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Keep Bugs off the Barbecue

There’s nothing like spending time outside with family, fun, and food. The delicious food, the family and friends gathered around the picnic blanket or table, a nice barbecue is an excellent summer activity that can really bring people closer together.

Unfortunately, barbecuing outside can also bring in the bugs, and nothing can spoil a picnic more thoroughly than a swarm of wasps, mosquitoes, or marching ants. To keep them from ruining your backyard fun this barbecue season, we’ve listed the most common bugs that are likely to show up and some things that you can do to keep them away from the party.

Protecting Your Barbecue Food

Pests are most likely to crash the barbecue once the food is ready and out in the open. But there are a few things you can do to keep them off the food.One simple thing that you can do is to place a food tent over each plate as it is set up to prevent flies from accessing it. There are food tents available online, or you can cover the plates with a fine-mesh colander, a shower cap, or tin foil.

While food tents work well to keep bugs from landing on the food, they probably won’t keep them from coming around in the first place. However, there are a few food-safe options you can use to make them less likely to drop by.

There are several aromas that insects dislike and try to avoid. Many of these scents are scientifically proven to repel wasps, while others repel mosquitoes.

  • Lavender
  • Bay leaf
  • Bee Balm
  • Basil
  • Scented Geranium
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Garlic
  • Peppermint
  • Lemongrass
  • Citronella
  • Clove
  • White vinegar
  • Marigolds
  • Citrus, such as lemon, lime, or orange peels

Put sprigs of leaves or zested citrus peels around the barbecue as a barrier to unwanted flying visitors. Keep white vinegar in a spray bottle and spray any bugs that come near. You can also use rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle, but it isn’t as food-friendly.

Make your own homemade wasp repellent that can work against wasps, mosquitoes, and flies. Mix one drop of essential oil with one cup of water in a spray bottle and watch the solution repel pests. You can use essential oils like geranium, peppermint, clove, lemongrass, and rosemary to great effect.

Wasps and Bees

Wasps are some of the worst party crashers of the pest world, especially when they dive bomb into soda cans or raid your plate.

One way to keep these flying stingers away from your barbecue is to keep them from nesting on your property in the first place with a DIY wasp decoy. This fake nest fools the wasps into thinking that rival wasps have already made a nest there. Many wasp species will avoid the area and nest elsewhere.

All you need to do to make your own wasp decoy is to fill a brown or white paper bag with plastic bags to make it look puffy, tie it off at the top with a hook or bent paper clip so you can hang it, and draw a black dot the size of a quarter in the lower corner of the bag. Hang these on your eaves, around your shed, and anywhere else wasps like to nest. They will think the black dot is the nest entrance.

If wasps have already established themselves, a decoy won’t make them leave. If they’ve already set up shop, you can make this DIY wasp trap with a two-liter bottle. Cut off the top of the bottle, flip it upside down and reattach it, place some wasp bait inside, and hang the trap near a wasp nest. The wasps fly into the bottle and can’t get out.

You can also do the same with regular 12-ounce soda cans and simply tape a cone-shaped piece of paper in the opening so they can’t escape. Before and during a barbecue, you can place these around the area, and the wasps are likely to choose the bait in the trap before they cause any trouble.

Lastly, very bright and very dark colors tend to draw bees and wasps. Neutral and not-too-bright colors work well, especially aqua blue. They associate blue with water and are more likely to avoid it. Try not to use flowery tablecloths or brightly colored decorations or cutlery.


Along with the aromas that deter mosquitoes, like lavender, bay leaves, garlic, and the other scents listed above, there are a few other things you can do to keep mosquitoes away.

You can make your own mosquito coil, which will make mosquitoes stay away when it burns. You can smolder untreated cardboard by burning it and blowing it out and then let the smoke float over the barbecue. The smell of the smoke will keep mosquitoes from coming near. You can also make scented smoke by putting rosemary, sage, and peppermint leaves on the barbecue coals.

Mosquitoes aren’t very good fliers, so they generally take shelter when the wind picks up. You can use battery-powered or regular house fans to make your own wind. Aim these at the tables or let them pan back and forth across the general area.


The fan trick works pretty well for flies as well. In addition, you can also make your own flytrap by putting cornmeal mixed in molasses in a pie tin. You can make several of these and place them around the barbecue and in areas where flies tend to congregate.


Ants are well known for invading picnics and barbecues. Although carpenter ants spend most of their time chewing tunnels through wooden structures, they are also attracted to your food like most other ants.

Although it’s almost impossible to keep ants away from your picnic without help from the professionals, you can do a couple of things that might help. Soak cotton balls with sugar water and liquid boric acid and place them around the picnic or barbecue and watch the ants take the cotton ball bait instead of the food. Boric acid is a safe product that is used in many home cleaning products.

You can also crumble charcoal in a thin line around your barbecue or picnic. The ants will dislike the charcoal and avoid it. Alternatively, food-grade diatomaceous earth works well also.

Professional Pest Control

While these efforts can be effective for the short term, they’re unlikely to keep pests away forever. Fox Pest Control can be the professional that has your back.

You can rest assured that our family and pet safe, environmentally friendly products will work for you so that you can enjoy your summer activities and live a pest-free life.

Because No Bugs is Simply Better.

Posted on May 18, 2020.

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