Summer activities like hiking, camping, picnics and barbecues are all fun ways to enjoy the great outdoors. But spending more time outside can lead to mosquito and tick bites, and the potential for bringing these pests inside the home and putting families at risk for insect-borne diseases.
According to the CDC, cases of disease pathogens transmitted by ticks, mosquitoes and fleas more than tripled between 2004 and 2016 - which includes Lyme disease spread by ticks and West Nile Virus carried by mosquitoes.
Here are some tips for keeping insects away and enjoying summer to its fullest.
For the great outdoors
When hiking, stay in the middle of trails, not along the sides. Walking through vegetation, leaves and high grasses can make you susceptible to ticks, including deer ticks (also known as black-legged ticks). This species can even be present in low grassy areas such as backyards.
Wear long pants and socks to help deter ticks from attaching to the skin, and serious hikers should treat outdoor clothing and hiking boots with an EPA-registered repellent containing permethrin.
Check yourself (and your children) from head to toe for ticks after being outdoors. If you find a tick on your body, remove it immediately with fine-tipped tweezers.
Clothing should be tossed in the dryer on high heat for 10 minutes after returning indoors to ensure ticks aren't coming inside.
To keep mosquitoes at bay during hikes, use an EPA-registered insect repellent with one of the following ingredients: Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE), Picaridin, IR3535, DEET, 2-undecanone and Para-menthane-diol (PMD).
Avoid wearing perfumes and using soaps or lotions with fragrances, as these can attract mosquitoes.
A bug-free backyard
If deer are common in the neighborhood, use a deer repellent to prevent them from hanging around the yard and bringing in ticks. Additionally, eliminate plants that deer like to eat and consider building fencing to keep them out of the yard.
Make sure the lawn doesn't become a tick habitat by clearing dead leaves and removing any brush or tall grasses. Use gravel, stones or wood chips as a barrier between the main recreational areas of the yard and the areas with more vegetation, where ticks are often present.
To keep the backyard mosquito-free during summer parties, eliminate standing water around the home and yard, as these are prime mosquito breeding areas.
Another way to prevent mosquitoes from ruining backyard barbecues is to use a product like repellent candles. These candles repel two times more mosquitoes than citronella and are made with spearmint and lemongrass essential oils. The candles release a mellow, fresh citrus scent that creates an invisible barrier to keep pests away.
Keep insects outside
To help keep insects from entering the home, check that all door and window screens are in good condition, with no holes or gaps. Don't leave doors open too long, especially during dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
Some pesticides can create an effective barrier against common insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, ants, roaches and spiders. Create a 12-inch band along the perimeter outside the home's foundation, and/or set the product to spray a 4-inch band along the interior perimeter of the home, wherever insects are a recurring problem. The easy-to-use spray dries quickly, with no odor or stains, to create a long-lasting bug barrier.
Following these helpful tips can help keep mosquitoes, ticks and other insects away for a hassle-free summer.