The environment is so in fashion. But a healthy runway doesn’t include bug bites or Lyme disease, so when many of us look to keep our yards free of mosquitoes and ticks, we unfortunately turn to poisons that can be dangerous to us and our environment.
Please don’t spray your yard for ticks and mosquitos. Why? Because there is no proof that it reduces tick borne diseases. (https://www.caryinstitute.org/science/tick-project) And because tick sprays (even the organic ones) kill much more than ticks: they kill butterflies, and bees and fireflies. They aren’t good for you, either (https://www.nytimes.com/2019)
What to do?
Spray yourself: You are the target, so put the spray where it is of maximum effect and minimum harm: on you and your clothing. You can purchase many brands of natural repellents made with Lemon Eucalyptus these days in stores, or make your own.
Homemade insect repellent–mix in spray bottle:
• 4½ ounces of water
• 4½ ounces carrier (olive oil, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, vodka, or witch hazel
• 1-ounce (or more) lemon eucalyptus essential oil
Check yourself: The most effective preventive measure of all. Property spray programs give people a false sense of security and they stop being vigilant. There is no way that blasting your garden with a pesticide can guarantee that you are never going to encounter a tick, but it sure will mess with the lives of your pollinators and birds.
If it is safer for you, your family, pets and the earth, why wouldn’t you spray yourself, not your yard?
A recent study showed 71 percent of soil organisms are harmed by insecticides. And without life in the soil, we won’t have healthy trees or gardens, lawns will suffer, and healthy food won’t make it to our tables.
Make wind!: The most effective prevention for mosquitoes is a fan! One or more fans on your patio or small yard will keep mosquitoes away–they are very weak fliers so just a little wind will blow them away.
Make a skeeter trap: A super easy way to reduce mosquitoes is to ferment some straw in a bucket of water–Fill half a bucket with straw and water and let it sit in the sun for a few days, then partially cover or drill holes halfway up so it doesn’t overflow in the rain. Once the straw begins to break down it will attract mosquitoes to lay their eggs–add in a BTI mosquito dunk that will kill mosquito larvae, which won’t harm other insects, and voila, you’ll start reducing the population in no time. This is safe, and much more effective than costly yard sprays, which can kill all sorts of beneficial insects. (Pro-tip–no bucket? Use an old milk jug and cut a large opening near the top on the side, and use half a dunk!)
Make a “mulch moat”: Ticks don’t like dry, hot habitats. If you have a natural area on the edge of your yard, use dry wood chips or gravel to make a 3′ wide barrier between your lawn and the tall vegetation that they are less likely to cross. And keep tall vegetation trimmed down near where you or your family walk or play.
And, if you haven’t already, check out Two Thirds for The Birds www.234birds.org, and learn more beautiful actions you can take, for free, to help the health of the planet, you and your pets.
Blog post by Mary Travaglini with contributions by Edwina von Gal at Perfect Earth Project