25 May 2006

Talk amongst yourselves: Bugs in the sandbox

Kirsten wonders:

How do I keep the bugs out of the sandbox? I put the lid on after each use and it keeps the water and cats out, but there continue to be small bugs in there. Does everyone have this or is there something I should do to keep them out?

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You don't. There are bugs outside. That's just the way it is. While you could hermetically seal the sandbox and infuse it with pesticide after each use, as soon as you opened it bugs would probably migrate over...

As long as they don't sting or lay their eggs in the child's ear, for later snacking on the brain, think of them as playmates, or a good science lesson...

Yeah...I'd be more worried about the exposures to chemicals in any buy spray than I would about the bugs. They're playing outside. Bugs live outside. There will be bugs. Unless you seem to have a problem with something that wants to sting/bite, then I wouldn't worry about it.

For troublesome critters, you might have some luck by mixing a large bag or two of diatomaceous earth in with the sand (organic gardening dept of your local MegaMart or landscapers). It's completely non-toxic (it's just powdered silica, for the most part) and completely harmless to people (although during the adding and mixing process, you might want a hankie over your nose to avoid breathing in the dusty, microscopic particles as the wind picks them up).

The particles can scratch the carapace of small bugs and cause them to dehydrate/die, but are far too small to be of harm to anything bigger than a catapillar. Won't function when wet, and depending on the type of bugs, your smiting mileage may vary. May potentially dry out tiny hands and feet, like playing in talc would, (depending on ratio of the mixture) but nothing a bath and lotion won't fix.

Confused here....

"you might want a hankie over your nose to avoid breathing in the dusty, microscopic particles as the wind picks them up)"

But it's OK for kids to dig in it? How is that any different?

Diatomaceous earth is silica (tiny shells of diatoms) and if you inhale large amounts of it (as dust)over time, you could get silicosis, depending on the type of DE. Here is the MSDS:
http://www.sciencestuff.com/msds/C1668.html

Are these just regular bugs, or dangerous things like scorpions? Maybe if there is a larger dangerous bug to worry about, you could add a screening layer or screen skirt to help keep them out?

Otherwise - if they are just regular old bugs, then what Nick said. It's outside. There's bugs. What's the worry? I spent many an hour checking out bugs in jars and under my microscope to satisfy my curiosity about the natural world. it's a good thing.

You're more likely to make kids sick talcing their bottoms than mixing this in their playsand.

It's only injurious when inhaled in large quantities over a long period of time - like working in a mine or manufacturing plant where it is processed. Playing in a sandbox with it won't hurt you, and even mixing it up, the hankie is more to keep you from blowing chalky boogers all day than an indicator of real potential harm. Farmers use the stuff regularly to dust their plants, with no ill effects.

Once the stuff is in the sand, though, it'll pick up too much ambient moisture to fly around in anything but negligible amounts, even if your kids like to toss the stuff in the air. It'll mostly just bond with the existing silica (sand) and hang around playing itchy-scratchy with the buggies.

Actually, you probably eat the stuff on a regular basis - it's often used to keep bugs out of stored grains and the like, and is ground up when the grain is. And many people feed it to livestock and even pets to cure them of intestinal worms (probably not effective, due to the moisture level) or keep fly larvae from developing in manure (much more feasible). You can also rub your pets fur with it to put the kabosh in pesky fur-loving insects, if you keep it out of their nose and eyes.

It's a lot like any non-toxic substance from salt to dirt to water - in normal amounts it's utterly harmless, but too much can be dangerous.

Thanks, everyone. I'll give it a try.

And, no, they aren't dangerous bugs - just regular bugs. But my almost 3 yr old girl has recently developed a bug phobia and it makes playing in the sandbox unpleasant. And I can't say I'm a big fan, either.

Thanks!
Kirsten

I have been having the same problem with my sandbox. I just set it up for the summer about a week ago and it it full of bugs. There are about a hundred pill bugs, centipeds, and ants laying eggs in there. I heard her yelling when she went to play in it because she also has a phobia of bugs. I went over to look and even I was grossed out. What can I do besides dumping it out because they will probably come back.

Bugs like dry, dark places. If you don't want bugs in your sandbox, stop using the lid. Of course if you have one of the commercial sandboxes with no drainage, you may just be stuck. Building a simple sandbox is very easy, and you can line the bottom with landscape fabric, so the kids don't try to dig to China, but the water can get out.

If there are cats in your neighborhood that you want to keep from confusing your sandbox with a litterbox, pickup some of the netting they sell at the hardware store to keep birds off fruit trees.

I'm with you on the ick factor with bugs. Our outside sandbox (a wood one with a tarp) was fine for a few weeks, but then the springtails and centipedes moved in. I was even okay with that for a while, because those bugs won't hurt anybody, but their numbers eventually just got to be too much. We planned to just reboot the sandbox with new sand and copious amounts of salt, but we found that the bottom of the sandbox was starting to rot. So, parenthacks to the rescue, we now use a big tupperware container with a latching lid. No bugs so far!

This may or may not work for your toddler with a bug phobia.

My 3 year old daughter was terrified of bugs and puppies. So much that she would scream and try to claw her way into the house whenever she saw any flying or crawling thing. Literally was a terror for her (and I am NOT exagerating!).

I took a hairspray bottle she'd never seen before, emptied and washed it and put water in. Told her it was 'bug spray' so she 'might see the bugs but they won't bother her' and the first day, every time a bee or fly flew past, I reminded her how they saw her, smelled the spray and flew past. After a couple of days, she started repeating the 'see but won't bother' phrase and before long, no longer even mentioned seeing them. This morning, saw a tiny bug and did not even ask me to get rid of it...she knows it can not hurt her. After the first day, I asked her if she wanted me to see if the store had "puppy spray" too. She did, I made some and gone is the need for her to scream every time we pass a house she knows has a dog (the piercing screams made walks REALLY enjoyable...)

I should mention, she has a twin and her phobias were rubbing off on her sister. I thought for sure I would spend the whole summer indoors. I can only say the transformation since spring has been nothing short of a miracle for us! Puppy spray and bug spray...try it!

@Ln -- LOVE the bird netting idea, we have a built-in sandbox without a cover. Somehow the neighborhood cats have not yet discovered it, but the minute one of them does I'll be fashioning a cover out of bird netting for it! Thanks! (Or I could be proactive and make one now, but that's unlikely!)

I love Andrea's idea and it just so happens my hubby and I came up with a similar idea for monsters. Ours is called "Monster Juice"

Water + spray bottle = happy kids and parents

You would be amazed at how this does work. We haven't sprayed Monster Juice in ages.

We have fun "sifting" little bugs out of the sandbox - a mesh sifter is a great toy in the box, anyway. My problem this Spring, when I opened the box for the first time, was tons and tons of mouse poop!!! Eeek! I had a rodent-friendly relative scoop through all the sand. She didn't find any dead ones, but said there was a ton of poop - we couldn't get all of it out. My son hasn't played in the sandbox since, and I can't say I blame him. I have to get up the nerve to empty the whole box and replace with new sand. Any tips on getting rid of pounds and pounds and pounds of sand??

just read that putting cinnamon in the sand will help keep the bugs out. I have had the same problem, and we do have cats in our neighborhood that use our gardens and have used the sandbox in the past as a litterbox. And not only do we have bugs, we get HUGE crickets that either lay eggs or poop in the sand! Driving me crazy!!! I am hoping the cinnamon and the netting mentioned above will be our solution!

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