Tips for Dealing with Ants, Spiders, and Other Insects in Your Outdoor Entertainment Area

Backyards, decks, and patios are party central, especially in spring and summer. You’ve waited all winter to break out the barbecue, outdoor furniture, and lawn toys. But no matter what you do, ants, spiders, and other insects are sure to join the party. Check out these tips for dealing with bugs in your outdoor entertainment area.

Clean Scene

Sweep up or vacuum wayward crumbs – food scraps invite bugs to enjoy a good meal. Wipe tables, chairs, deck shelving, and anywhere else people set their drinks. Sticky sodas and tiny crumbs attract ants, bees, wasps, flies, and other hungry bugs.

No one wants a spider falling into their potato salad! Before having your friends over, pressure wash walls, pergola slats, awnings, and porch ceilings to remove those inevitable cobwebs and nests. Sit in the outdoor furniture and look up. Whatever you see, get rid of it.

Remove dead foliage, trash, and other types of debris that invite insects, mice, and other critters to breed and nest.

Natural Ant Deterrents

Natural deterrents for getting rid of ants are ideal, but it can be hit or miss as to whether organic or homemade solutions work effectively. Still, give these remedies a try before reaching for the chemicals.  

  • Remove potted plants and flowers from the patio or deck that invite ants and other bugs.
  • Diatomaceous earth is natural organic matter from fossilized remains of tiny aquatic organisms. Insects dry out and die by absorbing fats and oils into their exoskeleton. Spread DE around door frames, windowsills, deck planks, and into patio cement cracks and crevices. Diatomaceous earth is non-toxic to humans and pets.
  • Pour boiling water over ants, anthills, trails, and ant colonies, but beware –– this will kill grass, so carefully use it anywhere other than your lawn or garden.

Organic Pesticide

Organic pesticides are made of natural ingredients that break down quickly, making them less damaging to the environment. They may include soap, sulfur, hydrogen peroxide, and lime.

A few organic pesticides to consider?

BT — short for bacillus thuringiensis — targets pest larvae without harming beneficial insects. BT goes after armyworms, cabbage worms, tomato hornworms, and other leaf-chewing insects.

Insecticidal soap kills aphids, beetle larvae, and squash bugs, but it also targets soft-bodied beneficial insects like lacewings and ladybugs.

Neem oil is an effective botanical pesticide for soft-bodied insects.

Household Solutions

Homemade bug repellents take time to mix and apply correctly but beyond that, they are simple to use.

Vegetable spray, with its mixture of veggie oil and castile soap, kills mites, thrips, and aphids.

Sprays made with garlic and chile emit pungent odors that ward off insects (and some people!). If you use garlic or chile sprays at an outdoor party, maybe fire up the pizza oven, too.

You can also include essential oils, like spearmint, peppermint, orange, lemon, tea tree, eucalyptus, cinnamon, and cedar to kill and repel all sorts of pests and their eggs. Mixing about 60 drops of one or a combination of oils in 2 ounces of water will give you an easy, natural pest spray.

Chemical Bug Killer

Chemical insecticides won’t save the earth, but they do the job of ridding your home of pests. Available at home improvement, garden stores, and major retailers, chemical insecticides are effective against bugs, but they can also be harmful to humans and animals. Keep synthetic products away from food and prep areas.

Note: If spiders are your problem, insecticides won’t work because spiders are arachnids, not insects. You’ll need a spider-specific product, or you can use a peppermint oil mixture to repel them.

Standing Water

Stagnant water is a happy place for mosquitoes, carpenter ants, termites, roaches, and gnats. Clean and empty clogged gutters, fountains, birdbaths, kiddie pools, pet bowls, and the like to keep critters away from your outdoor entertainment area.

  • Don’t overwater the yard and garden. Puddling areas may not absorb into the soil quickly enough.
  • Overturn pots, buckets, and even furniture that gather water. Empty rain barrels as needed.
  • If your property has a lake or pond, see about adding fish that eat mosquito larvae.
  • Fix or replace fountains to ensure the water keeps moving (to deter mosquitoes from breeding).
  • Prune shrubs, trees, and bushes near the home’s foundation, deck, and patio. Greenery absorbs moisture, and moisture attracts bugs.

Protect Your Outdoor Entertainment Area

Keep bugs out of the festivities with these simple tricks.

  • Spray water-based laundry detergent on the patio. Diluted mint mouthwash spray works, too.
  • Potpourri cloves in dishes or sachet bags on patio tables emit scents that are unpleasant to insects. Same thing for tea bags and dryer sheets. (Put those under furniture cushions).
  • Oil diffusers containing eucalyptus, peppermint, cinnamon, tea tree, lemongrass, and lavender keep insects away.  
  • Citronella candles and torches deter mosquitoes and flies.

Fresh air, good food, and an insect-free space are what outdoor living is all about. If all else fails, call a professional exterminator! Life is too short to be bugged by bugs.  



This article was written by Teri Silver. Teri is a journalist and outdoor enthusiast. She and her husband live on 5 acres with a vast lawn, three gardens, a farm, a pond, many trees, and a lot of yard work! The best parts of the year are summer and fall when home-grown veggies are on the dinner table.