Some uninvited guests could be trying to ruin your summer outing, but there are precautions that can be taken.
The most common offenders are mosquitoes and fire ants, said Charles Phillips, Columbia County's cooperative extension agent.
Mosquitoes can sometimes be a serious problem as they can easily interfere with outdoor chores or leisure time. They normally breed spring through fall, but can breed all year in the South's warm, moist climate.
"For a while, while we were in a drought situation, they were low," Phillips said. "But now that we are getting a little bit of rain, the numbers are picking up a little bit."
One key to combating the problem is getting rid of a water source that the mosquito needs to breed.
"A quarter of a cup of water is all they need," Phillips said, adding that female mosquitoes lay their eggs on the surface of standing water and the larval stages develop underwater. "It is important to dump standing water. Anything that can hold water, turn it over."
Phillips said mosquitoes often will breed in the standing water left after rains in tires, flower pots, birdbaths, toys, buckets, ditches and gutters.
Phillips also suggests adding mosquito donuts to large areas, such as retaining ponds and ditches, to prevent larvae from hatching. Smaller granules can be used for areas such as hollows in trees.
Because adult mosquitoes often nest in overgrown shrubs and other shady, moist areas, using a fog insect repellent can help.
The most effective way to enjoy the outdoors without being annoyed by mosquitoes is to wear long sleeves and pants, wear DEET insect repellent, use citronella candles, use a fan to keep air moving and avoid being outside when mosquitoes are most active - the early morning and late afternoon hours, according to the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Service.
Other common, uninvited guests at picnics, fire ants, are also quick to spoil a summer outing.
"The hotter and drier it is, the less active fire ants are," Phillips said, adding that fire ants remain a problem throughout the summer months. "Fire ants do most of their spreading in the spring and fall."
Fire ants are unique in that they create a large mounded home. Phillips said the mounds often pop up after rains, when it is cool. Fire ants can give a painful sting when mounds are disturbed. Each mound can contain as many as 20,000 workers, according to the extension service.
Fire ants could be a problem in county parks if no preventive measures were taken, said Greg Dross, parks superintendent for the Columbia County Recreation Department. Dross oversees the maintenance of 12 county parks.
Athletic fields and the surrounding grounds, which are mowed regularly, are pretreated with insecticide and individual mounds are treated after they pop up.
Pretreating is the key to controlling fire ants, Dross said, and they have not become a problem in county parks.
"We've got to (pretreat)," Dross said. "We can't have a kid fall into a fire ant bed in the field."
Phillips suggested using Over and Out, a Bayer insecticide with fipronil that is cast over the entire lawn and can control fire ants for as long as a year.
"It really does work," Phillips said, adding that Spectracide offers a similar product.
Individual mounds should be treated with an insecticidal drench when they are freshly rebuilt after rains, according to the extension service.
The same preventive insecticides also control fleas and ticks for two to three months, Phillips said. A personal insect repellent, especially one containing DEET, will keep fleas and ticks at bay.
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