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How to Repel Backyard Pests

Updated on January 11, 2013
Repellents containing DEET are the standard by which all other contenders are compared.  This is one of my favorite brands.
Repellents containing DEET are the standard by which all other contenders are compared. This is one of my favorite brands. | Source

Repelling Pests in the Backyard

It is easy to repel cats, just get a dog. But insect pests are different. They can be numerous and insidiously difficult to eliminate or avoid. Flies, ticks and mosquitoes can be of concern and their control requires a bit more forethought. Ticks and mosquitoes can also transmit various diseases. Preventative measures, chemical remedies and natural plant remedies can be employed as a solution to repel and prevent these backyard pests.

There can also be problems in lawns from underground pests like moles. A couple of solutions that may help repel moles are given below, but if you have pocket gopher, there are no known effective repellants.

Advice is given below for repelling flies, ticks, mosquitoes and moles, some very common pests that homeowners can experience. For readers seeking pest annihilation, I don't go there in this article - perhaps later in another hub.

Repelling Flies Naturally

Here are several tips to help you avoid the annoyance of flies:

  1. If you have a compost pile, make sure your material is ground down to less than 2 inches. this provides more surface area for the bacteria to work and these bacteria will destroy pupae and larvae. Turn the material into the lower layers and keep the compost raw material contained within the composting bed.
  2. Screening or netting to enclose an area outside in the backyard.
  3. If you have problems with deer or horse flies, and you have a wet or marshy area nearby, draining this area will reduce their breeding habitat.
  4. Permethrin applied to clothing is an effective strategy that can last up to two weeks. It also works on ticks and mosquitoes. Repellents containing DEET also provide temporary protection, depending on the amount of DEET present in the product.

Netting: An Effective Avoidance Strategy

Having a shelter in the shade in the backyard is one way to have a pleasant evening without mosquitoes while outdoors during the summer months.
Having a shelter in the shade in the backyard is one way to have a pleasant evening without mosquitoes while outdoors during the summer months. | Source

Repelling Mosquitoes Naturally

Forget using high-pitched sounds to drive off mosquitoes. Sure, you can find sources of these sounds on the Internet and even applications made for your cell phones, but a scientific review of several studies indicates that this method has zero effectiveness.

There are some other flaky ideas out there, including the use of plants like citronella to deter the pests. However, scientists say that, although there may be repellants within this plant and other species like catnip, they do not exude significant quantities into the surrounding air to help deter mosquitoes.

Here are some approaches to repel mosquitoes that work according to several academic sources cited below:

1. Burning dried cattail heads near where you are picnicking or camping. If none are nearby, bring citronella candles or oil for burning.

2. Birch oil derived from the bark of the tree and sassafras essential oils have insect repellant activity. The recipe is as follows: Add 10 to 25 drops of essential oil to 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and add another tablespoon of aloe vera gel. Mix and put drops on exposed skin or on your clothing. But for an essential oil that has more effectiveness, see the next item.

3. A lemon Eucalyptus oil repellents containing 20% PMT (p-menthan-3,8-diol) is as effective as 20% DEET insect repellents. Protection lasts for at least 6 hours. Formulations containing other essential plant oils are less effective, providing protection for 4 hours or less.

4. Repellents with picardin or IR3535 work as well as DEET-formulated repellents when they have the same percentage of active ingredient.

Ticks Hang Out In Brush and Tall Grass


Repelling Ticks

If you live near woods or brushy areas you have the potential of tick infestation by wildlife that serve as hosts like deer, squirrels and rodents. Ticks climb to the top of the vegetation at the edge of these areas and if you or your pets brush by them, they climb on and hitch a ride. Cutting the grass short in these marginal areas will help reduce the amount of exposed surface area on your clothes.

Treating socks and other exposed clothing with 0.5% permethrin helps repel ticks you may encounter. The permethrin has to be applied to dried clothing and it can be effective through several washings.

If you dog has ticks, it can be serve as a reservoir for re-infestation of your lawn. Treat the dog with tick control chemicals to kill them. Tick and flea collars can kill these pests around the head and neck of the dog, so don't rely on them totally if you have a known lawn infestation.

These are gopher hills, note how they are skewed to one side.  Mole hills are more conical and the burrow is right under the peak of the cone.
These are gopher hills, note how they are skewed to one side. Mole hills are more conical and the burrow is right under the peak of the cone. | Source
The common mole.
The common mole. | Source

Repelling Moles Naturally

Instead of killing moles, which burrow tunnels under your lawn, you can apply a repellant made of castor oil called Mole Med. This 65% castor oil product can be effective from 30-60 days after application, so 2-3 applications may be required during the summer. The application rate is 8 ounces per 8 gallons of water, which covers a 2500 square footage area. Controlled tests done in Michigan indicate that this repellant is very effective. The length of effectiveness can be shortened during periods of heavy rain.

Thiram is another product that is registered in the United States as a mole repellant. It is also used as a fungicide and it is applied on the surface of bulbs and seeds. People are warned that any repellant may lessen damage and not totally control mole damage. That advice makes sense because as the plants grow, they grow beyond the zone of protection provided by this chemical.

Note: How do you tell a mole versus a gopher? Look at the hills they produce. If the hill is conical and the opening of the tunnel is right below the peak of the hill, then it is a mole. If the hole is more flattened and the hole of the tunnel is to one side, making a U-shaped hill, then it is a gopher, as shown in the photo above. If you have gophers, don't try to use mole repellents, they don't work. Try traps instead.


Dudderar, G. R., et. al. 1995. The effectiveness of a new mole repellant from preventing damage to lawns by Eastern Moles. Proc. East. Wildl. Damage Conf. 7:149-152.

Enayati, A. A., Hemingway, J. and Garner, P. 2007. Electronic mosquito repellents for preventing mosquito bites and malaria infection. Cochrane Database Syst. Rev. 18;(2):CD005434.

Houseman, R. M. Ticks. University of Missouri Extension.

Insect Repellent (from wild plants). Brandeis University.

Pierce, R. A. Controlling Nuisance Moles. University of Missouri Extension.

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station. Area-wide Control of Ticks.

University of Wisconsin, Department of Entomology. Mosquito Repellents for the Skin.


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    • Randy M. profile imageAUTHOR

      Randy McLaughlin 

      8 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      Repelling him from sneakers? Spray some pepper spray on the outside of an old pair - see if it helps break him of the habit. Provide a chewy toy as a substitute. Or, you could train him to stay out of certain areas - but I know labs are stubborn.

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 

      8 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Very useful tips. Do you have any for repelling my 80 pound, drooling black fur, sneaker chewing lab?


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