Adding a play set or swing set to your yard can be an amazing gift for your kids.
It turns what would otherwise be a decent space to run around into a magical place to have adventures each and every day!
But play sets, being outside 24/7, can easily become infested or overrun with pests — that can make them no fun for your kids to play with, at best, and extremely dangerous, at worst.
So how do you deal with pests? What’s the best way to keep bees, spiders, ants, and other bugs away from your swing set area?
The best way to keep most pests away from your kid’s play set is to regularly clean the structure and keep the yard around it well-maintained. Trimmed grass, good weed control, and regular sweeping and hosing down of the set should keep most infestations at bay.
If problems persist, you can always bring in the big guns of chemical bug killers and repellents. I’d try to avoid using those on your play set until you’ve exhausted other removal methods and natural remedies.
Let’s take a look at some common play house pests and how best to deal with them.
Keep bees & wasps away from a swing set
Bees and wasps are probably the biggest offender when it comes to backyard play sets.
If you find them lurking and nesting near your structure, you’ll want to deal with it quickly before the problem gets worse and your kid ends up getting stung.
There are a couple of easy, and a few not so easy, ways to keep these flying nuisances away from your swing set.
First, if it’s not too late, pick the right location in your yard for the play set.
You don’t want your play set too close to a garden, wild flowers, or heavy shrubbery or weeds. These areas attract a lot of bees, in particular, whose job it is to pollinate. And it’s an important job, I might add!
Next, keep your lawn trimmed tight all season long.
Particularly, if your lawn isn’t a picture-perfect fescue and includes various weeds and wildflowers when it gets long — don’t allow it to grow more than a few inches high. These greens attract a lot of different pollinators as they grow.
When it comes to carpenter bees — thick bodied bees who burrow holes into wooden play sets — be sure to regularly seal the wood.
A good all-weather seal can discourage bees from chewing into your play set.
Of course, you should check with your swing set manufacturer on the best type of seal to use and how often to do it, though best practice is to apply fresh seal around once per year.
If they’re already there:
If you find yourself with an existing bee or wasp problem on your play set, here’s what you can do.
If you want to kill the bees, there are plenty of tough chemical sprays to choose from, including this wasp, yellow jacket, and bee killer on Amazon.
For a non-lethal solution, you can create an at-home bee repellent using soap, peppermint oil, and some basic spices (instructions here).
Try to spray down your play set at night when the bees aren’t as active, to avoid getting stung.
Once you’re confident the bees are gone, you can fill in any holes in the wood with caulk, wood glue, putty, wood filler, etc. and paint or seal over the hole.
For large nests of wasps or bees, you’ll likely want to call an expert to remove them safely.
And finally, if you want to be a good citizen and not kill the pollinators around your play set (which I recommend), you can contact local beekeepers to come remove large hives of bees, for free or for a small charge.
That way they can be safely re-homed and not killed.
Keep ants away from a swing set
Ants can be another big problem in backyard play areas, especially on wooden play sets.
Some ants are annoying due to their large numbers. Others, like fire ants, can be dangerous for your kids.
Here’s what you can do about them:
Keep your swing set as clean as possible. Without crumbs, leafs, and other food sources, most ants won’t be super interested.
Regularly sweep debris out of the play house and hose it down for good measure.
If it’s not too late, try to avoid using wood mulch as your ground cover around the swing set. It can attract all kinds of pests, including ants. Try rubber mulch instead.
Like there are for most pests, there are tons of sprays, killers, and repellents you can use to remove ants from different places around your yard and home.
I’d probably avoid spraying too much store-bought repellent in an area where your kid plays, however most claim to be kid safe so it’s really your call!
Try this Ant killer and prevention spray on Amazon for a quick and easy solution.
A better option might be to first try a homemade, natural ant repellent. Here are some ideas including cinnamon (mix with water to create a lethal spray), lemon juice, and vinegar.
Remember, you’ll likely find a few ants here and there. Your play set is an outdoor structure, after all!
But the tips above should help you avoid any major infestations or the presence of dangerous ants like fire ants.
Keep spiders away from a swing set
I know they’re usually “friendly” and “good for the ecosystem,” but they just give me the creeps.
And I definitely don’t want them lurking where my daughter plays.
So here’s what you can do about spiders:
There are chemical options, of course.
It’s unlikely you’ll find something that repels the spiders and keeps them away longterm, but if you find yourself with a consistent problem and recurring infestations, you can try a harsh chemical.
People rave about Miss Muffet’s Revenge spider killer on Amazon to kill any existing spiders and for short-term prevention.
(This is a good option if you find black widow or brown recluse poisonous spiders that you don’t want to remove by hand and don’t want to take any chances on.)
In general, I would avoid spraying this stuff directly where your kid plays, even if it is effective and supposedly kid-safe.
Your best bet with spiders is to routinely clean your playset.
Hose it down, sweep away debris and webs, and keep the areas around the set well-maintained. Trim any tree branches that may be hanging on or near the set. Remove piles of leaves and tall weeds.
This is something you should be doing anyway, as it’s a great way to prevent a rusty swing set.
It will keep the play house from being overrun, and from there you can deal with one-off instances of spiders as they occur.
Keep birds away from swing sets
I don’t usually consider birds a pest.
My daughter actually likes watching them in our backyard.
However, they can destroy gardens and cover your play set in poop!
If birds are constantly nesting in, flying through, or perching and pooping on your play set, you’ll want to address the problem.
There’s little you can do from a chemical spray stand point, unfortunately. Most agents strong enough to kill a bird will definitely be dangerous for your child.
Your best bets are to use reflective tape or a predator statue.
Reflective tape bothers the heck out of the birds because they hate the flickering light getting into their eyes.
You’ll want something sturdy and rated for outdoor use like this waterproof tape on Amazon — you can attach it to a few problem areas on the set and see how it works.
To take things up a notch, spring for specialized bird repellent tape (Amazon). It’s non-adhesive and will blow in the wind, causing noise and even more light that drives the birds away.
Predator statues (fake hawks or owls designed to scare birds) can be a little hit or miss. They often don’t work well unless you move them around constantly, and even then birds can get used to them.
You can try a statue like this owl scarecrow on Amazon if you’re interested in going this route.
Some people recommend bird spikes or sticky pads, but I would avoid putting these anywhere they could hurt or bother your kids while they play.
Again, keep the play set clean of debris and remove nests if you find them. If you keep the birds stressed from visiting the play set, they’ll eventually give up and leave it alone.
No matter the pests, you’re sure to find a harsh chemical solution to driving them away.
(Perhaps with the exception of birds.)
However, I’d be cautious before spraying down your swing set with potentially hazardous poisons.
Try a regular maintenance schedule first to see if keeping your play house super clean helps minimize ants, spiders, bees, wasps, and other crawly bugs.
From there, there are tons of natural remedies you can make at home — usually including vinegar, citrus, and household spices. Some of these act as repellents while others can be lethal to small bugs.
If problems persist, or if you’re worried about dangerous pests (poisonous spiders, yellow jackets), go for the chemicals. Just make sure to spray cautiously, read all directions carefully, and give the spray plenty of time to dry before you allow your kids to play on the set again.
What did I miss? What’s your best tip for getting rid of playground pests?
Hope this helps, parents!