While there are a lot of events crammed into our summer, sometimes the best way to enjoy the season is to just sit in your backyard with a few friends, a few beverages and a few big slabs of meat on the grill.
That’s exactly the situation Avenue’s Backyard Guide is designed to help you make the most of. With tips and tricks for everything from furnishing a backyard to attracting some feathered friends, it’s got everything you need to make this summer spectacular.
The sun is just about to dip below the horizon, and you hear that familiar buzzing in your ear. It’s summertime, and the mosquitoes are here to stay. But City of Edmonton biological sciences technician Mike Jenkins believes we may experience fewer of the bugs than in past years.
At least that was his prediction at the beginning of spring; he admits that spring showers could bring more than just flowers. “Once we get into the summer season, some can go from hatching in the egg to flying on the wing in less than a week,” says Jenkins. So, it’s hard to predict just how many of Edmonton’s main mosquito species, Aedes vexans, will be out.
Jenkins says getting rid of mosquitoes in a backyard is difficult, which is why the City targets aquatic larvae in order to try to control them as much as possible. While broad-spectrum sprays or fogs work, they work a little too well, and often harm beneficial insects along with mosquitoes.
A more natural way to reduce their population in your vicinity is to maintain your yard — avoid having standing water that never gets changed by way of rain gutters or the bottoms of flower pots, for example. But even something as simple as creating a breeze using a fan can deter mosquitoes, as they find it difficult to fly in a strong wind.
Insect repellent containing DEET is effective, but bug zappers are not — they don’t tend to draw mosquitoes as much as other bugs, like the beneficial ones. “They can also spray exploded insect parts as far as three metres from the trap, so not something you really want next to your picnic table,” says Jenkins.
We all get annoyed with the bugs crawling and flying around our backyards, but Jenkins says the majority of them are beneficial. Of these, there are three main types: the pollinators (bees, butterflies and some flies); the parasitoids (wasps, some flies); and the predators (beetles, dragonflies, yellowjackets). These insects kill pest species (including mosquitoes) and pollinate flowers.
Jenkins says to never to use broad-spectrum pesticides — if pesticides are used, they should be targeted to a specific pest. Planting a variety of flowers that bloom at different times can attract pollinating insects and provide them with pollen and nectar throughout the summer. Plants that grow low to the ground — mint, thyme, rosemary — provide places for ground beetles and lacewings to reproduce. Meanwhile, grass clippings can be beneficial for spiders, who return the favour by hunting pest species in your yard.
Light The Way
Outdoor lights will attract nocturnal bugs no matter what kind of light they produce. Anything with a UV component will attract the most. However, beneficial insects likely won’t be harmed by lights without a UV component that don’t trap bugs.
In fact, spiders take advantage of the light by building their webs near it, and using the light to help attract dinner.