Common Insects at Summer Picnics

Earl Roske's image for:
"Common Insects at Summer Picnics"
Image by: 

Summer picnics. The horseshoe games, family, great smelling barbeque, watermelon, apple pie. And ants. Other unwanted guest can include yellow jackets, and picnic beetles, and flies, and mosquitoes. Summer picnics aren’t just a time for family and friends, there also a time for insects. Insects may just be a fact of life, but there’s no reason to allow them to crash the party.

They’re everywhere!

Ants are synonymous with picnics. They may as well be on the shopping list: hotdogs, potato salad, fruit salad, checkered table cloth, ants. Ants, like other insects, are drawn to you picnic for the same reason we are, there’s food. At first, it’s one or two ants, then before you know it, there’s trails of them. Turpin, professor of entomology at Purdue University, explains that ants are always foraging for food. And when they find a good source, like your summer picnic, they’ll return to nest and share the good news. That’s why one ant so quickly becomes many.

If you can keep the ants from finding your food, you can keep them from over running the picnic. Ants don’t like to cross water. But a moat around your picnic site is a bit drastic. However, if it’s possible to put the legs of your picnic table in trays of water, then the ants won’t cross and spoil the fun. Another tactic, though a bit messy, is to pour a line of talc or chalk around the picnic site. Ants dislike crossing these powders. But the most common and simplest thing to do is to keep your picnic clean. Don’t leave food out; don’t leave dropped food on the ground. If the ants don’t find food, they’ll move to foraging elsewhere.

Ties are okay, but jackets keep out!

Another summer insect is the common yellow jacket. Why they are showing up depends on the time of the year. According to State’s Master Gardener Newsletter, if your summer picnic is happening at the beginning of the season, these insects are on the lookout for meat. Come the end of the season, you’re picnic attracts yellow jackets in search of sugar. Yellow jackets are annoying not only because they buzz the food table, but they can also sting, and that can be a serious health hazard.

Some people suggest placing offerings far from the picnic area. Trays of blood or sugar water, depending on the time of season can be used to draw the yellow jackets away from the festivities. jacket traps, homemade or commercial brands, are also a common solution for these summer invaders. These, too, should be placed away from the picnic. Neither solution is 100% guaranteed, but it should help reduce the number of yellow jackets at your table.

A bug by any other name.

An uncommon guest, but common insect, is the picnic beetle. This insect is also known as the sap beetle. According to and Home Pest News, picnic beetles are mostly found in gardens and areas where there is the presence of overripe sap from rotting fruits and vegetables.

It’s unlikely, then, that they’ll be an obvious guest at your picnic. But to be on the safe side, keep the picnic area clean of all debris. Pick up fallen food and dispose of it in the proper containers, which should be kept at a distance from where the picnic fun is happening.

The king of pests.

Summer time brings out the common fly like magic. It sometimes seems that all you have to do is think about food and the fly is there to annoy you and your summer picnic. While common flies are naturally attracted to decay, they seem to be all over your picnic food. They are actually attracted to decomposing food stuffs. And while you might not realize it, anything not growing, is decaying. Which doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to eat, especially since you just cut the watermelon open, it’s just a fact of nature.

About the only thing to do with flies, unless you really want fly strips hanging from your gazebo or a tree during your summer picnic, is to keep your food covered. This is unlikely to make them leave, but it will protect your food from their invasion.

Invasion of the blood snatchers.

As your summer picnic continues into the evening you’re bound to discover that this last insect doesn’t care about your food, but about your blood. Summer picnic or not, the mosquito is a pest for all occasions. These insects are drawn to you and the bloody offering they hope to withdraw from you skin. They can certainly ruin the end of the festivities with their buzzing and stinging.

Mosquito repellents, long sleeves and pant legs, camp fire smoke, electric zappers, mosquito repellent coils, citronella candles, the list is long when it comes to thwarting the mosquito. For such a common insect it has spawned quite an industry. All of these work to some degree of effectiveness and it’s just a matter of how far you want to go.

The simplest things go the furthest.

The best way to avoid summer picnic insect invaders is not to give them a reason to show up in the first place. The simplest thing to do, and is part of common respect, is to pick up after yourself. Don’t leave spilled foods on the ground; clean up after yourself. Keeping food covered helps keep pests away, too. If the basics fail you can also consider setting up a screened gazebo. The screened gazebo is also effective against mosquitoes, too.

Most importantly, recognize that when you’re outside enjoying the summer with a picnic, insects are just a small price to be paid when enjoying food and good company.

More about this author: Earl Roske

From Around the Web

  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/agcomm/newscolumns/archives/OSL/2004/August/040812OSL.htm
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://extension.oregonstate.edu/wasco/sites/default/files/mastergardeners/newsletters/documents/MGOct.pdf
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.asktheexterminator.com/Wasps/Yellow_Jacket_Traps.shtml
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://www.ipm.iastate.edu/ipm/hortnews/2007/7-25/SapBeetle.html