13 Tricks to Keep Bugs Away on Picnics

Ahhh, the joys of summertime picnics with friends and family! But sometimes, uninvited guests sneak into your outdoor feast (and we’re not talking about your strange neighbor or cousin). To keep insects from biting, stinging or annoying you – and just as importantly, to keep them away from your food – follow these 13 surefire, all-natural tips:

Plant rosemary
Photo: Shutterstock

1. Turn your body into a bug repellant. By eating certain foods, you can repel many insects. For example, munch on a clove of garlic every day for three days before a picnic. As you sweat out the garlic odor, it repels many insects. You can also take 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar three times a day for three days before the picnic, too.
 
2. Use the power of produce. Rubbing a slice of onion over your skin can be a good way to keep away mosquitoes and other biting insects. Fresh orange or lemon peels also work. And another time-honored approach to keep gnats and mosquitoes at bay is to moisten a cloth or cotton ball with white vinegar and rub it over your exposed skin. All these work on your picnic table as well; wipe it with vinegar or onion, for example, and bugs will stay away.
 
3. Be vanilla. Turns out that bugs don’t like the smell of vanilla. Dilute 1 tablespoon vanilla extract with 1 cup water and wipe the mixture on your exposed skin (and if you wish, your picnic tablecloth) to discourage mosquitoes, blackflies, and ticks.
 
4. Spray some natural mint mouthwash. Insects do not like the smell of mint in any form. Transfer your favorite natural mint mouthwash into a spray container and spray it on yourself and the area around you while outdoors.
 
5. Plant garlic, mint, and rosemary. Naturally ward away bugs from your patio meals by planting these three plants in decorative pots or your outdoor garden. They’ll keep the bugs away, plus you can use them in your cooking.
 
6. Turn on a fan. Set up a portable fan facing your outdoor food and eating areas, and turn it on to a calm breeze while you serve and entertain. The wind from the fan will make it difficult for bugs to fly in and pester you and your guests.
 
7. Don’t wear heavy perfumes or scents. Stay away from wearing heavily scented shampoos, body sprays, perfumes, or deodorants while outdoors. The fragrances can attract bugs and the stings that follow.
 
8. Leave sticky sweets at home. Insects are particularly drawn to foods like melon, grapes, peaches, fruit juices, and soda – to them, they’re like flower nectar. They can easily detect these foods, and will be persistent in their pursuit. While they may be terrific summer foods, avoid them at outdoor meals, or keep in well-sealed containers that you open only when everyone is ready to have some.
 
9. Set up separate food tables for bugs. One clever bug-battling tactic is to put plates of sweet foods (things like watermelon rinds, overripe peaches, or a large bowl of colored sugar water) several meters away from your serving and eating areas, so the bugs feast separately from you and your guests. Keep your garbage cans far away as well, as bugs will flock to them for your leftovers.
 
10. Cover all drinks. Only serve drinks in covered cups or bottles, and drink through a straw. This is particularly important if your drink is sweetened. If you don’t have covered cups, use aluminum foil and poke a hole for a straw.
 
11. Light some candles. Smoke repels mosquitoes and flies. Tiki torches and citronella candles add ambiance to outdoor entertaining, anyway. Plus, they’re affordable, effective and have a pleasant scent.
 
12. Float your table. The best way to keep ants off your table is to put the feet in wide containers filled with water. Ants won’t be able to make it across the water to climb up.
 
13. Cover up with a colander. A simple wire-mesh colander can be used to keep bugs off dinner. If you are setting up a buffet-style meal, an upside-down colander over a plate of food protects it, while keeping the dish on display. You can also buy domed food covers or nylon netting.
 
 

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