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Tips For a Bug-Free Cookout

We all love to celebrate summer by cooking out with family and friends while enjoying the warm weather. But then you also have to worry about uninvited guests, namely insect pests. They have a tendency to put a damper on the fun. Keep those pesky intruders away from your BBQ with these helpful, insecticide-free tips and tricks!

Four Main Pests to Watch Out For

So, who is planning on ruining your outdoor fun? A few usual suspects are always making a nuisance of themselves.



Ants are usually out for proteins, oils, fats, and sweets (just about everything we eat for our cookouts), and will be trying to give you a run for your money for the food on your plate. Once they find your food, it won't be long before several of them are crashing your party. Keep your foods covered, and keep spills and food crumbs wiped up as much as possible. Once your dining area is clean, you could set down some good ant bait stations to keep the ants distracted while you enjoy your cookout. This is how you eliminate entire ant colonies!   

Find out what you need to know about ant baiting here!



By midsummer, adult mosquitoes are very active, morning, noon, and night in search of humans to feed on. Your cookout or picnic is a perfect time for them to find you while you're distracted with your fun activities. You can help keep the mosquitoes in your yard in check by removing all standing water in your backyard (and changing out birdfeeders, pet water dishes, etc.). You might also want to consider wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and using an effective botanical personal mosquito/insect repellent

See how to prevent mosquitoes around your home and yard here.



All kinds of flies, from house flies and phorid flies to bottle flies and fruit flies, are always ready to crash in on your BBQ or picnic! Flies will go straight from rummaging through your garbage to landing on your burger and potato salad. You can try using an effective botanical home bug spray or flying insect killer spray to keep them at bay, but sanitation is always the key to addressing the source of the problem to help prevent and get rid of flies, as well as finding and treating potential breeding sites (like your garbage can). Use tight-fitting lids for garbage cans and be sure to clean up and empty the trash right after the party. Keeping things clean around your home and yard will help keep flies from hanging around.

Are you overwhelmed with bugs this summer? Some years are worse than others. Find out why here.

Stinging Insects


Stinging insects (wasps, hornets, yellow jackets, etc.) love any foods with sugar or high levels of carbohydrates that you might be eating while picnicking or cooking out, so be vigilant. Yellow jackets, in particular, are known to build their nests in the ground, as well as in shrubs, trees, garages, cellars, attics, crawl spaces, and on the outside of buildings, where other stinging insects build theirs as well. Watch out for stinging insects and their nests when you go searching for extra chairs, and when you go to set up yard games. Also, try to avoid wearing heavy colognes, perfumes, and lotions outside, as they can attract stinging insects. Keep an effective botanical wasp and hornet killer on hand.

See our "How to Get Rid of Wasps (and other Stinging Insects) in Your Yard" Guide here!

Backyard bug-free cookout

Now that you're up to speed for the main pests you will likely encounter while cooking out, here are some more tips to help you keep them at bay:

Spray Your Yard Ahead of Time

Before a cookout or picnic in your yard, it's always a good idea to spray for bugs ahead of time with an effective yard bug spray or mosquito and tick killer. Hose-end sprayers are ideal for covering larger areas of lawn.

Keep Food and Drinks Covered

Keep those annoying flies and other insects off of all the delicious treats! Be sure to keep food covered with the container’s lid, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil. Shower caps from the dollar store are also an inexpensive alternative to keep your food covered. Use a pitcher or drink dispenser that can be closed up when not in use.

Use Your Oscillating Fans

Try positioning an oscillating fan (or fans) in your serving/dining area. The air currents will help keep mosquitoes and other flying insects at bay by making it difficult for them to get through to your food and guests.

Pennies and Water

Here's a good trick: Fill a glass or plastic bag with water and place a few pennies in the bottom. The reflected light from the pennies in the water confuses flies, and sends them off in other directions away from the area. Place a few of these water glasses with pennies in them on your food serving table and hang a few of the water-and-penny-filled plastic bags in the area where you, your family, and guests will be eating. 

Paper Bags vs. Wasps

Take a brown paper bag and stuff it full of plastic bags to hang near areas where you'll be sitting, eating, and playing. Wasps will think that these brown bags are hornet nests, and will go elsewhere. 

Ants (and Mosquitoes) vs. Dryer Sheets

Fabric softener sheets contain chemicals that ants hate, so you can use them to help keep them away from food and eating areas. Place dryer sheets underneath each table leg where you'll be storing and eating food. Rubbing dryer sheets on your clothes and skin beforehand will also help keep mosquitoes away. 

Ants vs. Shredded Cucumber

Another ant prevention is shredded cucumber. Ants cannot stand cucumber. Shred the skin of a cucumber near the legs of your serving/eating tables.

Keep Trash Cans Clean and in the Distance

Dirty trash cans or those filled with trash can be major bug magnets. Be sure to keep your trash receptacles hosed out and use trash cans with lids, placing them away from your food serving/eating area.

Light an Egg Carton to Repel Mosquitoes

Take an unused cardboard egg carton or cardboard cup holder (like the ones they give you at the drive-thru) and light a corner. Set on an unheated grill and let it smoke. This keeps the mosquitoes far away.

Decorate with Bug Repellent Flowers

Marigold flowers, Chrysanthemums, Lavender, and Petunias act as natural insect repellents. Place some of these flowers at each table to help keep insects away from where you and your guests will be eating and enjoying yourselves.

Herbs on the Grill

Many herbs are natural bug repellents. Sage, basil, bay leaves, and rosemary are a few of them! Throwing these herbs directly on the grill coals while barbecuing will help keep those unwanted pests away. Be sure to soak the herbs in water before tossing them on the grill.

What are your go-to tricks for keeping bugs away from your cookout or picnic? We'd love to hear them! Leave us a comment below.




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