How can I enjoy my deck without being swarmed by bugs?
April 19, 2009 1:21 PM   Subscribe

How can I enjoy my deck without being swarmed by bugs?

(I searched previous questions and didn't find anything pertaining to bugs, yards and/or decks, porches, or patios.)

I have a nice big deck on the back of my house. Unfortunately I live in Georgia, and that means bugs. Lots and lots of bugs. The bugs in question are gnats and mosquitoes. The gnats are just annoying and seem to want to fly up my nostrils. And mosquitoes are... well you know.

We've tried citronella candles and tiki torches, but they don't really work. I don't have a covered deck, so creating a screened area would be a major rebuild, so that's not a possibility.

Can anyone recommend anything, or are we just kind of stuck with the bugs?
posted by Fleebnork to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
propane-powered skeeter eaters are the only thing that worked for our no-seeums and mosquitos in swampy connecticut.

Make sure you put it on a remote corner of your property. Also, it takes a few insect generations to work, so get it going soon and the second half of your season will be better.
posted by jenkinsEar at 1:30 PM on April 19, 2009

- When we lived in a mosquito-infested area of Austin, we were able to enjoy our hot tub after dark with no problems using genuine Indian incense. Interestingly we had tried citronella candles but frankly they don't work -- I don't understand how they are able to continue selling those things. Incense does work but I'm not sure how good it is for your lungs, though.

- Screen off your porch, or at least a small section of it. This is what you see in the tropics.

- If you look on the Internet you can also find nice screen enclosures and screen huts for outdoorsy gardening/meditative/etc use that you might be able to adapt for the porch if it's small enough. A nice one can be bought for under $100.
posted by crapmatic at 1:58 PM on April 19, 2009

My parents had a freestanding screened in room on their deck. No building required, although I think they anchored it to the floor. It looked something like this one.
posted by cabingirl at 2:00 PM on April 19, 2009

We run a couple of fans on our patio. Put one at each end and you get a nice cross breeze. They're just regular fans. It does mean that you have to put a cocktail on every napkin and the like so your stuff won't blow off, but it keeps the skeeters and gnats at bay.
posted by Kangaroo at 2:13 PM on April 19, 2009

Little brown bats? I've heard of people building bat houses and getting bats - there's no guarantee they'll stay, though.
posted by ctmf at 2:16 PM on April 19, 2009

I'm sure you're looking for something you can do to the deck area itself to keep the bugs away from everyone, but as someone who apparently is like candy for mosquitoes and other bugs, I can vouch for the effectiveness of Avon's Bug Guard Plus repellent. I used it last summer and for the first time ever I came home from the eastern shore of Virginia without bug-related wounds all over my body, and I wear it when mowing the grass or just going out in our (very buggy) backyard, too.
posted by LolaGeek at 2:42 PM on April 19, 2009

I picked up some of this from Lowes and hosed down our back yard a few times last summer when the mosquitos showed up. It worked for a couple of weeks per application.
posted by sad_otter at 3:38 PM on April 19, 2009

Fans work better than anything I've seen and are non-toxic. There are plants that have traditionally been used as borders because they repel insects- I don't know what is good in your area but garlic and chrysanthemums are used a lot here. The skeeter eating machines are great too but not an instant fix.
posted by fshgrl at 3:40 PM on April 19, 2009

Found this online:
Mosquito Predators

There are a number of insects and small animals that are natural predators of the mosquito. To fully appreciate these animals it is best to know how they can help to reduce the number of mosquitos. That way, instead of treating them like another annoyance, we can encourage them, to a certain degree, in order to control the pesky mosquitoes. Here is a list of the mosquito’s natural enemies, together with some interesting facts:

• Mosquitofish: eats both plant and animal life

* According to some studies, a single mosquito fish can eat up to 50 mosquito larvae in half an hour and a maximum of 168 in an eight hour period.
* They are the best choice right now because they can tolerate various temperature changes in the water, poor environments, and organic waters.

• Guppy:

* Like the mosquito fish, guppies have the ability to endure significant levels of chemical and organic pollutants in the water that would cause other fish to die.
* The guppy can tolerate some changes in water temperature, but not as drastic as the mosquitofish.

• Dragonfly:

* Normally, the dragonfly’s prey is caught in the air and eaten in flight.
* It consumes large numbers of mosquitoes.

• Birds:

* Several specific species of birds eat mosquitoes.
* Birds adapt their diet when there is a higher concentration of mosquitoes.
* Water fowl consume mosquito larvae in their normal diets.

• Bats:

* Most bat species feed after dark or at dusk.
* Some experts estimated that one bat can eat between 600 to 1000 insects, mosquitoes included, within a period of one hour.

There are a number of things you can do to reduce the number of mosquitoes in your environment. Here are a few suggestions to encourage the previous mentioned predators and other natural mosquito predators:

* Put bird houses on your lawn or in your backyard.
* If you have a pond near your country house, you can grow plants such as cattails and bulrushes which attract dragonflies and other mosquito-eating insects.
* Dense shrubs and brush often provide a habitat for birds and mosquito-eating insects.
posted by aquafortis at 4:31 PM on April 19, 2009

Two suggestions for you:

They have mosquito plants that you could put out on your deck.

Also, when my husband and I looked for mosquito netting for our horrible Maine mosquito problem, it was $3.99/yard...outrageous! we were not going to pay that much (we needed a lot!)so we went to Wal-mart and bought tulle at $.79/yard and rigged up our own screen for our deck, which worked beautifully.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 4:50 PM on April 19, 2009

If bats live in your area, put up a bat house. Or purple martins.
posted by Flood at 5:15 PM on April 19, 2009

Try hanging a mosquito net over a deck umbrella, you can use chairs to hold out the sides more.
posted by JujuB at 6:10 PM on April 19, 2009

If you have a little pond, or its equivalent in standing water nearby, where mosquitoes are breeding, a drop or three of dish detergent can work wonders. It breaks the surface tension on the water and stops larvae from resting on the surface which they need to do to make the jump to full fledged mosquitos.
posted by Huplescat at 6:42 PM on April 19, 2009

Seconding incense for repelling mosquitos. It doesn't have to be a particular kind and the scent can even have dissipated from it; it's the smoke that they hate. It seems to work best if you keep it just above ground level, by, for example, pushing the sticks right into the ground, and then you don't need to breath in much smoke. The main danger is walking into the lit sticks and burning your calves.

Also, I eat a B-complex vitamin about 30 minutes before I'm going to be in the yard. It makes me smell bad to the little bloodsuckers, I guess.

I've heard that mosquitoes are attracted to the carbon dioxide that we exhale, and that they'll be attracted to dry ice as it melts, too, as it's frozen CO2. Supposedly if you are having a party outside, and you put a block of dry ice at the furthest point in your yard, the mosquitoes will hang around it and leave the people alone. I've never tried this, though.

As for gnats, hey, protein! Sorry, I have no idea about the gnats. I probably eat a dozen of them every year.
posted by zinfandel at 7:10 PM on April 19, 2009

Is it about 10 feet square? It seems like everybody in rural Ontario owns some version of this sort of thing. They're often really cheap at grocery stores, garden centers, big-box hardware stores and the like.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:55 PM on April 19, 2009

Thirding the portable screen tent idea. Put it up for the summer, take it down after bug season.
posted by SteveInMaine at 6:21 AM on April 20, 2009

I have used this stuff with great results at my new house.

Shortly after we moved in there was a flood and LOTS of standing water. I applied this a few days later in the yard and in some standing water nearby (I also have a wooded lot next door which I thought would be a bigger problem) and no issues with a reapplication every 3 months.

To be honest, I've hardly even seen any ants and other annoying insects since I started using this stuff too. I do pay special attention to the edge of the wooded lot next door, but I'm only 200 ft from another large wooded area, so I think the lawn application is responsible for keeping most of the insects at bay.

WARNING: this stuff really smells like a strong GARLIC scent for about a day after applying. But after that, even friends coming over cannot smell anything.

(Partial Hijack) Anyone got ideas for getting rid of an armadillo or mole or something that's digging holes all over the neighborhhod that seems especially fond of my lawn?
posted by emjay at 6:40 AM on April 20, 2009

I live in the woods. There is some water. I have a deck. I also have two bat houses. I'm rarely bothered by bugs on my deck. I can't say for sure, but I believe it's the bat houses. I should ad that it's rare to see the bats coming in or out. But at dusk you can see them against the sky coming out to clean up the place. Also, I haven't seen any guano or anything like that. They look like really nice medicine cabinet-sized thingies that you'll rarely notice until a friends says, "What's that?"
posted by lpsguy at 7:24 AM on April 20, 2009

Introducing predators is really just an anecdote, they do consume a lot of mosquitoes but will also gladly eat any other bug that comes their way. Mosquitofish aren't a good idea unless their native to your area because they'll out eat native fish (and any small fish will eat mosquito larvae, when I had tropical aquarium fish I would put skeeter larvae in empty water bottles and feed them, it was kind of amazing to see how they reacted to live food), and even then you have to know where the breeding grounds (small, stagnant ponds) are in order to do anything to the pre-adult mosquitoes.

If you have a mosquito control district in your area, give them a call. They should be glad to do a house call or just give you advice over the phone as to which products to use in your area.

The fans seem like a good idea, and will keep you cool on those warm, humid nights.
posted by whiskey point at 1:06 PM on April 20, 2009

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