Keep kids safe outdoors from bees, wasps, ticks and mosquitos

David Mizijewski

National Wildlife Federation

Summertime is all about the outdoors. Yet, Americans spend more and more time indoors–and this sedentary lifestyle affects the health of our children. The average school-aged child spends almost 8 hours a day indoors in front of electronic media. Research and common sense tell us that kids who play outside are less likely to be obese, have diabetes, suffer from attention deficit issues and vitamin D deficiencies, and even be nearsighted. Kids that play outside are not only physically healthier, but they are more creative and do better in the classroom. Our families need less screen time and more green time.

Getting your family outdoors is not only good for their health, it’s a great way to explore nature. However, the fear of getting bitten or stung by bugs is a top reason why parents decide to keep their kids inside. But nobody should be terrified of the outdoors. Here’s how you can keep your family safe from bees, wasps, ticks and mosquitoes this summer, so they can enjoy all of the benefits of outdoor time.

Do learn how to identify bugs

The vast majority of insects and spiders are beneficial to your garden and the environment in general. Learning which ones actually pose a problem will help ease your anxiety about being outside. Understanding the habitat of problematic species will tell you exactly which areas to avoid and what times of day to stay inside.

Do wear long sleeves

Wearing long sleeve shirts and pants can help minimize that amount of time your skin is exposed to mosquitoes and ticks. If it is warm outside, wear loose fitting, lightweight clothing as it breathes best.

Do use repellents

Repellents can be effective at deterring mosquitoes and ticks. DEET-based repellents provide the longest protection. If you want to avoid spraying chemicals directly on your skin, choose a natural repellent that includes lemon eucalyptus. However, remember that natural repellents need to be applied more frequently.

Do use fans

Mosquitoes are weak flyers, and sometimes all you need is the wind from fans to keep them away from your deck or patio. Additionally, fans disperse the chemical trail of carbon dioxide that we exhale and exude from our skin, which female mosquitoes (the only ones that bite) use to target us. A fan is a simple and chemical-free way to avoid these insects.

Do teach your kids to be unafraid of nature

Children are not born to be afraid of the outdoors. In fact, they are naturally inquisitive. Kids learn their fear of insects from adults. Teach them that most bugs are okay, and that they don’t need to run screaming indoors every time they see one. By teaching them that bugs are not bad, you’ll both stop the spread of misinformation, and you will ultimately position your kids to avoid the negative consequences of a sedentary indoor lifestyle.


Do not spray pesticides

Spraying pesticides around your yard does little to actually eliminate insects in the long term. And these pesticides potentially expose your family, pets and wildlife to dangerous toxins.

Do not use a bug zapper

Mosquitoes are not generally attracted by light and very few are killed by electronic bug zappers. Instead, these zappers actually kill thousands of beneficial night-flying moths, beetles and other insects.

Do not destroy every bee or wasp nest

Did you know that the vast majority of the 4,000 bee species in North America won’t sting, and that ⅓ of all the food we eat is because bees pollinated our crops? Or that wasps are highly effective predators of parasites and garden pests? Killing every bee or wasp out of ignorance and fear does little to protect you–but does a great deal of harm to agriculture and the environment. If a nest is situated near your door, a walkway or your children’s play area, call a professional to remove it. Otherwise, let it be, and you shouldn’t have problems.
Do not burn or smother a tick

If you find a tick on you, simply use a pair of tweezers to grasp it by the head and pluck it out. Never burn or smother a tick because this may cause it to regurgitate disease-infected body fluids into the open wound. Don’t worry if a bit of the head remains. Disinfect the bite area and watch to see if a red swelling occurs. If it does, head to the doctor. Tick-borne diseases are easily treatable if diagnosed immediately.

Do not swat at a bee or wasp

Bees and wasps only sting defensively. Wildly swatting at one of these insects is the best way to provoke a sting. If one does fly near you, simply move away from it in a calm manner, and you won’t get stung.


            While summer is the perfect time to get your family outdoors into the fresh air and sunshine, it does not necessarily mean you will get eaten alive by the outdoor bugs. These simple tips will help you avoid getting bitten or stung, while you enjoy your summer outside.