Spring is here, and it’s time to start preparing garden beds and getting your home’s outdoor spaces ready for warm-weather relaxing, dining and entertaining. But unfortunately, the return of spring also heralds the return of bugs and pests that might want to take a bite out of your pantry supplies, your greenery … or you!
An invasion of your indoor or outdoor home space by creepy crawlies can be truly unpleasant, but pesticides don’t have to be the solution. Instead, there are a number of natural and effective pesticide alternatives that are much safer for people, pets and the planet. Our tips for natural pest control will help you keep bugs and other critters in check this spring and summer so you can focus on enjoying the weather!
The first step in addressing a pest problem is making sure that’s exactly what you have! Sometimes what appears to be a pest problem could be caused by something completely different, such as improper irrigation, poor drainage, or physical damage. For example, wood rot is often mistaken for termite damage, and requires a totally different approach to correct. So it’s important to take a close look at areas you believe to be infested, search the “symptoms” you’re seeing online and maybe compare photos to confirm that pests are the cause.
If you know what you’re dealing with, these pest-specific tips for natural pest control from The Family Handyman will help you give bugs the boot without the use of pesticides.
Ants: Discourage ants from entering your home by planting a barrier of mint around the foundation. Bay leaves also make great ant repellent: set whole bay leaves around kitchen food canisters, or sprinkle crushed bay leaves along windowsills.
Mosquitoes: Fend off annoying, disease-harboring mosquitoes with lemongrass and basil. Lemongrass contains citronella, so growing clumps of it around your deck or patio creates a mosquito-free zone. You can also mash up the inner leaves of the lemongrass plant and rub the juice on your skin for extra repellency power. Basil has the same effect, so plant it around your outdoor room, too.
Crickets: Bypass bug sprays and control crickets with do-it-yourself sticky traps. All you need to do is set out long strips of duct tape — sticky side up — in the cricket-infested room, and then change the tape as needed. To help keep crickets out permanently, seal off possible entrances by caulking around windows. And be sure to dehumidify all rooms, including the basement, because crickets like damp areas.
Drain flies: Tiny drain flies are harmless insects that live on the gunky slime in drainpipes, and they can gather in huge numbers in your home. Try pouring a teaspoon of bleach down an infested drainpipe and keep the drain hole blocked for about an hour. If this doesn’t end the infestation, starve the flies by clearing the drain of gunky slime with a long-handled brush.
Rodents: Got a mouse problem? Try propping up a soda bottle at about a 20-degree angle, and bait the inside of the very bottom with peanut butter. The mouse will scurry inside to get to the treat, and a small amount of vegetable oil around the inside of the lip will prevent it from crawling back out of the bottle.
Bigger backyard visitors: Backyard intruders like raccoons, foxes and skunks can be a nuisance, causing messes and even damaging property. Keep them on their toes and out of your yard with motion-activated lights and sprinklers. And don’t forget to bring in any bird feeders before the sun sets — otherwise, you could attract deer, elk, coyotes and even bears looking for a nighttime snack.
Whenever possible, it’s important to address the environmental conditions that are attracting the pests in the first place. For example, to help control an ant problem, keep kitchen counters clean of crumbs, store food in secure containers, sweep floors often and cover your pet’s food bowl when not in use. To keep mosquitoes out of your yard, eliminate all sources of standing water, which is where they breed. To fight a carpenter bee problem, consider replacing your wood trim with a synthetic material that looks like wood but won’t tempt their taste buds.
With the right knowledge and some easy DIY solutions, you can use natural pest control methods to keep unwanted “visitors” out of your home and yard. Natural alternatives to pesticides can be just as effective while being much more people-, pet- and planet-friendly.