Tips to remove pesky bugs from yards, attics

How about a big bracing bowl of yellow jackets?

Martha in Rockville writes: “Thank you for your recent segments about yellow jackets! My husband was stung twice and rushed into the house not knowing he still had a wasp on his clothes, which then stung me.

After reading your recommendations, I chose the tactic of putting a large glass bowl over the nest opening. I placed it at daybreak, when they were moving slow. And I was ready to spray the three or four that were already out of the nest with Pam cooking oil spray. Just like you said, it knocked them right out of the air.

I could see wasps inside the overturned bowl trying to get out for the first few hours, but now there is no activity. How long should I keep the nest covered this way? I can leave it there forever, so no rush.”

Thanks for the report, Martha. I’d leave that bowl on until the cows come home!

Milky spore no threat to noisy cicadas

Kevin in the Petworth neighborhood of DC writes: “I was about to apply milky spore powder to our lawn to manage some grub issues, but I’m pausing because I want to make sure it won’t hurt any of the 17-year cicadas that are presumably in my soil.

I know they do a little feeding damage and make a racket when they emerge, but I think they’re incredible insects and don’t want to hurt the little buggers. I believe that milky spore powder is fairly species-specific to Japanese beetles and their close relatives, but want to be sure before I put it down.”

Milky spore-away, Kev! That powder is a naturally occurring soil organism that only kills beetle grubs feeding in warm soil. It has no effect on people, pets, earthworms or cicada larvae. And this is the perfect time of year to apply it, as grubs are currently feeding very close to the surface on the roots of grass and other plants.

Bees in the attic

Joan in Germantown writes: “I have been finding dead honey bees upstairs for the last two weeks. They just show up in the bathroom and fly around for a while until they die. I fear that I may have a nest in my attic. I understand they can be very messy to remove due to the honeycomb they may have started. Can you please tell me who to contact? From what I’ve read, it’s not a pest control company issue; and I really don’t want to exterminate them anyway.”

Good for you Joan! And you are correct — the honey produced by a colony of bees can wreak havoc on the interior structures of a home.

So contact your local beekeeping society and show them some specimens. If it is a feral colony of honeybees, a beekeeper will want to remove the nest and save the bees. The queens of these wild colonies are often very vigorous.

But the keeper will probably want to wait to do the work until after the weather cools down and the bees are more docile.

BTI beat her skeeters

Arlene in Silver Spring reports success with our natural path to mosquito control! She writes: “A while back you told us of a way to cut down on the mosquito population by deliberately leaving out containers of water allowed to go stagnant and sprinkled with the organic larvicide BTI.

It really seems to have worked. At what should be the height of the mosquito season, I’ve had exactly two bites. This is the first year I’ve been able to venture out to my garden without protection. Brilliant!”

Thank you, Arlene. But you get some of the credit. These common-sense pest control methods only work when people actually do it. And don’t stop now, if you continue to set out traps, you’ll prevent the last generation of this year’s mosquito population from ever being born.

Use BTI now to prevent next year’s mosquitoes

Arlene in Silver Spring reports that she tried our idea of deliberately leaving standing water on her property and lacing the water with BTI — a naturally occurring soil organism that prevents mosquitoes from successfully breeding in standing water but poses no threat to birds, bees, butterflies, frogs, toads, people or pets.

Now is not the time to stop setting those traps. In a month or so, this season’s last generation of female mosquitoes will be laying their eggs — and if there’s BTI in the water, those eggs will never hatch into the adult mosquitoes that would have gone into hibernation and emerged to torment us in the spring. Available in donut-shaped dunks and smaller-sized granules, BTI is our absolute best defense against malicious mosquitoes.

Mike McGrath was Editor-in-Chief of ORGANIC GARDENING magazine from 1990 through 1997. He has been the host of the nationally syndicated Public Radio show “You Bet Your Garden” since 1998 and Garden Editor for WTOP since 1999. Send him your garden or pest control questions at

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