Creepy Movies to get you in the Halloween Mood

Halloween is upon us and that means trips with the kids to corn mazes and haunted houses, shopping for pumpkins and buying treats.

In other words, if you have young children, Halloween means family time.

What better way to celebrate our haunted month than will some creepy movies? Pop up some corn instead of wandering through a field of it and sit back with the family while you all get into the Halloween spirit.

We also have suggestions for those with older children, or none at all!

“Super Monsters Save Halloween”

If you have tiny ones in the house (age 3+), this is the movie to rent (at Netflix). It’s especially suited for the ones who may feel a bit nervous about Halloween. The Super Monsters “… help a friend see there is nothing to be afraid of,” according to the Netflix description. Rated TV-Y.

“Curious George: A Halloween Boo Fest”

Although it’s recommended for pre-schoolers (but not rated), if your child scares easily, you may want to opt for another movie. “Cute but my 4 1/2 year old son was scared by the no noggin [headless scarecrow] and brought it up twice at bedtime,” according to one parent reviewer with several others saying the same. Read more reviews at commonsensemedia.org. 

“Nightmare Before Christmas”

Suitable for kids age 7 and up, the “Nightmare Before Christmas” brings us the King of Halloween, Jack Skellington and his trip through the door to Christmas Town. There, he decides to give up his annual Halloween festivities and try his hand at December’s holiday. Kids love this one. Rated PG.

“The Lady Vanishes”

Love  classic spooky tales? Here’s an Alfred Hitchcock 1938 release that centers around the disappearance of a young woman’s traveling companion, the denial of the other passengers that her companion ever existed and her search to figure out what happened. No rating.

“Rosemary’s Baby”

A young, waifish mom-to-be thinks there is something not quite right about the child she is carrying. When she and her husband move to a new apartment, in a building with a haunted reputation and oddball occupants, all heck breaks loose. The truth of it all is revealed when Rosemary gives birth. Mia Farrow and John Cassavetes star in this 1968 classic. Rated R.

“Dracula”

Released in 1931, this is the Dracula that forever cemented the dastardly blood sucker in America’s psyche. The midnight ride through the fog is worth the price of admission. No rating.

“Scream”

Wes Craven’s classic, released in 1996, stars Courtney Cox, David Arquette, Neve Campbell and Drew Barrymore. The movie follows a California high school student who becomes the target of Ghostface, a mysterious killer. Considered a “slasher movie,” this one’s not suited for kids. Besides, it’s rated R.

Silence of the Lambs”

It was scary back in 1991 and it’s still scary today, with Academy Award winning performances from Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. The latter plays Hannibal Lecter, lover of fava beans, Chianti and human flesh while messing with the mind of Foster’s Clarissa Starling, FBI agent. Rated R.

 

Inexpensive fall home maintenance projects to do this weekend

It has been said that the easiest way to eat an elephant is by taking one bite at a time. The same holds true for home maintenance tasks. Broken down into smaller bites, the jobs don’t seem so overwhelming.

We like to categorize them by seasons. Heading into fall, and the wild weather to come in winter, there are several preparatory home maintenance tasks that you can and should get underway right now.

“A home operates with the seasons, coming to life in the spring and hunkering down for the winter,” said Ronda Kaysen, New York Times columnist and author of “Right at Home.”

The good news is that some of these chores can be tackled in one weekend.

How’s the caulking holding up?

If it’s been awhile since you checked the caulking in the home, take some time this weekend to check it out. Even if you just check the caulking around the doors and windows, you’ll be one step ahead in preparing your home for the colder weather to come.

An easy way to check for air leaks from windows is with a lit candle. Hold the candle “… close to the window seams on a breezy day,” instructs the experts at diynetwork.com.

“If the flame bends, it signals air movement pushing through the window from outdoors.”

Go outside and check the caulking on the frame. If you notice gaps or cracks it, you’ll need to replace the caulking.

Other areas of the home to check include around doors and anywhere that pipes and vents protrude to the outside wall.

You’ll find tips on caulking windows at bobvilla.com.

Inspect the roof

Real estate agents learn early in their careers to look at the ceilings when touring a home with their clients. Often, water stains on the ceiling are the first indication to homeowners that the roof is leaking, although they may also signify leaky plumbing or fixtures.

Next, go outside and take a look at the roof, checking for missing and broken shingles.

Finally, check trees that are close to the roof for overgrowth and trim it back so that it’s not in contact with the roof.

If you suspect roof damage, call a roofing contractor for a more thorough inspection.

Get rid of gutter gunk

While you’re checking out the home’s roof, take a look at the gutters. The main purpose of gutters is to ensure that water is directed away from the foundation. If they’re full of leaves and other debris, they’ll be ineffective and may cause foundation damage.

Remove the debris and ensure that the gutters are securely attached to the home.

Ensure your refrigerator doesn’t poop out

It’s one of those home-maintenance tasks most homeowners neglect. But did you know that appliance experts recommend cleaning your refrigerator’s coils every six months?

The coils help to keep warm air from intruding to the inside of the refrigerator. They tend to collect dust, pet fur and other debris that then slows the unit’s efficiency.

What ends up happening is that the refrigerator works harder and, thus, uses more energy.

The refrigerator’s coils are located either at the bottom of the front of the unit or in the back. Use your vacuum cleaner to remove the debris and, if necessary, a coil cleaning brush. These are inexpensive and can be purchased at amazon.com, lowe’s.com and walmart.com.

Are you ready for the next hurricane?

While, thankfully, hurricane Ida is now in the rearview mirror and all is quiet on the weather front, emergency preparedness experts are warning us that we are only in the beginning of hurricane season.

Are you ready for the next one?

Hurricane readiness can save your home, your life and even thousands of dollars on homeowners insurance.

Is a Hurricane Headed Your Way?

Florida and Louisiana may be the most common victims of the Atlantic hurricane season, but as we have seen in the last few years, everyone from Texas to the Jersey shore needs to be prepared.

Anyone who has been through a hurricane or has had a home damaged by one will tell you that waiting to prepare until there is a hurricane on the radar isn’t wise.

Get supplies now. Make plans for what you’ll do when the next one hits.

Evacuate or Hunker Down?

If an evacuation order is mandated, then you should absolutely pack up and go. In fact, even if there is a chance a hurricane will hit your area, you ought to get out of town early if you can.

Otherwise, you face becoming trapped and vulnerable in the ensuing traffic jams. Plus, as we have seen during the worst hurricanes of the last decade, it isn’t always the wind and rain that is the worst threat to your safety – often it is the mayhem that follows.

Whether you are staying or going, you need to have your emergency kit ready and be well-stocked on essentials.
Evacuating? Before heading out, do the following:

  • Fill up the gas tank in your vehicle.
  • Turn off pilot lights and shut off your gas line
  • Turn off the water supply and master electrical breaker
  • Secure anything moveable, such as patio furniture and garden equipment, that is outdoors.
  • Board up windows or close hurricane shutters.
  • Ensure you have cash on hand.

If you plan on staying put, ensure you do the following:

  • Buy plywood, aluminum or steel panels to cover doors and windows.
  • Purchase garage door storm braces. Garage doors are the most vulnerable point in the typical home, according to the experts at the National Weather Service. Watch the how-to install video at youtube.com.
  • Cut back large trees that may topple onto the home.
  • Secure outdoor furniture and other items that may get tossed during the storm.

What you’ll need if you decide to hunker down:

  • Food for three to seven days (don’t forget pet, baby food and infant formula)
  • Plenty of water (at least 1 gallon of water per person, per day)
  • Manual can opener
  • First aid kit
  • Medications
  • Flashlights
  • Radio
  • Batteries
  • Cash
  • Copies of important documents including IDs for all adults and your homeowner insurance policy
  • Either a blanket or sleeping bag for each family member

Get approaching hurricane alerts and forecasts by visiting the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center online at nhc.noaa.gov.

Fall: Time to plant those mums!

Fall mums, also known as garden mums, used to be commonly known as chrysanthemums. They are available in many colors and sizes, are easy to grow in the garden bed as well as containers and they’re sure to add a jolt of color when everything else is dying back.

The best time to plant the fall mum is in late August to mid-September.

The fall mum is planted either in late August or early September. But you can still plant until “… six weeks before the first killing frost,” according to Leanne Potts at hgtv.com.

What you’ll need

  • Shovel
  • Compost
  • Gardening fork
  • 5-10-5 fertilizer
  • Pruning shears
  • Mulch

Prepare the planting bed

The ideal place to plant your fall mum is one that gets a full day of sunshine. The plant will produce more and better blooms the more sun it gets.

The fall mum has a very shallow root system so you won’t need to dig up the soil too much when preparing the bed. Dig down to a depth of 4 inches, turning the soil and crushing any large clods of dirt.

Remove any rocks or old roots or other debris that you find. Spread a 2-inch layer of compost over the planting bed and, with the gardening fork, mix it in well with the existing soil, and then level the bed so that there aren’t any depressions.

Plant the mums

The distance you place between plants is going to depend a lot upon the size of the mums you are planting. Generally, you will want to space them 18 inches apart.

Remove the plant from its current pot by tipping the pot over and gently coaxing it out. Squeezing the sides of plastic planting pots helps disengage roots that are stuck to the sides.

Once it’s out of the nursery pot, loosen the mum’s outer roots with your fingers.

Dig a hole twice the width and the same depth as the pot in which the mum was growing. Place the roots of the plant into the hole and backfill, patting the soil around the roots as you go. Firm the soil around the plant and then water deeply.

Care of the newly-planted mum

Regular, deep watering is vital for the success of your fall mum garden. Give them a good soak twice a week.

They won’t require any fertilizer their first season in the garden. Next season, plan on feeding monthly with a 5-10-5 fertilizer at the rate of 1 lb. per 100 square feet of garden space.

When your mum plants have reached 6-inches in height, cut an inch of new growth from every shoot. These cut shoots will produce more branches and, when those have grown 3 inches, cut them as well. Keep doing this until July. This will encourage the mum plant to be bushier and it will provide you with more flowers.

As winter approaches, keep the plants moist. There’s no need to cut them back, as you will do this in the spring. When the soil freezes, add a 4-inch layer of mulch around them.

In the spring, rake back the mulch and cut the mum plants back to the soil. As you did last season, start trimming the new growth when the plant is 6 inches tall.

Happy Fall!

Tips to close your pool

Summer 2020 and 2021 saw the sale of pools, and homes with pools, skyrocket. In July of this year, “… a basic vinyl in-ground pool — without the bells and whistles of heating, decking or any further customization — costs $85,000 on average, up from the $60,000 to $65,000 in 2019,” said Zachary Kussin at nypost.com.

As a result, a huge swath of the American public has been subjected to crash courses in subjects such as balancing the chlorine and pH levels in their pools, checking alkalinity and calcium hardness levels, keeping the pool chlorinated and more.

With winter just few months away, their next question will be “What do I do to get this thing ready for winter?”

If you’re among the curious, read on.

Open your pool early and close your pool late

It’s tempting to want to get a head start on closing your pool as summer winds down and kids head back to school. Tempting, but not wise.

“If you close your pool while the weather is still warm, the winter protection chemicals you’ve added will often not last until spring,” according to Lana Seidman with HIC of Staten Island, Inc., a non-profit trade association

She goes on to explain that “… pool chemicals are consumed much faster in hotter temperatures versus cooler temperatures.”

How hot is hot? Sixty degrees Fahrenheit appears to be the magic number. This is the temperature at which algae goes dormant, according to Seidman. Wait until the water temperature remains consistently lower than 60 degrees before closing your pool.

Give the pool a good scrub

The experts at Thatcher Pools recommend that you “… grab the pool brush and your telescoping pole and start scrubbing. Scrub everything from the walls to the floor, and get to the nooks and crannies if you can.”

Not only does this process loosen debris but also algae spores that may have settled into those nooks and crannies.

Finally, vacuum up all the loosened debris.

Get those chemicals balanced

Here’s what to aim for, according to those pros at Thatcher Pools:

  • pH: 7.2 to 7.8
  • Alkalinity: 100 to 150 parts per million (ppm)
  • Chlorine: Less than 5 parts per million.

Add an algaecide (never add this when the chloring level is high) and pool enzymes next. Consider using a Winter Pill that will work all winter long.

You’ll also want to shock the pool, regardless of how clear the water is. Find a shock product designed to be used when closing a pool that contains “… at least 65 per cent hypochlorite.”

No, the work isn’t over yet, but this gives you a good head start. You’ll find pool closing walk-through tutorials and videos online.

Pets have accidents: Here’s how to clean them from carpet

Statistics; you gotta love them.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 38.4% of American households are home to a dog, while 25.4% have cats.

That’s a grand total of more than 48 million dogs and nearly 32 million cats.

Imagine the amount bodily fluids that ends up on carpets nationwide. It’s inescapable, really. Even the most well-trained pet can have an accident indoors.

Let’s take a look at some of the more common messes our pets leave behind and how to clean them from carpet.

Pet vomit

Cats vomit more often than dogs. It’s true. Some cats vomit more often than other cats. If you live with a serial vomiter, don’t despair. Whether it’s a cat or a dog who leaves behind vomit, we have a tip to remove it, and the stain, from the carpet.

  • Lay a paper towel over the mess and gently blot the liquid from it. Don’t press to hard while blotting to avoid pushing the vomit further into the carpet.
  • Use another paper towel to gently lift the vomit pile from the carpet.
  • Clean the resulting stain a.s.a.p. with a paste composed of two parts of baking soda in one part hydrogen peroxide. Stir well and use the spoon to spread the paste over the spot until it’s covered entirely. Avoid pressing the mixture into the carpet.
  • Allow the paste to remain on the stained area of the carpet until it is dry. This may take anywhere from a few hours to overnight.
  • Use the vacuum to suck up the dried paste.

You may need to reapply a fresh layer of the paste for stubborn stains. Repeat the procedure, allowing the paste to dry completely, before using the vacuum to suck it up.

Pet urine

Owners of geriatric dogs, more than other pet owners, deal with a lot of pet accidents. As our pets age, especially dogs, they often lose bladder function and become incontinent.

Many owners deal with this by diapering their dogs or crating them at night when they can’t help the dog outside to relieve itself.

Accidents still happen, though, and although urine is a tough substance to remove from carpet, it is possible.

A new urine stains is far easier to deal with than one that is set-in. In fact, when we discover pee long after the fact, we hire a specialist to help. After all, it probably soaked into the pad beneath the carpet as well.

Here’s what you’ll need to clean a new urine stain:

  • Rags or paper towels
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup distilled white vinegar
  • ¼ cup baking soda
  • ¼ cup 3% hydrogen peroxide
  • Spray bottle
  • Scrub brush

After mixing the solution, check to ensure it is safe for your type of carpet. Try it on a small section of the carpet that is seldom seen. For instance, under the sofa or behind the drapes.

Use the rags or paper towels to blot out as much of the liquid as possible. When you think you’ve gotten all of it, put a clean rag over the spot and stand on it for a few seconds. You’d be surprised how much urine is left in the carpet.

Combine the water, vinegar, baking soda and peroxide in the spray bottle. Spritz the urine-stained area until it is wet.

Use the brush to lightly work the solution into the stained area, then allow the solution to sit for about 5 to 10 minutes.

Work the solution into the carpet with a brush or by rubbing it in with your fingers while wearing a rubber glove. Allow the solution to remain on the area for about 10 minutes.

Use a clean rag or bunch of paper towels to blot up the solution.

Sprinkle a bit of baking soda (enough to cover the area with urine), allow it to dry completely and then vacuum up the residue.

Now is the ideal time to aerate your lawn

Just when you thought time spent working on your landscape was coming to an end as we approach the cooler season, along come the experts.

The period from late summer and early fall, they claim, is the best time of year to do one last lawn-care maintenance task: aeration.

Now, there are caveats, of course, and not all lawn-care specialists agree on when to aerate a lawn.

If your lawn is composed of cool-season grass, now is the ideal time to aerate. If, on the other hand, you grow warm-season grass, they claim, is best aerated in late spring.

What is aeration?

Many homeowners don’t understand that there is a difference between dethatching a lawn and aerating it.

While both are critical to the health of the turf, they are two different processes, requiring different tools.

“… aeration results in the breakdown of compacted soil whereas dethatching removes layers of thatch, or dead grass and other debris, from the top of the soil,” according to the pros at sodsolutions.com.

In a nutshell, aeration involves punching holes in the turf to allow air, nutrients and water to penetrate the soil.

What happens if you don’t aerate your lawn?

Think back to any spring and summer rains you experienced. Was the lawn covered in puddles of rainwater?

That’s because the soil under the grass is compacted and the water has nowhere to go.

Sure, you can leave the standing water; it will drain eventually, right?

In the meantime, however, it may provide a breeding spot for mosquitos. Standing water also prevents grass from growing “… properly, … leaving the area vulnerable to moss growth,” according to landscaping expert David Beaulieu, at thespruce.com.

“Excess water can even lead to problems with your home’s foundation,” he concludes.

The benefits of lawn aeration

We lightly touched on a few of the benefits of lawn aeration, but here’s the “official” list from the experts at trugreen.com:

  • Aeration lets the soil “breathe.”
  • Aeration encourages “… thatch-decomposing microorganisms …” to move from the soil to the top layer.
  • The process allows more air, nutrients and moisture into the soil, providing the lawn with greater access to these important elements.
  • Aeration helps develop new, healthy roots after a tough, hot summer, making it “…ready for a green spring.”

How to Aerate Your Lawn

While many homeowners hire a landscaping company to aerate the lawn, it is an easy DIY project.

You’ll need a aerator, of course, and they’re available to rent at big home improvement stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot. Ensure that you understand exactly how to use the tool and all the safety information the store can supply.

  • Check to ensure that sprinkler heads or other lines won’t be run over or otherwise damaged during the process. Mark areas of concern so that you can keep away from them while aerating.
  • Mow the lawn and apply an inch of water the day before you’ll be aerating.
  • Go over the lawn again, removing any debris, such as twigs and large leaves.
  • One pass is all you’ll need if the soil is lightly compacted. Heavily compacted soil may need an additional pass.
  • Allow the soil plugs to remain on the lawn (they’ll add nutrients to the lawn as they decompose).
  • Water the lawn again when you’ve finished aerating it and then water again every three days for two weeks.

Hey condo owner: Do you know what your HOA is up to?

One of the most frustrating aspects of being a real estate agent in the current market is trying to find homes for our first-time homebuyers. Often, they’re snatched up or in multiple offer situations immediately after being listed.

The condo market is just as popular with these homebuyers, by the way. In fact, I’m working with a lovely couple right now who need a very low-priced condo for sale.

Searches of the MLS don’t yield much but this morning I did find several. I looked first at how long they’ve been on the market and all of them have been sitting longer than normal for this fiery sellers’ market.

In fact, the lowest priced condo has been on the market for almost a year. Now why, I thought to myself, is that?

I sleuthed

So, I then looked at the photos to see if there was anything there that might explain why an inexpensive condo isn’t flying off the market. Aside from a very dated kitchen with a missing refrigerator I didn’t see any obvious flaws.

Then, it grabbed me – $270 a month HOA fees. Now, that may not seem like a lot to some, but for someone who needs a starter home and an $80,000 price tag fits the budget, it could be a deal breaker.

FHA certification is important

But there’s another reason it may not be selling. The majority of first-time homebuyers use loans backed by FHA and it has stringent qualifications when it comes to condos. Most significantly for the homebuyer, the condo community, not just the unit, must be FHA-approved to get FHA’s backing for a loan and many across the country aren’t.

It just so happens that this particular community is not FHA approved so between the high monthly HOA fees and the fact that it’s not approved for an FHA loan, the poor homeowner is having a rough time selling.

Pay attention to your HOA

If you own a condo, it’s important to be active in your Homeowners Association. Even if all you do is attend the meetings, it pays to know what is going on.

For instance, if the ratio of rentals to owner-occupied units happens to increase to more than half of all units, your community will lose its FHA approval. Even with some conventional loans there’s a cap on rentals (30 percent with Fannie and Freddie).

If 15 percent or more of the community’s homeowners are behind in their association dues, if someone decides to sue the association and it enters litigation or if the association’s cash reserves fall below one year’s worth of the fees collected, the community may lose FHA certification.

The biggest problem is the first one I mentioned – too many tenants. The wise buyer will refuse to buy a condo where the HOA doesn’t impose a cap on rentals. Then, he or she will be vigilant in monitoring the enforcement of that cap.

Hey, it’s important to pay attention to the future resale value of your property and the longer a home remains on the market the less you’ll make on it. If you can’t sell it at all, it’s worthless, right?

If you want to check if a particular condo community is FHA certified, check HUD’s website.

Use your senses to detect problems with your home’s pipes

Some of the problems in homes that can cause the most damage may be challenging to detect. Your pipes, for instance, are hidden behind walls. When they spring a leak, you may not know about it until mold forms, you notice water damage or your water bill skyrockets.

By then, the damage will be pricey to remedy.

Thankfully, some of the most common pipe problems give clues; you just need to know what to smell, look or listen for.

Use your sense of taste

If your water tastes odd or stinks, don’t drink it.

“Foul-smelling or bad-tasting water are signs of impurities,” according to the experts at the Water Quality Association (WQA).

If the water tastes salty, there may be hydrogen sulfide in the pipes. Caused by bacteria, you’ll need to find the source and eliminate it. Your plumber can help you here.

Does the water taste metallic? “It may be a sign of mercury, lead, copper, arsenic, or iron in the water,” cautions the folks at WQA. It may be originating from the pipes themselves.

What’s that smell?

One of the more common odors when there’s a problem with pipes is that of a rotten egg, which the WQA says is also indicative of hydrogen sulfide in the water.

Catch a whiff of turpentine? There are a number of reasons for this, none of them pleasant, so call your plumber for an inspection and drink bottled water in the meantime.

Listen

If you hear banging when you turn on the water in the home, it may be a sign of a major problem, according to the experts at American Home Shield (AHS).

There is actually a name for that sound, “water hammer,” and it can damage connections and joints in the pipe. The folks at AHS tips to help you solve the problem:

  • Start by turning off the water at the main supply (this is usually located at the street).
  • Open all the faucets in the home and allow them to drain completely before closing.
  • Turn the water main back on and open the faucets again.

“The incoming water will flush the air out of the pipes but not out of the vertical air chamber, where the air supply has been restored.”

Finally, if you notice rust, stains or flaking on any visible pipes, they may be corroding and, if not replaced, will most likely spring a leak.

A good plumber will use your observations when making a diagnosis. Ensure you check references and that the plumber is licensed and insured.

Outdoor entertaining? Get rid of mosquitos naturally

There are two things that qualify to be the bane of summer: flies and mosquitos. Entertaining outdoors seems to triple the pests and their ability to irritate and annoy guests.

Luckily, we found some simple tricks to keep mosquitos at a distance while you enjoy friends and family in your outdoor living space.

Use a fan

Fortunate is the homeowner who has an overhead fan on the patio. “The breeze outdoor fans provide makes it more difficult for these annoying critters [mosquitos and flies] to fly, so they tend to stay away from wherever the fan air flows,” according to the pros at lasco.com.

An oscillating fan or two is the ideal solution because they spread the breeze out more than a stationary fan.

The folks at Lasco also recommend that you consider a fan with a misting apparatus “… for an extra cooling effect.”

If you’ll be buying a floor fan for your next get-together, keep these tips in mind:

  • Look for one with remote control.
  • Large controls that make it easier to see in low-light conditions come in handy in the evening.
  • Ask to plug in and operate the model you’re interested in to make sure it’s quiet enough at high speed to hold a conversation.
  • Ensure that the fan is intended for outdoor use, with grounded plugs and cords and moisture-proof casings.

Get rid of sources of standing water

One of the most common sources of mosquitos is anything that collects rain or irrigation water. This includes:

  • Kiddie Pools (keep the water fresh)
  • Planting pots and saucers
  • Watering Cans
  • Buckets
  • Open trash cans
  • Puddles in your lawn
  • Rain Barrels
  • Tarps
  • Kid’s Toys
  • Birdbaths (keep the water fresh)
  • Wheelbarrows

Seek out even the smallest sources of standing water. All it takes is 1/4 inch of water for a mosquito to “… lay hundreds of eggs at a time—so even very small sources can become a big problem,” according to the experts at the Vector Control Program of San Diego.

Get more tips on how to deal with standing water in your backyard by visiting the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) website.

Set up a defensive perimeter

The folks at the Today Show suggest that you surround the backyard with “… tiki torches with citronella or other insect repellent oil to combat insects.”

In reality, there are no studies that prove citronella’s effectiveness against mosquitos. The CDC, however, suggests that oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) is a good alternative.

NOTE: The Mississippi Department of Health says that “Oil of lemon eucalyptus and lemon eucalyptus oil are not the same product.”

Cover your food and drinks

Backyard barbecues are a beacon for lots of flying insects, such as flies and wasps. Cover all food dishes and drinks to keep them at a distance.

Martha Stewart offers up a tip for covering drinks:

  • Use a hole punch to punch a hole in the bottom of paper cupcake holders.
  • Turn the cupcake holders upside down and place them over the drinks, sticking straws through the punched hole.

Avoid mosquito myths

You’ll find plenty of mosquito repellent myths online. Avoid the bad and misleading information by typing “site:.edu” or “site:.gov” (without the quotation marks) after your search term. For instance:

“How to deter mosquitos site:.edu”

Here are a two of the most popular myths you’ll find online:

  • Mosquitos dislike geraniums or essential oils derived from geraniums (National Institutes of Health). Geraniums and pelargoniums have no effect on mosquitos.
  • Citronella candles and other products deter mosquitos. The truth is “Oil of citronella products … have little effectiveness against mosquitoes.” (Mississippi State Department of Health)

Most of the plant-based repellents suggested for mosquito control are not the plants themselves, but the distilled essences.

For more information on finding the right mosquito repellents, consult the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s database.