Control Summer Bugs with Insect Repellents

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The average backyard contains up to 1,000 different insects. Fortunately only 10 per cent of these are destructive or harmful to man and plants. Modern weaponry includes foggers that spray clouds of gas over your yard, mosquito-zappers that electrocute them, coils that smoke them and liquids that repel them. But going green will also help deter the pests and you won’t be harming yourself or the environment.

Mosquito and Blackfly Repellents

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in winter and melting snow and excessive rain provides perfect breeding pools to cause a soar in the mosquito population. Larvae develop in 10 to 30 days. Since different species lay their eggs at different times, mosquitoes proliferate throughout the summer and fall.

More than 70 species exist in Canada and almost all use mammalian blood to produce eggs but only the female mosquito bites. Her favorite meal time is sunrise and sunset when light, heat and humidity is perfect.

The pesky blackflies are expected to reach their peak in the first two weeks in June and while their season in Southeastern Ontario lasts only about two weeks, it feels like forever.It’s difficult to recognize the bloodthirsty little beasts but if you look closely they are black and humpbacked, not sleek like a mosquito.

Blackflies make their insidious way through shirt sleeve cuffs, up pant legs, through button-holes and any other available openings. Since their bite is initially painless, it’s hard to know you’ve been bitten until the swelling.They inject a salivary secretion of anti-coagulants into their victim’s flesh to prevent clotting since clots can clog their proboscises.

Most people are aware of insect repellents and use them. The most effective ingredient used is dietyhltoluamide, commonly known as DEET. They are easily available at any pharmacy, grocery or hardware store.

Repellents with a DEET concentration of 100 per cent last for up to eight hours. The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that repellents used on children contain no more that 10% DEET and that parents should assist children in apply the products.

Use Natural Insect Repellents and Strategies to Curb Insects

Natural insect repellents strategies, however, can lessen or eliminate the need for such harsh measures. The most important measure you can take is to eliminate standing water, thereby not giving mosquitoes a chance to breed. Change bird baths, wading pools and pet water dishes at least twice a week and more often, if you can and remove sundry items that hold water.

Natural insect repellents range from citronella and neem oil to eucalyptus and thyme. Certainly, none of them will hurt you.

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Sandflies, Earwigs and Other Pests

DEET and other repellents can also be used on sandflies, tiny midges that can crawl through standard window screens. Their bites are painless but the resulting swelling can be quite painful. Sandflies and other biting midges are strongly attracted to light so keep the lights off in your tent or cottage when you are elsewhere.

European earwigs are pests that have increased in numbers in the last few years. Experts say the growth in population may be due to a lack of natural predators.

The best way to keep the critters away is to clear front and backyards of debris, as earwigs will hide under anything. They are nocturnal feeders and hide by day in the soil and garden debris. They lay their eggs in the top two inches of soil and can be carried indoors on a child’s shoe or creep through door and window cracks.

Tomato plants (but not the tomatoes) and impatiens are disliked by earwigs but they will munch holes in most vegetable leaves, attack seedlings, carrots, beans and beets. Diatomaceous earth, the naturally-occurring remains of hard-shelled algae, comes in an abrasive powder that can be sprinkled around plants as a defence against earwigs and other soft-bodied garden pests. Diatomaceous earth can be found at most garden stores. You can also trap earwigs in a shallow container half-filled with vegetable oil. If you must use pesticides May, June and July are the months to do so.

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