Keeping bugs at bay

Often bugs are plaguing you when eating outdoors.

varied barbecue

Every backyard chef has had to contend with insects interfering with the pleasure of a barbecue. If they don't actually get in the food, they can still often annoy the cook. Here are a few effective, food-safe tips for how to deal with creatures who have rightly earned the name 'pest'.

Depending on species and season insects are attracted to heat, carbon dioxide, meat and other triggers produced by a barbecue. Spraying them with commercial insect killer or repellent may be effective for bug control but not very pleasant near food. Other methods for control are preferred.

A little prevention goes a long way, some of which is nothing but obvious common sense.

Establish a perimeter. Laying down enclosed ant traps, yellow jacket bags and other modern insect control devices well in advance can help eliminate the problem before it occurs. Keeping an eye out for nests and eliminating them before they develop fully helps with population control. Keeping the area relatively free of likely invaders ahead of time means fewer to deal with during the barbecue.

Don't leave food near the barbecue while you prepare the meal. Platters of hamburgers are going to attract bees, wasps and others who like meat. The odors can be transported for long distances on the wind and it takes only a few seconds for anything flying within a few hundred yards to make its way to your food.

Strips can help keep smaller flying insects away from the food without imparting any unpleasant chemicals into the meal. They can be usefully supplemented with more sophisticated control devices. High frequency sound emitters, propane-fueled mosquito capture devices and other high-tech inventions do work.

Old-fashioned methods are still useful, however. A simple fly swatter can chase off or eliminate a variety of flying pests. It's not pleasant to have to do so during cooking, but it's better than having them wind up on the meal.

Water is a surprisingly effective tool. Many flying insects can be kept at bay for quite a while with a hose equipped with a nozzle that produces a good spread and a fine spray. With the right setting, you can chase away a lot of annoying bugs without wetting the area much at all. Mosquitoes won't stay away long, but they can be fought back long enough to get food under the barbecue lid or out from beneath it.

Wind can be helpful. If you can't pick a day when there's a breeze, create your own with a good fan. Placed near the barbecue it can keep any number of flying insects at bay. If you observe carefully, you'll see that mosquitoes are rarely around when the wind is strong. Even bees will be chased away if the fan is strong enough.

One way to use that principle in a more focused way is to have a high-speed, high-heat hair dryer close at hand. Directing the blast at mosquitoes, small flies and others keeps them off the meat while you flip or review. Use an assistant to keep the bugs away while you prepare the meal and you can make a variety of pests go hungry.