What's Bugging You? Managing Insects Around Your Home and Garden

Gutter cover
Are the insects in your garden helpful, harmful, or both? 
The world is full of insects. In fact, according to the Smithsonian, “at any time, it is estimated that there are some 10 quintillion” insects alive.  On a summer evening, most of these may seem to be in your yard. Are insects around you helpful or harmful? Many insects play an important role in your garden ecosystem. At other times, insects can cause damage to your home or garden. How do you encourage beneficial insects while removing the ones that can harm your home? 

Are Insects Helpful or Harmful for Your Home and Garden?

Insects may give you the creepy-crawlies, but they are an important part of the food chain for local wildlife. Birds eat them, and so do frogs and larger animals. Bees and butterflies help pollinate food and flowers, while worms and other soil-builders develop the healthy soil that plants need to grow. Overall, insects can be very helpful for your garden. However, there are a few insects that bring habits that might work well in the wild but work very poorly when it comes to keeping your home and your family safe. These are the insects that can really bug you, and you need to decide how to manage them.

Who Invited the Drywood and Dampwood Termites for a Visit? 

Why are they in your garden? In the wild, dampwood termites live in and eat rotting stumps and logs. Drywood termites spend more time above the ground, eating and living in dead trees. According to the termites, your wood-frame home, wood furniture, or garden shed is just a dead log. 
Are they beneficial? Wild termites play a role that’s similar to that of many soil-building animals. Unfortunately, around your home, termites try to deconstruct your wood frame or furniture. They can cause serious damage to your home, feeding on cabinets, floors, and ceilings. They work relatively invisibly, so the damage may be quite pronounced by the time you discover that a bulging or buckling piece of wood or flooring is actually being damaged by termites.
What are some ways to control them? You need to keep constant vigilance, looking for signs of termite damage. Look for wood that doesn’t seem to be sitting flat. Termite damage can look like water damage at first. If you’re uncertain, ask a professional to come in and look for damage. If you can catch termites early, then you can prevent serious structural damage to your home. 
You can also proactively prevent damage from dampwood termites by keeping your foundation and siding dry. Check your foundation regularly to make sure that water is not pooling, and maintain your gutters by cleaning them or adding gutter covers so that water does not pour down the side of the house.

Why Are Carpenter Ants In Your Yard? 

Why they in your garden? Carpenter ants make tunnels in dead wood. These ants turn wood into powder to create tunnels where they can live. This can be extremely damaging to a home. 
Are they beneficial? Like termites, carpenter ants play an important role in forest ecology. They break down dead wood, helping it turn into soil. They are also a food source for large predatory birds, such as woodpecker species. However, similar to termites, carpenter ants’ love of dead wood does not endear them to homeowners. 
What are some ways to control them? To control carpenter ants, make sure that you do not have a lot of damp wood around your home, since the ants prefer this softer, decaying wood. Clean away old wood from around your buildings, such as firewood, wooden retaining walls, and driftwood. Maintain your windowsills. Manage your home humidity: keep it drier inside. Keep your kitchen and outdoor eating areas clean, since these ants enjoy eating protein and sugar. For example, if you have a fruit tree and forget to harvest the fruit, you could attract ants.

Are Wasps Actually Helpful?

Why are they in your garden? Wasps are in your garden because they’re looking for a place to live, a place to eat, or both. Wasps love sweet and protein-rich foods. They also need building materials for their nests. If the wasp is a paper wasp, it needs little bits of paper or leaves to create its homemade paper nest. That’s where your home and garden come in. 
Are they beneficial? Believe it or not, wasps don’t just sting. They’re actually useful. According to The Independent, “without them, the planet would be pest-ridden.” They eat other insects, which protects both plant populations and populations of smaller insects that other, smaller predators would eat. This helps regulate the populations of all insects and plants.
What are some ways to control them? While you may appreciate the ecological role of the wasp, this probably does not help when you’re trying to get the wasps to go away from your hamburger. 

  • Avoid keeping dirty plates and BBQs outside 
  • Clean up areas with debris where wasps could nest, such as leaf-clogged gutters 
  • Pick up fruit that falls from the trees
  • Put up a fake wasp nest to make new wasps think that there is already a nest in that area
  • Add plants that repel wasps, such as basil, lavender, thyme, mint, rosemary, chives, dill, and fennel.
  • Talk with a pest control company about nest removal
  • Seal up holes where wasps could get into your attic and start a large nest
Gutter cover
Mosquitoes can breed in a very small amount of water.

Should You Eliminate Mosquitoes From Your Garden? 

Why are they in your garden? Mosquitoes love standing water. In nature, they breed in still water such as puddles and ponds. Of course, it also helps that your garden contains a lovely food source as well: you and your pets. Female mosquitoes bite mammals to collect blood so that they can breed. 
Are they beneficial? Believe it or not, mosquitoes are actually helpful. They provide an important food source for a lot of aquatic animals, such as fish. Without mosquitoes, you might not have a feast of trout in the summertime. 
What are some ways to control them? No matter how much you love to eat trout, you probably don’t want mosquitoes around your home. Mosquitoes like to breed in standing water, so the key is to remove this habitat from the areas around your home. 

  • Check old toys and planters that could hold standing water, and turn them over. 
  • Clean up your yard. Mosquitoes can live in a very small amount of water, so eliminate junk and you eliminate places for mosquitoes to breed. 
  • When you tarp your BBQ or other items in your yard, the tarp can sag and collect water. Tie your tarps tightly and make sure that water can easily run off them.
  • Cover your pool. Whether it’s a kiddie pool or a large one, a pool is like a giant pond for a mosquito.
  • Add a bubbler to your pond to allow the water to move 
  • Clean out your gutters so that clogging and debris don’t lead to pooling water. 
  • Grow mosquito-repellents like basil, marigold, and mint 
  • Add citronella candles to your outdoor spaces. 

At Harry Helmet, we pride ourselves on our ability to serve our customers through all of the seasons of the year. Whether you’re wondering about how to control summer wasps, fall rain, or winter ice, we’re here with gutter cover and gutter heating products that will make your home and garden maintenance easier. Schedule a free estimate today.

Written by Del Thebaud

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