Whilst all of the animals and other creatures in our garden have a role to play in maintaining the ecological balance of the surrounding environment, some are more welcomed than others and no other group of creatures causes more of a ‘friend or foe’ debate than insects and other flying critters. Here are some of the more common problems and how to deal with them.
The warmer days of summer will often mean the marching of ants as they leave their nests to look for food. They’ll often be seen in large groups scurrying next to the bottom of the exterior walls of your house which receive the most afternoon sunshine and even the slightest cracks or holes in the wall opens up the opportunity for ants to get inside to look for food. There are plenty of sprays and powders available to get rid of an ant problem but you should try to use these when the weather’s set fair as the rain will simply wash it away. Pouring boiling water into crevices is also a good, all-weather solution. Keeping a clean kitchen and wiping off food residue from preparation surfaces as you go also helps to deter ants.
Although they can be a nuisance to your enjoyment in the garden, contrary to popular belief, they’ll rarely sting unless they are frightened, aroused or in defence of their nest and it’s usually our fear and our reactions to the presence of wasps which causes them to feel agitated so, unless they’re causing a major problem, wasps should simply be left alone and, by the Autumn, they’ll have usually died off. You can buy insecticides to combat a serious problem but caution and the knowledge of what you’re doing and how to do it is extremely important. As a general rule of thumb, leave them be and, if the nest is larger than, say, a tennis ball, don’t tackle the problem yourself but seek specialist advice from a pest controller.
Bees play a vital role in the ecology of a garden and many species are protected by law and cannot be destroyed, such is their importance. Like wasps, they’ll rarely sting unless provoked. However, if you encounter a bees’ nest, do not try to remove it yourself but get in touch with a pest control officer. Bees are considered so important that even a pest control officer will endeavour to try to resolve the situation without resorting to destroying a nest if it’s possible to do so.
If you have pets, fleas can be brought into your home so it’s important that you protect your pets by using flea prevention treatments on them. There are also treatments that will get rid of fleas on your pets if you find they’ve taken up residence in your pet’s fur already. If you suspect or know that your pet has fleas you need to hoover all your furnishings, carpets and upholstery thoroughly. Well-known problem areas are any places where your pet is known to like lying down or sleeping. Bedding and clothing should be washed at a high temperature to destroy any eggs or larvae which might be present and don’t forget the tiles and any concrete or wooden floors as well as carrying out a flea removal treatment on your pet.
Cockroaches are often attracted to food waste and they can soon multiply in number if you’ve left a rubbish bag or bin opened outside, so restricting their chances of obtaining food and water is the best method of minimising cockroach infestation. Where moisture gathers, ensure there is adequate ventilation and fix any leaky pipes. Mop up spillages as soon as they happen and don’t leave any dishes lying in the sink overnight. Similarly, pet bowls should be emptied before going to bed. Regular vacuuming and steam cleaning of furniture also reduces the risks.
Birds’ nests found in the eaves of roofs or even in your loft is an ideal place for a carpet beetle to lay its eggs too, so you should keep an eye out and plug any gaps in your roof where a bird may choose to build its nest. Cracks and gaps in floorboards and around skirting boards can also cause a problem. Regular vacuuming once again is important and you can buy beetle insecticides if the problem gets out of hand.
Fly screens on doors helps to reduce the number of flies which will fly in and out of your house but, in summer, when you’re likely to have your windows open, you’re bound to get a few flies coming in from time to time which you can take care of with fly spray. Once again, general cleanliness and tidiness is the key to preventing too many flies ambushing you so keeping bin refuse well managed and away from flies should result in you not encountering too many problems. If you have a pet, especially a dog, make sure you clean up any dog mess in your garden straight away as this will act a like a ‘magnet’ to flies.
In general, basic hygiene is at the root of minimising the risks of falling victim to large swarms of flying insects and creepy crawlies. However, if you have a major problem and are not sure what to do about it, your local council’s environmental department is usually a good starting point for advice or get in touch with a pest controller.