Enjoying the great outdoors is one of the many things summer offers. Whether it is hiking or camping at a state or national park, going to your community park for a picnic or simply having fun in your own backyard, enjoying green spaces is a summer ritual.
While you are enjoying the feeling of lush grass between your toes or the aromatic smell of a flowering plant, you should be mindful of several threats that can loom in green spaces including mosquitoes, stinging insects, and fleas and ticks.
“When used as directed, insect control products and fertilizers work to keep your lawn and landscape healthy and strong,” says Cindy Code, executive director of Project EverGreen. “A healthy yard can more effectively reduce quantities or populations of mosquitoes, ticks and stinging insects.”
There has been significant media coverage this spring regarding the Zika virus. While there have been no confirmed transmissions of the disease in the United States, it does bring to the forefront the threat of mosquito-borne diseases including West Nile virus, chikungunya and dengue fever.
How do you protect your and your family from mosquitoes this summer? Experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following tips to avoid mosquito bites:
- Use insect repellents containing DEET, picaridin or IR3535. Some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provides long-lasting protection.
- If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
- Do not spray insect repellent on the skin under your clothing; treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
- When weather permits, wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
- Take extra care during peak mosquito biting hours and use repellent and protective clothing from dusk to dawn or consider avoiding outdoor activities during these times.
- Help reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by emptying standing water from flowerpots, gutters, buckets, pool covers, pet water dishes, discarded tires, and birdbaths on a regular basis.
While some stinging insects are beneficial to our environment, others pose a threat to people as they are enjoying the great outdoors. According to research from the National Pest Management Association, stinging insects send more than 500,000 people to the emergency room each year due to allergic reactions.
Stinging insects call a variety of locations in and around a structure home. They can live in trees, bushes, the ground, attics, crawlspaces, gutters, building overhangs, and decks.
- Remove food and water sources from your yard; trim bushes and trees where stinging insects like to nest.
- Inspect the exterior of your home or office, looking closely at the eaves, and seal cracks and crevices to keep stinging insects out.
- Properly seal all garbage cans – stinging insects are attracted to the sugars and residues in leftover food.
- Keep food covered when you are putting out your summer spread.
- When gardening, wear neutral earth tones, nothing bright or floral, and avoid wearing scented creams or perfume.
- At that backyard cookout, keep an eye on your drink. Stinging insects are attracted to sugary contents soft drinks and beer, and drinking a mouthful of bee or wasp is not pleasant.
If you come across a nest, proceed with caution and do not attempt to remove the nest yourself. Stinging insects are not to be taken lightly and can be very aggressive, the Africanized honey bee in particular, when disturbed. Call your local pest management professional to safely remove the nest.
Fleas & Ticks
With the return of warm weather, everyone wants to spend more time outdoors—including household pets such as dogs and cats. Like people, pets are also at risk for the serious health complications that can arise from tick and flea bites.
Good landscape management practices by homeowners including clearing leaf litter, keeping grass cut or creating woodchip/stone barriers between lawns and adjacent woodlands that are inhabited by wildlife will be helpful in keeping ticks in check.
Fleas can become a problem and huge nuisance when humans or pets bring them inside the home since once inside, they can easily reproduce in bedding, carpets or furniture. Here are several tips to protect your pets and family from ticks and fleas this summer:
- Check pets frequently for ticks and fleas - be aware of excessive scratching and licking.
- Avoid walking dogs in tall grass, where fleas and ticks often hide.
- Bathe pets after walks or playtime with other animals.
- Frequently wash pet bedding, collars and plush toys.
- Wash bed linens and vacuum carpets, floors and furniture frequently.
- For on-animal prevention and treatment options, please consult with your veterinarian. We love cats and dogs, but we don’t treat them.
Headquartered in Cleveland, OH, Project EverGreen is a national non-profit organization committed to promoting the positive effects managed green spaces, including lawns and landscapes, athletic and recreational turf, and trees and parks have on the physical, mental and economic well-being of communities across the United States. Project EverGreen’s initiatives include GreenCare for Troops, SnowCare for Troops and Healthy Turf Healthy Kids.