With warm, sunny days and plenty of gorgeous locations to visit, summertime is picnic time for many California families. But a lovely meal in nature’s splendor can quickly become the stuff of nightmares if picnic pests come a-calling. That’s why it pays to ready yourself for the inevitable by boning up on your pest preparedness before the picnic hamper ever hits the grass.

Don’t let bugs banish you back to the Barcalounger! Check out our short list of ways you can avoid (or at least minimize) pest problems while enjoying a little al fresco dining with friends and family this summer.

Location, Location, Location

A successful picnic begins with choosing the right spot. Find yourself a sunny, clean, and dry location, far from standing water, and make sure the immediate area is free of anthills and wasps nests. A dry location, far from standing water, helps minimize the risk of mosquitoes and other water-nesting pests dropping by for a feast of their own.

Elevating your dining experience can help, too. We’re not talking about haute cuisine here; you should literally get your food, family, and fixins up off the ground and onto a picnic table if possible. This helps keep ground-based pests like ants at bay, and limits their access to your treats.

The Foods that Fascinate Picnic Pests

Many of the most popular picnic favorites are also extremely popular in the insect kingdom. Let’s take a quick look at the most alluring examples, and ways you can keep picnic pests from joining the party.

    • Sugary Drinks. Sodas, juices, flavored waters, beer, and wine are all magnets for insects. Unfortunately, they tend to get a little too into their drinking, and often wind up drowning in your drink while simultaneously trotting their disease-carrying feet all over your cup, bottle, or glass. It’s best to keep a tight cover on your drinks at all times, and make sure you pour out of opaque containers and into glasses, as insects like to hide inside cans and bottles as well.
    • Meat. Burgers, hot dogs, steaks and other grilled delicacies are as alluring to flies, mosquitoes, wasps, and other flying pests as they are to you. Keeping food under wraps until cooked, and under a food tent or covered plate until eaten, is your best bet. Sweet marinades are often attractive to insects as well, so plan ahead if you’re slathering on the sauce.
    • Fruits and Veggies. As with sugary drinks, the natural sweetness of fruits and even some vegetables are irresistible to insects. Keep fruits and veggies covered tightly, sealed away in a cooler, or under a food tent to keep bugs at bay. If you’re planning on making kebabs or just love a slice of vidalia on your burger, consider packing garlic and onions, which have long been cherished for their insecticidal abilities.

Bring along Some Home Comforts

While there’s no need to drag the whole house with you (a move that would probably defeat the purpose of a picnic anyway), choosing a few handy helpers from around the homestead can be beneficial. Got a match? Citronella candles and torches keep bugs out of your hair and off your food. If you’re not in the mood for candlelight dining (and have access to electricity), bug zappers or light traps will attract and kill bugs as well.

You might also consider toting a few battery-operated fans with you. The flowing air not only discourages bugs from swarming, but also helps keep everyone a little more comfy on a sunny day.

A durable cooler with a strong seal and a drain for melted ice is another essential. Not only will it improve food safety, but it will also keep bugs out. It’s a good idea to bring a couple of coolers, including one for frequently-accessed items such as drinks, and another that’s just for food you want to keep cool and secure from invading insects.

There you have it—with a little preparation, you can keep Mother Nature’s uninvited guests from ruining a good picnic or barbeque! And if you’re dealing with pests closer to home, be sure to contact your friendly neighborhood extermination experts. They can help you identify potential problem areas and create a sensible defense plan to ensure insects and other picnic pests won’t be planning their next picnic in your home.