Summer is a time to hang out. Even if you don't attend the usual stream of cookouts, weddings, or pool parties this year, chances are if you have a backyard you'll hang around a lot because of social distance. That means crossing paths with the usual array of stinging, biting or just tricky insects.
You can go to great lengths to ward off these pests by using combinations of sticky traps, buzzing electrical constructions, lawn treatments, or sprays. I've lived in the South and Midwest for most of my life, and I've used many of these ready-made insect traps and repellents. In my experience, few things work, as do easy-to-do DIY traps. I'll describe three different fall styles and different bait options, starting with the easiest first.
Mason jar trap
This trap works great for small flying insects such as fruit flies or mosquitoes. It is also the easiest of the three to make. Almost any container of similar size will work, but here I use a small wide mouth glass jar with a metal lid.
Take an awl or sharp scissors and pierce a few small holes in the lid (adult warning). Alternatively, you can instead cover the jar with plastic wrap and secure it with tape or a rubber band.
As bait, pour in some apple cider vinegar with a few drops of dish soap. The soap will cover their wings and weigh them down so they cannot escape from the jar. If you're generous, use beer instead of vinegar and send them in style!
Useful against: Fruit flies, mosquitoes
Cost (minus bait): $ 2- $ 5  Tools required: scissors, knife or awl with sharp point
Plastic bottle catcher
The most versatile of the three options is the plastic bottle trap. You have probably seen examples of this. You can use any rigid plastic bottle that narrows to an opening at the top. Two liter bottles are most commonly used for this kind of trap, and that's what I use here to demonstrate.
Cut the top just before the bottle narrows. Return that piece into the bottle and secure with tape or glue. The trap sits as it is, or uses a piece of wire or rope through holes you would put on either side to hang from a tree or hook.
The trick here is bait. You have many options. In all cases, to avoid trapping desirable honey bees, avoid using honey and try adding a splash of vinegar or a piece of banana peel.
Take a quarter cup of brown sugar and dissolve it in a cup of hot water, then add a little detergent. If available, you can add a gram of yeast for an extra punch, but the sugar water itself should work just fine. Works best in shady dark areas. Consider covering or painting clear plastic.
Bait with a mix of water and fruit-scented dish soap. Try adding decomposing fruit instead of sugar.
For hornets and wasps
Assumingdidn't get us all by the time you read this, start with a base of water and dish soap in early spring. Go for a protein base and add boiled meat fat or mashed fish (the murder horners can demand a whole steak).
As soon as summer arrives, switch to 50-50 sugar water base with dish soap and sugary additives such as apple cider vinegar or other fruit mixed with vinegar. Place in a sunny, well-lit area.
Useful against: Mosquitoes, flies, hornets, wasps
Cost (min bait): $ 1- $ 2
Tools required: Scissors, tape or glue
Wood Carpenter Bee Trap
Male carpenter bees are not generally a threat to humans, but female carpenter bees can sting, and the small holes they can make in your wooden exterior structures can be annoying. Aside from treating or painting your patio or any wooden purpose, this trap is the next best way to get rid of carpenter bees.
Pick up a single untreated cedar picket from your local home improvement store (or use wood of the same dimensions you already have). The picket I use is six feet long, five inches wide and twenty-fifth thick. Starting from the bottom of the picket (avoiding the donkey ears), cut six pieces 10 inches long each and a four and seven eighth inch square piece.
The smaller piece is the bottom, where you drill a hole to fit and glue a cap off the bottle. The other pieces form the four sides and two for the overhanging top. Use small nails or screws to join the pieces together. You can add a hook at the top to hang if you want, otherwise just use a piece of string or thread.
Use a half-inch drill bit and drill holes in the center of the bottle cap and at least two sides of the trap. The holes should be at the top of the structure, angled upwards. The bees should find their way to the bottle and not be able to distinguish them. Pull the bottle out to throw it all away (don't unscrew it and let the bees out!), Put in a new bottle to start over.
Useful against: Carpenter bees
Cost (without bait): $ 4- $ 6
Tools required: Drilling, sawing, gluing, screwing (or hammer and nails), drill bits: half an inch, the same diameter as the cap of a bottle