YELLOW STRIPEY THINGS
Spring is crawling its way out of the frozen ground here in Montana, and as the sun warms us into the 50’s, green grass is sending up sprouts, and trees are playing peek-a-boo with their tiny little buds. Last weekend I took advantage of the warmth and sun, to rake leaves from fall that fell after the first snow, swear at the mouse tunnel highway that developed in my yard, and hang a few more bird feeders, now that the chirpy little siskins are back in town. As I dug through my garden shed, I grabbed the yellow jacket traps and whirring mosquito lamps… these pests will soon be back to torture me, and I want to get a jump on them!
Ah, the little stripey things, most of which are the bane of our existence in summer months, and mosquitos are right in there with them. The key to having an enjoyable yard and patio for summer is to tackle these buzz-bombers early in the season, and provide a safe haven and food source for the good guys, like the honey and bumble bees. Bee and hummingbird attractors like echinacea and lavender not only supply bees with much needed nectar, but they are carefree and grow well in the cooler climate of northwest Montana. They both also exude a scent that we, bees, and hummers love, but mosquitos hate. Score! Placing a water source such as a bird bath in your garden also keeps the good bees coming, which helps the worldwide crisis of bee loss that will affect us all if we don’t turn it around. Omitting insecticides on your lawn will also help lessen the chemical effect on beneficial insects, and keep the water supply safe and tasty.
Now for some “killer” news. We’ve all been stung by an angry yellow jacket who thinks we’re not sharing enough of our meal, or is just in a bad mood (which is all the time), so there’s not much love lost for those dang jerks who dive-bomb our dinners and keep us swatting away.
I’m big on “green” ways to remove them, so don’t use chemicals and pesticide sprays or granules. I’ve found that earth-friendly ways are superior in removal of yellow jackets, lawn moths, and mosquitos, all of which are very annoying when left to breed unchecked. First, the yellow jackets and hornets. For yellow jackets, you can use yellow jacket scent bait in traps, or use concentrated apple juice in its place. The Rescue brand traps have been the most effective for me, and have a bait trap in the bottom of the trap that holds enough liquid bait for a week or two. For hornets, drop a piece of hamburger in the bottom, of the trap and viola!, hornets will flock to it. The offending flyer flies into the trap, but can’t get out.
Another fabulous trap that is also harmless to beneficial insects is the electric fan trap made by Dynatrap. It’s an outdoor trap that plugs in to power a light and fan. The light attracts mosquitos and lawn moths, then sucks them into a screened compartment, where they can’t escape, and eventually die. You can find this trap on line or at Costco, and they’re quiet and highly effective. Just remember to clean out the compartment once a month, as they fill up fast!
My favorite mosquito trap is the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator, and it lives up to its name. These came out a few years ago, during a particularly wet year, and I was being eaten alive by mosquitos anytime I went outside. These traps use a naturally based powder that, when mixesd with water, attracts mosquitos to enter the trap where they are stuck and eventually drown in the water of the trap. These traps require a few of them placed in strategic places around your home, and I use three to cover about an acre. Within a few days, the mosquito population had diminished to the point where only a few remained. These traps are found online at places like Chewy and Stateline Tack, and I swear by them.
Make sure you place all of these traps out early, as that’s the key to managing these pests. Queen yellow jackets and hornets show up in early April, and the more queens you catch, the less likely you are to have one settle in with her swarm of soldiers. The same for mosquitos and their early hatches. If you eradicate them before they are old enough to breed, you’ll prevent thousands of them from reproducing. Now that you’re all educated on how to keep the peace with little stripey things, go out and enjoy this big, green planet!
Carmen Hobson, Touchstone Real Estate