Natural Organic Pest Control
Pest control isn’t as simple as we’d like it to be. Ideally insects, rodents, and the like would never get into our homes at all, but they do, and for health and comfort reasons, it’s better to deal with them sooner than later. The longer you put things off, the bigger the problem is likely to get.
The easiest solution is to go for the chemical approach and wipe the little suckers out. The bad thing is that more and more research is revealing that pesticides and other man-made chemicals can be as bad for us human types as they are for bugs. If you’ve got children or pets in the house, you don’t want them to get sick from the pesticides you use. That’s why most of the articles below concentrate on non-toxic (natural or organic) pest control methods. Browse through the different sections, and find what you need. And good luck getting rid of the creepy buggers infesting your home!
The first line of defense is to remove the attractants: keep counters free of crumbs and sticky spots. Cover the sugar and put the honey jar in a plastic baggie. Cut off water sources such as drips or dishes left soaking overnight. If the ant invaders persist, try these simple measures:
- Keep a small spray bottle handy, and spray the ants with a bit of soapy water.
- Set out cucumber peels or slices in the kitchen or at the ants’ point of entry. Many ants have a natural aversion to cucumber. Bitter cucumbers work best.
- Leave a few tea bags of mint tea near areas where the ants seem most active. Dry, crushed mint leaves or cloves also work as ant deterrents.
- Trace the ant column back to their point of entry. Set any of the following items at the entry area in a small line, which ants will not cross: cayenne pepper, citrus oil (can be soaked into a piece of string), lemon juice, cinnamon or coffee grounds.
- Mix one liter of water, one teaspoon of Borax and a cup of sugar. Soak cotton balls in the solution and place them in a small yogurt container with holes punched in the lids to allow ants access. Place container in a location where ants are present. Ants will carry the bait back to their colonies where it will eventually kill the colony. Important: use indoors only; must be kept away from pets and children.
- Leave a small, low wattage night light on for a few nights in the area of most ant activity. The change in light can disrupt and discourage their foraging patterns.
- Ants on the deck? Slip a few cut up cloves of garlic between the cracks.
- Clove oil-based commercial ant deterrents are available online.
Microscopic dust mites are everywhere in the home – in our beds, clothing, furniture, book shelves and stuffed animals. For people with allergies or asthma, dust mites are a problem. Here’s how to reduce the dust mite population in your home:
- Vacuum mattresses and pillows. For people with sensitivities to dust mite allergens, dust mite bedding is available with zippered, allergen-impermeable encasings designed to block dust mites.
- Wash bedding at 55 degrees Celsius (130F) or higher. Detergents and commercial laundry products have no effect on mites unless the water temperature is high.
- Keep books, stuffed animals, throw rugs and laundry hampers out of the bedroom of allergy sufferers. Wash stuffed animals occasionally in hot water.
- Tannic acid neutralizes the allergens in dust mite and animal dander. Dust problem areas with tannic acid powder, available at health food stores and pet centers.
- Cover mattress and pillows with laminated covers which prevent penetration by dust mites. Avoid fabric-covered headboards.
- Cover heating ducts with a filter which can trap tiny dust particles smaller than 10 microns.
- Avoid using humidifiers. Dust mites thrive on warmth and humidity.
The best defense against cockroaches is a clean kitchen and bathroom. If roaches are a problem in your home or apartment, vacuum well and wash the area with a strong soap. Dispose of the vacuum cleaner bag in a sealed container. Also try:
- It is a little known fact that roaches like high places. If you put boric acid on TOP of your kitchen cabinets (not inside), if space allows between ceiling and cabinets, the roaches will take the boric acid to their nests, killing all of them. Boric acid is toxic by mouth – keep away from children and pets.
- Diatomaceous earth is a safe alternative which can be sprinkled in areas where roaches congregate, especially hidden areas such a cabinet tops and behind appliances. Harmless to people, the tiny particles cut the waxy exoskeleton and kills the insect within 48 hours. For a week or so after the treatment, the dehydrating insects will search more actively for water. Therefore, do not be surprised if you see roaches more often after the treatment. Most roaches should be killed within two weeks of application. more info or to purchase
- Catnip is a natural repellent to cockroaches. The active ingredient is nepetalactone, which is non-toxic to humans and pets. Small sachets of catnip can be left in areas of cockroach activity. Catnip can also be simmered in a small amount of water to make a “catnip tea” which can be used as a spray to apply around baseboards and behind counters. This natural repellent should only be used in homes without cats!
Keep a spray bottle of soapy water on hand. Spraying roaches directly with soapy water will kill them.
- In an empty one pound coffee can, place 1 or 2 pieces of bread which have been soaked thoroughly with beer. Place in areas known to have roach infestations.
- Leave bay leaves, cucumber slices or garlic in the affected area as deterrents.
- Non-toxic roach traps are commercially available.
Fleas usually gain entry to your home through your pet or visitors’ pets. For every flea on your pet, there may be as many as 30 more in the pet’s environment. Before reaching for pesticides, try these safer choices:
- Bathe and comb your pet regularly. Use mild soap, not insecticides. If fleas are found on the comb, dip the comb in a glass of soapy water.
- Citrus is a natural flea deterrent. Pour a cup of boiling water over a sliced lemon. Include the lemon skin, scored to release more citrus oil. Let this mixture soak overnight, and sponge on your dog to kill fleas instantly.
- Add brewer’s yeast and garlic, or apple cider vinegar, to your pets’ food. However, it is not advisable to use raw garlic as a food supplement for cats.
- Cedar shampoo, cedar oil and cedar-filled sleeping mats are commercially available. Cedar repels many insects including fleas.
- Fleas in the carpet? The carpet should be thoroughly vacuumed especially in low traffic areas, under furniture, etc. Put flea powder in the vacuum cleaner bag to kill any fleas that you vacuum up, and put the bag in an outdoor garbage bin.
- Trap fleas in your home using a wide, shallow pan half-filled with soapy water. Place it on the floor and shine a lamp over the water. Fleas will jump to the heat of the lamp and land in the water. The detergent breaks the surface tension, preventing the flea from bouncing out.
- In the yard or garden, plant fleabane (Fleabane Daisy Erigeron speciosus) to repel fleas. This is an annual growing 16-24″ tall with violet, daisy like flowers.
- Nontoxic flea traps are available commercially.
- Flea Control Nematodes can be used to control fleas in outdoor areas your pets frequent.
The first line of defense against mosquitos is to seal their point of entry. Mosquitos are most active in the early morning and early evening. They seek areas of still air because they are hampered by breezes. Close windows and doors on the side of your house which are opposite the breeze. Then try:
The most important measure you can take is to remove standing water sources. Change birdbaths, wading pools and pet’s water bowl twice a week. Keep your eavestroughs clean and well-draining. Remove yard items that collect water.
- In a New England Journal of Medicine study, oil of eucalyptus at 30% concentration prevented mosquito bites for 120.1 minutes, while Bite Blocker with 2% soybean oil kept bites away for 96.4 minutes. (the eucalyptus oil must have a minimum of 70% cineole content, the active therapeutic ingredient.)
- If you’re using the barbeque, throw a bit of sage or rosemary on the coals to repel mosquitos.
- An effective natural bug repellent, mix one part garlic juice with 5 parts water in a small spray bottle. Shake well before using. Spray lightly on exposed body parts for an effective repellent lasting up to 5 – 6 hours. Strips of cotton cloth can also be dipped in this mixture and hung in areas, such as patios, as a localized deterrent.
- Neem oil is a natural vegetable oil extracted from the Neem tree in India. The leaves, seeds and seed oil of the Neem tree contain sallanin, a compound which has effective mosquito repelling properties. Neem oil is a natural product and is safe to use. Look for new Neem Oil-based commercial products on the market.
- Planting marigolds around your yard works as a natural bug repellent because the flowers give off a fragrance bugs and flying insects do not like.
Thai lemon grass
(Cymbopogon citratus) is a natural and effective mosquito repellent. It contains the natural oil, citronella, which is safe and effective; in fact, lemon grass citronella is considered more effective than true citronella as an insect repellent. You can buy Thai lemon grass at garden centers and supermarkets, and it grows readily into a clump about 15″ across and about 2ft tall. To use as a mosquito repellent, break a stalk off from the clump, peel off the outer leaves, until you find the scallion-like stem at the base. Bend the stem between your fingers, loosening it, then rub it vigorously between your palms – it will soon become a pulpy, juicy mass. Rub this over all exposed skin, covering thoroughly at least once. You can also make a tincture using alcohol, for spray applications.
- Use mint as a fly repellent. Small sachets of crushed mint can be placed around the home to discourage flies.
- Bay leaves, cloves and eucalyptus wrapped in small cheesecloth squares can be hung by open windows or doors.
- Place a small, open container of sweet basil and clover near pet food or any open food in the house.
- A few drops of eucalyptus oil on a scrap of absorbant cloth will deter flies. Leave in areas where flies are a problem.
- You can make your own flypaper with this simple recipe: Mix 1/4 cup syrup, 1 tbsp. granulated sugar and 1 tbsp. brown sugar in a small bowl. Cut strips of brown kraft paper and soak in this mixture. Let dry overnight. To hang, poke a small hole at the top of each strip and hang with string or thread.
- Safe, nontoxic, pheromone-based outdoor and indoor fly traps are available.
- Cedar chips in a cheesecloth square, or cedar oil in an absorbant cloth will repel moths. The cedar should be ‘aromatic cedar’, also referred to as juniper in some areas.
- Homemade moth-repelling sachets can also be made with lavender, rosemary, vetiver and rose petals.
- Dried lemon peels are also a natural moth deterrent – simply toss into clothes chest, or tie in cheesecloth and hang in the closet.
- Natural attractant pheromones have been developed for controlling moths, and are now available as clothes moth traps and pantry moth traps.
Silverfish prefer damp, warm conditions such as those found around kitchen and bathroom plumbing. Start by vacuuming the area to remove food particles and insect eggs. Silverfish can be easily trapped in small glass containers. Wrap the outside with tape so they can climb up and fall in. They will be trapped inside because they cannot climb smooth surfaces. Drown them in soapy water. The best preventive control is to remedy the damp conditions. Nontoxic silverfish traps are also commercially available.