We’ve all been there: you plan the ultimate summer party, buy and prepare the food, set it up, decorate, and invite all your friends… only to have your meticulously-planned party crashed by a bunch of uninvited guests. No, not your in-laws bearing apple pie and criticism (though that can be a nuisance too) – we mean the flies, mosquitoes, ticks, and ants that swarm your party, contaminating your food and biting the (invited) partygoers.
When you don’t have a screened-in porch, can’t stand the sight and sound of the bug zapper or trapper, and are not a big fan of chemicals (so the exterminator’s out, and you don’t want to spray your guests with Off! or arm them with fly swatters), you’re willing to try anything to keep those pesky critters firmly off the guest list. We’ve found nine tried-and-true natural bug repellents to keep your party pest-free.
Mow before party time. Tall grass is the perfect hiding spot for creepy crawlies, especially Lyme-carrying ticks. Cut the grass as close to party day as possible. You want the lawn to look nice anyway, and that irresistible freshly-cut grass smell is a huge bonus.
Remove bug attractions. This may seem obvious, but it’s important: standing water, open food, and garbage cans are neon signs telling bugs to come to your party. Empty the kiddie pool, add bug-eating fish to your pond, dry up the swampy puddle that’s been there since the last rainfall, stow the trash – with a lid – on the other side of the yard, and keep your food covered whenever possible.
Citronella. Yes, it works, and it smells nice too. Try candles on every table or tiki torches with citronella-infused fluid. Citronella is only effective across an approximately 4-foot radius, so set them up strategically to cover the entire party area.
Fans. Besides for cooling off your guests, a simple fan will help keep bugs at bay. Set up two or more fans to creat a cross-breeze. Mosquitoes and other insects are weak flyers and are unable to fly through the current. (Make sure to weigh down those napkins!)
Bats. For real! If you live in a mosquito-heavy area, put up a bat house (like a birdhouse, but for bats) and let them gobble your pests. They’ll cut down on your bug problem and no, they won’t tangle in your guests’ hair. (Especially apropos if you plan on throwing a Batman-themed party.)
Go green. Plant or decorate with bug-repelling greenery, herbs, and flowers like citronella grass, marigolds, rosemary and basil. Create a border around the party perimeter or use potted varieties as centerpieces.
Smoke ’em out. If you don’t want to go the floral route, you can cook the same plants for a similar effect. Grill or burn some rosemary or basil – coffee grounds have been said to work too – and let the fragrant smoke chase the bugs away.
Attract those bugs. Elsewhere, that is. Set up jars of sugar water (yeast can also be effective) in a secluded area of your garden to divert the pests there. You may want to attempt the water bag trick – it’s not proven but many swear by it.
Draw the line. If ants are your main interlopers, draw a line around the party area with chalk. Ants will not cross chalk lines (try it and watch!). Cinnamon will also keep the critters away.
So start planning your party with peace of mind – and without any uninvited guests (of the multi-legged variety). Happy summer!