How to Host a Pest-Free Memorial Day Cookout
Every year on the last Monday in May, Americans celebrate one of our most beloved holidays – Memorial Day. This 155-year-old tradition honors the men and women who paid the ultimate price in service to our nation and serves as the unofficial beginning of summer.
But as Americans gather around barbecue pits with friends and family to finally enjoy some warm weather together, they’re often joined by another big fan of outdoor cooking and eating – pests.
Protect Your Guest List
Uninvited insects are, unfortunately, just as common at a Memorial Day cookout as hot dogs and hamburgers. But unlike the homemade potato salad and deviled eggs, no one is raving about the yellow jackets, ants and – worst of all – mosquitoes.
Although it may be difficult to totally pest-proof your next Memorial Day party, there are definitely some ways you can limit your cookout’s appeal to the peskiest among them. But first you have to know what attracts insect invaders in the first place.
Pest-Specific Picnic Deterrents
Yellow jackets, for example, like to enjoy the same foods and beverages that we do. The best way to keep these insects at bay is to serve food indoors if at all possible. If that’s not an option, serve food in covered dishes that can be sealed after everyone fills their plates. Thankfully, these pests usually aren’t much of a problem until later in the season, unless summer’s warmer temperatures arrive a bit earlier than usual.
Ants are not only exceptionally skilled at sniffing out good grub, they use a sophisticated communication system to alert the other ants in their colony where to find the buffet line. That’s why when you see one or two ants it’s not long before you see hundreds. Serving food either indoors or in sealed containers will help cut down on ants, but also be sure to clean up any spills or messes and not leave any dropped food on the ground.
Ants can be annoying for sure, but they do not pose much of a threat other than making the buffet spread unappetizing. The same cannot be said, however, of the worst of all cookout pests – mosquitoes.
Make Moves Against Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes aren’t just bothersome, they are common vectors of disease as well. Zika virus, West Nile virus, malaria and dengue fever are just a few of the potentially deadly illnesses humans can contract when bitten by an infected mosquito.
And it’s not just the people at your picnic you need to worry about – mosquitoes can also transmit canine heartworm to any furry friends you may have invited to your outdoor celebration.
Because mosquitoes can actually pose a risk to the health of you and your guests, it’s especially important to take extra precautions to prevent mosquito problems. As with other picnic pests, take care when serving food and be on the lookout for messes. But also look for any standing water and, if possible, drain any puddles or pools in the general vicinity of your cookout. Make sure, too, that the area is clean and free of debris and clutter.
Do not, however, attempt to use other supposedly effective alternatives like essential oils to repel mosquitos – science shows they don’t work. Instead, if your picnic site has electrical outlets, try placing fans around the perimeter to deter mosquitos with a non-chemical solution.
Be leery, however, of expensive traps and bug zappers. The American Mosquito Control Association doubts they do much to reduce mosquito numbers. But if you’re looking for a more high-tech solution, mosquito foggers can keep mosquitos away for hours or even days.
If you take a little extra time to prepare your picnic area for your cookout, you can help reduce insect problems so your guests can enjoy the weather, the food and each other’s company without having to swat away pests.
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