Don't let bugs get the best of you

If a blight of bugs has descended on your home and garden, here are some tips on how you can keep them from ruining your summer.

The Noisemakers

With a plague of cicadas emerging from the soil this summer, life is about to get very noisy in many parts of the country. There is no way to directly do battle with a brood of bugs this big, but you can take steps to mitigate some of the damage. Mow and rake regularly to clear cicada corpses from the lawn. Then, compost them to return them to the soil from whence they came. If you have a pool, keep it covered when not in use and clean it regularly to prevent cicadas from clogging up the pump. Finally, if you are a pet owner, keep an eye on animals when they are in the backyard. Curious dogs and cats are prone to feast on these plump insects, and one too many can cause your pet to suffer from an upset stomach.

Cicadas aren’t the only chirping insects ruining your sleep. A few particularly vocal crickets can also keep you up at night. If crickets have found their way inside your home, put out some glue traps in the problem areas. Outside, crickets like to hide in dark, moist places, like beneath decks, along the foundation of the house, or in crawl spaces. By sealing up these cracks and filling in larger areas with dirt, you can cut down on their preferred hiding places. An application of insecticide around these areas will also help silence these noisy pests.

The Biters

Don’t let a buzzing swarm of bloodsuckers ruin your summer. Any standing water, including in birdbaths, empty buckets, or other debris left out in the yard can quickly become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Many species of mosquito travel less than a few hundred feet during their short lives, so cleaning up your yard -- and encouraging your neighbors to clean up theirs -- can really cut back on these buzzing bloodsuckers. For an added layer of protection, you can purchase an insect fogger, which allows you to put down a layer of potent insecticide, stopping those little buggers in their tracks.

Many species of mosquito travel less than a few hundred feet during their short lives, so cleaning up your yard ... can really cut back on these buzzing bloodsuckers.

— Adam Verwymeren

The Plant Eaters

Aphids can show up out of the blue and devour your plants in no time. While you can turn to insecticides, a cheaper and safer solution is a simple mix of dish soap and water.  Add three teaspoons of soap to a quart of water and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. The soap strips the oils from the aphids, causing them to dry out and die within a day.

Caterpillars chowing down on your leafy green foliage can also leave your yard looking rather sparse. Bacillus thuringiensis, or BT powder, is a safe and natural bacteria that will kill off caterpillars, but leave your plants unharmed. Simply sprinkle some over the infested plants and let the bacteria do the rest.

The Invaders

It starts with a single column of invading ants marching across your kitchen floor, and before you know it, they are everywhere. If ants have decided to make your pantry their own little take out restaurant, it’s time to take some tough action against them.

First off, you want to seal over any cracks or crevices that allow the ants easy access. Once you’ve closed off access, it’s time to eliminate anything that might be luring them in. Food left out, dirty dishes in the sink, open garbage or compost bins, and sugar or flour in paper sacks are common favorites of hungry ants. Taking care of these easily accessible food sources can stop an invasion early on, but if that still doesn’t do the trick, it’s time to turn to chemical solutions. Commercial ant traps from a hardware store are one way to go, but you can easily whip up some homemade ant poison by mixing equal parts Borax and confectioners’ sugar. Put out a dish of this concoction and hopefully you’ll be rid of them in no time. However, if you have pets or small children, a safer alternative is ground cinnamon, which will deter ants from coming in your home.