One of the joys of summer is being able to sit outside and enjoy the beautiful weather. However, along with it often comes annoying pests such as flies, mosquitoes, ants, and other critters. They can quickly put a damper on outdoor festivities. Make the most of your backyard by taking some simple steps to keep pests at bay.

1. Get rid of standing water. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, so make sure to wipe down table tops and toys, dump out flower pot trays or other objects where water collects, and regularly clean and change the water in bird baths. You can also use an old broom to sweep away puddles on your patio or deck.

2. Clear away debris. Pick up dead leaves, grass clippings, fallen branches, and other materials where critters can hide. Keep the area immediately surrounding your home clear so bugs aren’t as attracted to the foundation where there may be cracks and holes for them to enter through (and seal those up!). If you do have a compost pile or collection of yard scraps, make sure it is situated away from your home.

3. Seal up trash. Outdoor trashcans are highly attractive to raccoons, mice, cats, bugs, and other critters. Make sure that there is a tight seal between the can and lid, or that you can secure the lid in place to keep animals out. This will also help to control the smell which can attract animals. If you have food outside, make sure it stays covered and take it inside once you’re done.

4. Clean up spills. If you are hosting a get together or even just spending time outside with your family, quickly clean up messes left by food or beverages. If left be, they can attract ants, insects, and other animals that you don’t necessarily want hanging around your yard. Use a hose to dilute and wash away sugary substances which can be especially appealing to pests.

5. Use natural repellants. One of the easiest ways to keep mosquitoes away is to set up a fan nearby. A gentle breeze will blow them off course and keep them out of your immediate area. Some people find citronella candles or natural oils to be effective at repelling bugs. Hanging bags of water may help to deter flies. In addition, you can also add plants such as lavender, lemon grass, marigolds, basil, or mint to your garden. These plants (and more!) are natural pest repellents.

Taking steps to keep pests away can allow homeowners to make the most of time outdoors and relax more comfortably. The HOA and members can also invest in other pest control measures for added protection. If members do notice that there are issues with insects or other critters around HOA facilities, they should notify the board immediately. Kuester supports HOAs in effectively managing properties so that members can enjoy all that the community has to offer.

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