It’s amazing how a few small insects can ruin an enjoyable time on the patio. Flies and mosquitoes are the usual culprits, but there are also gnats, fruit flies, wasps, bees, spiders, and a whole world full of stinging, biting, or disease-carrying insects out there.
With so many different types, it can be overwhelming when you’re trying to find ways to keep them all away. This is why I wanted to share with you 15 ways to keep bugs away from your patio this summer. Some of the tips are about prevention while others are about repelling. And, best of all, most of them are cheap or free!
1. Keep Your Yard Clean and Tidy
Most of the bugs that pester you on the patio are attracted by dirt, debris, and hiding spots. A clean yard and patio will do much to help keep bugs away. This includes any nearby gutters that may be dirty, woodpiles that are close to the house, and any unused items collecting dust.
2. Use Patio Lights Wisely
It’s no secret that many winged insects are attracted to light. Switching to yellow compact fluorescent, halogen, or sodium vapor bulbs can help reduce insects swarming around the porch light. However, the best way to reduce those flying insects is to keep the light off unless you’re using it. No light means no bugs swarming around.
3. Use Fans
Another great way to keep flying bugs away from your patio is to use a fan or two. Ceilings fans work well for covered patios, but portable fans can do the trick, as well. Moving the air around not only keeps you cool, but it keeps all but the very strongest fliers away, which is most of them.
4. Plant Insect-Repelling Herbs or Flowers
There are plenty of plants that insects tend to steer clear of. Most of them you’re probably familiar with, as they’re popular herbs and flowers. You can plant these around your patio in the ground or you can use planter boxes and keep them on the patio for added insect protection. Here are some great options:
- Venus Flytraps
While these plants probably won’t completely eliminate all the insects around, they do make great additions to any patio and can be an effective supplement to any of the other options on this list.
5. Spray Essential Oils
Creating a solution of essential oils to spray around your patio is a similar tactic to planting any of the herbs above. The strong smells of certain essential oils help mask your human scent. Plus, some essential oils can be deadly to insects on direct contact. Peppermint or orange essential oils work well, but you can also use lavender, citronella, or cinnamon.
To make one of these sprays, mix 7 or 8 drops of oil with every cup of water. Spray this around the perimeter of your patio or your entire home.
But, dogs and cats can have adverse reactions if essential oils get on their fur or skin, so be careful if you have pets. You’ll want to re-apply the solution every 2 or 3 days for best results.
6. Mind the Mulch
Mulch is great for landscaping and growing healthy plants, but it can also attract insects. To keep pests away, try not to use organic mulch directly around the house and always keep the mulch under three inches deep. Any deeper than that, and it’s less likely to dry out. And there are plenty of insects that are attracted to moisture. You can also use types of mulch that repel insects, like cedar and cypress heartwood.
7. Eliminate Standing Water
Speaking of moisture, standing water is one of the worst things you can have around your home for insect control. Mosquitoes especially love stagnant water because it gives them a place to lay eggs. One mosquito can lay around 100 eggs, so you can see why standing water is a problem. Get rid of the water and you’ll see a drastic decrease in insect activity.
8. Apply a Natural or Chemical Repellent
Lastly, and perhaps most obviously, you can use a spray or lotion repellent applied to your skin to keep bugs away. This tip is last not only because most people already know about it, but also because it can be a pain to spray or rub yourself with lotion every time you want to spend a few minutes on the patio. Still, it is a viable option, which is why I’ve included a natural and a DEET option.
- OFF! Natural Repellent – One of the biggest brands in insect repellent offers a natural option that lasts for 2 hours and is safe for kids. It uses natural oils to mask the scents that attract insects.
- Repel Insect Repellent – This option uses DEET, which is effective for up to 4 hours. It is considered safe, but many people don’t like the smell or feel of it on their skin.
9. Install a Bat House
This tip only really works if you live in a place with bats nearby. A bat house on your property can attract a small colony of bats, which can then go to work on the insect population at night. They are excellent mosquito eaters and are lots of fun to watch as they dart around, hunting their dinner. Bats make little squeaking noises as they use sonar to move around, but they’re barely audible. Otherwise, bats stay away from humans and make great tenants.
But, keep in mind that there is no guarantee a bat house will attract bats. It’s not an exact science, even though many homeowners have had great luck with them before.
- KIBAGA Bat House – This double-chambered bat house is made out of weather-resistant cedarwood. It imitates the inside of a dead tree, allowing bats to pack in tightly and providing them with an ideal home.
10. Purchase an Electronic Bug Zapper
If you don’t feel like making a homemade bug trap, you can always purchase a bug zapper. I recommend this one:
- TPI Pro Bug Zapper – This highly-rated zapper attracts bugs with UV light and a refillable, non-toxic attractant. It’s good for flying insects, including mosquitoes and flies. It does need an electrical outlet to work, but it’s rainproof and easy to clean.
11. Use Disposable Bug Traps
If flies are your big problem, there are plenty of disposable options, like this one:
- Rescue! Fly Trap – All you have to do is hang these around your patio and enjoy the fly-free environment. They’re extremely effective at trapping flies, and you simply throw them out when they fill up or become ineffective.
12. Make a Homemade Bug Trap
You don’t need much to make a homemade bug trap. There are different iterations, but the same basic concept is the same. For fruit flies and house flies, try this:
- A plastic water or soda bottle (the bigger the bottle, the longer the trap will last).
- ½ cup white vinegar. (Or apple cider vinegar).
- 2 tablespoons sugar.
- ¼ cup water.
Remove the bottle cap. Cut the top of the bottle off and set it aside. Mix the vinegar, water, and sugar together, and then pour it into the bottom of the plastic bottle. Place the top of the bottle into the bottom upside down. This creates a funnel, making it easy for the insects to get inside but hard for them to get out. You can tape the two pieces of the bottle together, but this isn’t necessary unless there are gaps between the two large enough for insects to escape. Set outside, away from the patio, and allow one full day for it to start working. Replace the contents every one or two weeks for best results.
For a mosquito trap, use these ingredients in the same setup:
- ¼ brown sugar
- 1 cup of hot water
- 1 gram of yeast
Heat up the water and put the sugar in, allowing it to dissolve as it cools. Once it is cool, pour it into the bottom of the bottle, add yeast, and then place the top inside, as described above. This will attract mosquitoes via carbon dioxide created when the yeast is added. Replace concoction every one to two weeks.
13. Spray Insecticide
If you want to go with a more aggressive option, you can spray your property with insecticide. These days, you have the option of going with a chemical option or one that is chemical-free.
- Ortho Home Defense – This chemical option is safe for use inside and outside the house when you follow the directions exactly. It creates a barrier for three months to keep bugs out, but it doesn’t list mosquitoes and flies explicitly. So if flying insects are your problem, this may not be the best solution.
- Wondercide EcoTreat Spray – This plant-based spray doesn’t include any harmful chemicals and is biodegradable. It doesn’t last as long as most chemical options (only 30 to 45 days) but it also doesn’t require that you let the solution dry like chemical pesticides. This one is rated for mosquitoes, but not houseflies.
14. Use a Professional Service
If you’d rather not do the spraying yourself, you can always hire a professional spraying service. They come around every few months and spray around your property. You’ll generally have to wait an hour or so for the solution to dry before letting pets or children outside, but otherwise, it’s an effective option.
15. Use Citronella to Supplement
At this point, you may be wondering about citronella candles and incense sticks that you see at the big box stores. I can’t recommend that you use them as your main means of repelling insects, simply because they have not proven very effective. However, they can make a great supplement to any existing measures you have in place.
- Repel Citronella Candle – This outdoor candle can help repel mosquitoes and other insects for up to 20 hours.