When the weather warms up, it’s a great time to relax and enjoy your home and garden. But it’s also the time when insects and other critters are most active. Some of them may end up in your house as unwanted guests, but no worries! Here are some tips for getting rid of common household pests.
First off, you’ve probably heard the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” This is true with bugs and rodents as well—it is much easier to keep pests away than to get rid of them once they’ve settled inside your home.
• The best thing to do is clean! Properly seal all food and keep it on high shelves, make sure to sweep up crumbs, and frequently take out smelly garbage. Clean up standing water both in sinks and showers, and puddles outside. Keep pet food in elevated bowls.
• Try planting basil and mint in and around your house.
• Seal up holes in walls, cupboards, doors, and windows so bugs don’t have a way in, and consider putting screens in your windows.
Of course, this is all easier said than done, especially in older buildings. Here are strategies to try if these pests have already moved in.
Mice – Mice start reproducing at six weeks old! Act as soon as you notice them, or you will quickly have a large mouse population. Buy non-lethal mouse traps in hardware stores, or try making your own by putting a lure like peanut butter in the bottom of a greased bowl with a cardboard ramp leading up to it. Be sure to release caught mice at least a mile away from your home, or they will find their way back! Cats or dogs will scare mice away, even if they’re not good at catching them.
Spiders – The key to getting rid of these creepy crawlies is regular dusting and vacuuming—especially in dark hard-to-reach corners. Keep your closets clean and clothes off the floor. Get rid of cardboard boxes, since spiders like hiding in them. Cut off their food source, by getting rid of other bugs. Trim plants and trees around your house so they don’t touch the building and lead spiders inside. Check out more natural ways to keep spiders out of your home here!
Ants – If you see one ant, there are probably lots more nearby. Ants send out scouts, and if they find any food, they return with friends. In addition to being extremely clean, try sprinkling cinnamon or red chili powder or spraying white vinegar around their point of entry to deter them. To get rid of the colony, buy or make ant bait—try mixing borax with jam or honey and putting some in a small dish or soda cap near their colony (you can put it into a closed cardboard box with a hole punched at ground level if you are worried about pets eating it). The scouts will take the mixture back as food and poison the colony. Sprinkling diatomaceous earth near the colony can also be effective.
Houseflies – For a more attractive and nicer-smelling option than fly-paper, get some cloves and stick them into the surface of an apple—the smell will drive flies away. If that fails, one folk remedy says to hang a clear plastic bag of water near the doorway. Click here for more household remedies to keep flies away.
Mosquitoes – If your yard is infested with mosquitoes, try planting marigolds or catnip. You can also plant strongly scented plants that will draw moths that bats prey on, or build a bat house to encourage bats to live near you. Bats eat thousands of mosquitoes a night, and are a natural way to keep bug populations low. Click here for more natural ways to get rid of mosquitoes!
Fruit Flies – Put produce in the fridge or in a tightly closed bag. Fruit flies lay eggs in food particles and other organic material, so check towels, damp sponges, and tablecloths for larvae! If you miss any, you will have to repeat the process once they hatch. Once you’ve removed food sources, trap remaining bugs by using this tried and true fruit fly trap: put a half a cup of apple cider vinegar in a bowl with a few drops of dish soap. Mix well. Fruit flies meet their demise! Or try putting a bit of ripe banana, beer, or orange juice in the bottom of a plastic cup or empty jar, along with some dish soap. Cover it with plastic wrap fastened with a rubber band, and poke small holes. They fly in and get stuck in the dish soap and drown. Empty or replace the cups every two days until the bugs are gone.
Bees & Wasps – Bees buzzing around your barbeque? Try setting a bowl of vinegar on the table. You might also try filling the leg of a pair of pantyhose with mothballs and hanging it near the hive to drive them away. If you have a large hive, consider calling a beekeeper—they will be able to remove it safely and make use of it, and you won’t have to use any poisons in your yard.
Some types of wasps are territorial and will attack if you come too close. If the nest is on the ground, trap them inside it—fill a bucket with sand, and turn it over the nest, trapping the wasps underneath. Leave the sand and bucket in place for several days. If you see a hanging nest, the safest way to remove it is to spray it from a distance, before dawn or in the evening when wasps are not active. You can make a mixture of water and borax and use a garden hose attachment or large water gun to spray it. Do this several days in a row to be sure all of the inhabitants are dead before you knock the nest down. Also, consider this trick to prevent them from returning: find the sheltered spots (like eaves) where they make their homes, and rub the surface with a bar of soap—this should prevent nesting for about a year.