Battling Bugs at The Cottage

We’re in year #8 with the cottage, and I’m pretty sure we’ve had the same conversation every spring: BUGS!

cartoon bugs

How do we control the bugs? How do we get away from them?

We have long conversations about our desperate quest to take our yard back from these invaders. Black flies, mosquitos, deer flies: they are relentless. While we do our best to hold our ground on the deck in a fog of scented camouflage, there comes the inevitable retreat indoors for reprieve. Admit it, the darn black flies get the best part of spring! They get the days when it’s finally warm enough to be outside in t-shirt and shorts. They get the days you just want to bask in the sun after the dark cold of winter. There must be a way to live outdoors without being eaten alive!

Usually we determine that a permanent structure will be a waste of good warm days to build. We settle for Googling chemical free ways to repel the tiny beasts – again. Some days, sitting in a cloud of noxious fumes seems the only way to reclaim our space; who needs those extra brain cells anyway. So far the most effective natural repellant seems to be an essential oil warmer with “Lighten” blend by Melaleuca. Citronella candles, incense, lemongrass, peppermint and a host of other oils on their own haven’t done the trick for us. Ultimately it’s hard to tell if the warmed essential oil really works or if the breeze and timing are the real key factors in the low concentration of bugs.

Things we’ve tried to repel bugs outside

We’ve gone to a lot of trouble, spent a lot of time searching “simple” remedies to keep the bugs at bay so we can enjoy the outdoors. The things we’ve tried:

  1. Using plants in pots on the deck to repel mosquitoes: citronella, lavender, a herb garden.
  2. Citronella candles and torches – the candles end up with more bugs in the wax than have been repelled.
  3. Burning coffee grounds – this seemed to work but it was a challenge to keep the grounds lit/smoking.
  4. I’ve also made wristbands using parachute cord and doused them in essential oils to repel bugs while hiking and sitting around – jury’s still out on this too – but the wristband is pretty cool!

Screened Structure to Keep Bugs Away

Finally, we surrendered to the notion that putting a barrier between the bugs and us is about the only thing left to try. Then comes the weeks of designing, deliberating and debating about the best place and structure for a screened area that will allow us to be outside and not be driven insane by the constant zzzzzzzz-SWAT-zzzzzz-SWAT of bug season.

In depth brainstorming, scribbling, drawing, and calculating: What are our options for building onto the existing deck? What if we could just put up a temporary shelter on the deck until the worst of it passes? Where else in the yard could we put a shelter – without having to sit directly on the grass (more bugs), or run with our coffee from cottage to shelter, or spend too much time trying to build it …

This past weekend, we may have made headway on the screening solution: a spot in the back yard with a ground level deck and a purchased screened gazebo. That’s a new project for the next week or two! It seemed a fairly economical option for now. Once we determine how well it lasts through winter and how much we actually use it, then we can consider more permanent options – or if retreating indoors on the worst days works best.

Now the trick will be how to keep the bugs at bay while we build this thing!

UPDATE! Here’s the finished product with the new decking …

our shelter from the bugs

The Cottage Wife

In addition to hiking, biking, reading and writing, I like to focus on making as light an impact on the land possible, while still living a modern life.

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