How to beat the biters in your back garden

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Indy Lifestyle Online
British summer means pesky insects. Although this summer has already witnessed a veritable swarm of potential biters and stingers, the worst is yet to come. September signals the high-water mark for nibbles, nips and shouts of "ouch!" Here are some traditional - and alternative - ways of dealing with an increasing problem.

Wasps: The most frequent offenders - perhaps because they can inflict repeated wounds. A sting can range from minor irritant to potentially fatal wound; a sting to the tongue can cause severe swelling and prevent breathing. Secondary infection is also not uncommon, since wasps feed on bacterially contaminated organic matter.

Traditional treatment is anti-histamine in aerosol or cream form such as Boots' Sting Relief Cream. Ice quickly soothes the itching wheal and deadens pain. Repellents come in spray, gel and roll-on form, such as Boots' Repel Plus or Autan's original range.

Vinegar, the old wives' remedy, does not work; the sting is not a simple acid but a complex mixture of histamine, kinin and serotonin. Aromatherapists favour lavender oil, which should be dabbed on and followed by onion juice. Bergamot and tea-tree essential oils are also good. For prevention, citronella can be useful. Dab it all over the skin or buy it in candle form to clear the air. It is ideal for barbecues.

Pill poppers also have options. Amrit Ahluwalia, from Neal's Yard Remedies, says: "Apis, Arnica, Caladium, Hypericum, Lachesis, Ledum and Staphisagria can be very effective homoeopathic remedies."

Bees: Although less aggressive than wasps, they do inflict a nasty sting, and the same treatments apply. Apis Mel, a homoeopathic cure, is made from the bee's sting.

Remember to remove the sting carefully. It's barbed and designed to remain in the skin. Many doctors recommend using a very fine piece of thread, held taut against the skin, to pull the sting out. Take care not to rip the sting or squeeze the bag at the big end - it still contains venom.

Ants: The good news is that the common black garden ant doesn't sting. The bad news is that Roger's Ant, reddish-brown and with a sting full of formic acid, has made recent advances. Again, treatments are the same as for other stingers.

Rather than suffer, you can contact Rentokil. They have an insecticide spray which, applied to door thresholds, skirtings and wall/floor junctions, kills any ants that walk over it. If you get a severe ant infestation - figures show more people do now - refer it to a commercial pest control service or the Environmental Health Department - pronto.

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