You're Bugging me


Let’s be honest. Being outside can be nice, but the bugs – especially this season – are making it a really miserable experience.

The problem was too much standing water at warm temperatures during the beginning of the spring, according to Jonathan Schechter, an on-staff naturalist for West Bloomfield. The result is legions of mosquitoes, some that seem to be as large as Musketeer bars, gnawing on anything that moves after dusk.

There are solutions, though. It was clear, as Mike Frentz was explaining the dizzying array of insecticides he has available, that man really hates bugs and is determined to reclaim the outdoors, and hasn’t come close to exhausting the possibilities for doing so.

Tried and true
For example, there are good things about some of the newer fixes. Safety has taken a front seat, and spray-on repellants no longer make you feel like an Army test subject. If you’re like many of us, who stand inside, looking at your nice back yard but not even thinking about setting foot outside, then you might want to try one of these:

Cutter’s citronella candles. The difference between these and other citronella candles is that these have heft and three wicks per candle. They’re built for business, not aesthetics. Mike says when citronella burns it emits an odor bugs dislike. Many people think these candles don’t work, but there’s a trick to it. Mike says they’re built for close range use, such as at the foot of your lawn chair or in the center of your patio table. If you use them in that fashion, you’ll find they do work. Cutter’s has also just come out with a new mosquito coil-candle combo. You light the mosquito coil and then place it inside a clay holder that is perforated, to let the smoke out, but also has a spot on the top for a small candle that neutralizes – for humans, at least – the odor coming from the smoke. Clever idea, also on sale. If you’re going to move around a lot, you’ll need something on you, and Mike recommends Backwoods Cutters. "I’ve been fishing in Canada, and this stuff stops black flies. Period." Reapply after about six hours to keep up the protection. It's a hornets nest None of the above will make a dent in hornets or wasps, so it’s important to hit them with something really potent, where they live. Ortho puts out a products called Hornet and Wasp Killer, and Mike says it really does work, but pay attention to the application.

"The best time to do this is at dusk, when they’ve settled down. At night would be best, but they’re harder to see, so try for late dusk." This can of Ortho shoots a 15-foot stream straight into the nest, so you don’t have to be right on top of the problem.

"However, it doesn’t always work in one application. On the other hand, it works very quickly, and if any escape the nest they’ll be stunned." Two common places to check for nests are the peaks of garages and behind shutters.

"It also works for bees with hives in the ground," Mike said. "Find the opening, have something ready to use as a plug (a shovel full of dirt will do fine), wait for dusk, spray into the hive and immediately cover the opening."

New approaches
There are also three new products on the newer end of the spectrum:

Mike just got in products from a company called Safer, which has tried to keep products effective while reducing the amount of nasty chemicals needed to do the job. Safer Mosquito Patrol comes in a bottle "and we’ve been selling just a ton of it," Mike says. You hook the bottle up to your garden hose and spray the yard; the mix protects against nuisance bugs for up to four weeks. The same company makes an insecticide soap for use on plants, in vegetable gardens and on flowers. The important thing to do is apply the soap according to the instructions, which call for applications many days before you harvest the vegetables for consumption. The all-time best seller is still the one your grandparents probably used – fly ribbons. "You pull the tab and it extends to a 3-foot heavily glued strip of paper that bugs just fly up against and stick to. It’s still a great alternative to using chemicals of any kind."