So you’re hosting a summer party and you’re ready to surround yourself with best friends and some pretty awesome food. While everything is coming together perfectly, there is one pretty significant thing to worry about: what to do when the bugs swarm.

Bugs are the ultimate unwelcome guests, as they can ruin the food you’ve worked so hard on and they seem impossible to keep away. Purchasing a gigantic tent is expensive and inconvenient and bugs can still sneak through the doors. The perfumy smell of mosquito candles can also seep into the flavor of your food, so let’s look at some cheaper and easier alternatives to keep the bugs away from your food during an outdoor party.

Mow the Lawn

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Before you set up for your party, make sure you’ve just cut the grass. Mosquitos thrive in areas with longer grass and weeds, so a freshly-mowed lawn may actually prevent the bugs from swarming en masse.

Water and Pennies

This is probably the oldest trick in the book, but it’s actually credible. If you put a couple pennies in a glass of water and keep the glass by the food, you’ll be able to keep the flies and mosquitos away. Supposedly, the way pennies reflect light in the water confuses bugs, so they won’t go anywhere near the light. If you fill a plastic bag with water and pennies and hang it above the food you’re serving, that works too!

Dryer Sheets

Where there is food outside, there are ants. It’s just science. Keep them away by placing a dryer sheet under each table leg. Dryer sheets smell strong to me, so I can’t even imagine how much they’d repel an ant. Also, if you tend to fall prey to mosquitos every summer, rubbing a dryer sheet on your clothes works to repel them as well.

Peppermint Oil

Mixing peppermint oil and water and spraying it where you’re going to serve food does wonders for keeping spiders away. And peppermint oil is a subtle enough scent that it won’t really mess with the taste or smell of your food.

Vinegar

apple cider vinegar drink

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As far as natural bug repellents go, vinegar is one of the most useful things to stock up on. It repels most flies, gnats, and mosquitos. You can also put it on your skin, outdoor furniture, or leave it in a jar by your food. Apple cider vinegar is acceptable, and vanilla extract is just as effective if you don’t have any vinegar at your disposal.

Create a Diversion

Sometimes it may be best just to give the bugs what they want: something sweet. Set up a bowl of sugar water or a jar of jelly far from where you’re serving food. It’s much more likely that the bugs will go after something more sugary.

Lanterns

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While most people recommend candles to keep bugs away, lanterns are a much better option where food is being served. The smoke and scent of a candle can drift into food, making for an unpleasant dining experience. Lanterns, on the other hand, are just as effective at distracting bugs, and there are a lot of cheap and pretty ones that will create that perfect summer ambiance.

Fans

Set up one or two small oscillating fans around the serving area. The air will literally blow your bug problem away, and you and your guests get the benefit of a nice cooling breeze!

Colanders or Mini Nets

You can place a mesh colander over each individual dish. It will be impossible for bugs to get through, and your guests will still be able to see what you’re serving. Or, if you’re feeling a little more fancy, they actually make mini nets that go over each dish. You can buy them online, and they’re actually pretty cheap! Plus, they come in different colors, so you can give each dish its own personality.

Related Video: There’s One Spice Bugs Love to Burrow in More Than Others

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