southeastern U.S. An aggressive species that stings if disturbed, fire ants set up nests in open pastures, farm fields or lawns, but they may also be found under pavement, buildings and rotting logs.

One solution is to dump several gallons of boiling water slowly down the nest, repeating as necessary. Some pesticides are effective on fire ants, including hydramethylnon and sulfluramid, which kill ants by preventing them from converting food into energy, and avermectin (also known as abamectin) which inhibits nerve function.

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gnat. Kucharski K. Kucharska/Shutterstock

Gnats

Most prevalent in humid, hot weather, these tiny flying insects are a definite nuisance. Some bite, some don’t, but even those that don’t bite can make it uncomfortable to be outdoors when they fly in swarms or clouds. And gnats can also be pests indoors, where they’re sometimes found around houseplants growing in a wet potting mix that includes shredded bark, wood fines or compost. You can spray gnats with an insecticide labeled for gnats or capture them with a DIY gnat trap bottle.

Luke Miller
Luke Miller is an award-winning garden editor with 25 years' experience in horticultural communications, including editing a national magazine and creating print and online gardening content for a national retailer. He grew up across the street from a park arboretum and has a lifelong passion for gardening in general and trees in particular. In addition to his journalism degree, he has studied horticulture and is a Master Gardener.