20 - 2009

Natural Ways To Eliminate Bugs

This weekend, our local newspaper included some tips on natural pest control in a column about saving stuff.

The tips, which came from “Smart Mama’s Green Guide: Simple Steps to Reduce Your Child’s Toxic Chemical Exposure,” are:

  • For ants, try sprinkling red chili powder, paprika, dried peppermint, peppermint essential oil, or Borax where they enter the home. (Borax may be harmful to humans so don’t do this where your baby can get it.) Cheap here: We use cinnamon sprinkled across the doorstep — it’s cheap (bought in bulk at an ethnic store or Costco), and ants turn away from it.
  • For fleas, try feeding your pet brewer’s yeast in powder mixed with food or by tablets.
  • For both ants and fleas, spray a mixture of 4 ounces of natural soap in 1 gallon of water. You can also sprinkle powdered soap around your home’s foundation to keep ants out.
  • For weeds, boil 1/2 gallon of water. Add 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons of white vinegar. Pour directly on weeds while still hot. Cheap here: Be careful if you pour this type of mixture on your lawn — it will probably kill the grass, too, so you might have to re-seed. Great for weeds popping up in paved areas, though!
  • Soap makes a great all-purpose pesticide. It kills pests by dehydrating them. Mix 1 to 2 tablespoons liquid soap with 1 gallon of water. Spray infested plants. Don’t add more soap than 2 tablespoons because it will dry out the leaves.
  • The author’s favorite solution? Two tablespoons of liquid peppermint castile soap added to 1 gallon of water. Spray where you have infestations. Do not rinse. Flies, ants, fleas and mice avoid peppermint.

Other solutions from our house

We have a lot of ways to keep bugs and insects out of our house and garden. Here are a few:

  1. Aphids – Ladybugs feast on aphids. If necessary, buy a package of ladybugs from a garden supply store and release them in your garden at dusk.
  2. Ants – We have recurring problems with ants building anthills near our house — outside the back porch, outside the front porch, and in the yard. We usually first try to mess up their anthill to discourage them and keep it to a manageable size, while not being cruel to the ants, who are just going about their business. If things get really aggressive out there, you can pour boiling water on the nest. This will kill a lot of ants and they will likely relocate. (However, it’s kind of sad — though interesting — to watch them react.)
  3. Cockroaches – The best cure for cockroaches is prevention. Keep it clean to keep ’em out. If you spot one, vacuum thoroughly. Eartheasy.com has some other remedies, including the tip to put borax on top of kitchen cabinets, as roaches like high places (and children and pets are less likely to come into contact with the borax, which can be harmful to humans and pets, so be careful!).
  4. Spiders – OK. Now why would you want to get rid of spiders? I know, I know, humans hate spiders. I live with two people who react quite ferociously to spiders. But I am in the camp of “live and let live.” If they insist on living in an area where I hang out (like the bedroom or family room), they must be relocated and yes, occasionally I’ll smack a persistent one with a shoe. But in the corners of the laundry room near the floor drain … behind molding in the bathroom … outside in the garden … and in the attic or cellar? Most spiders are being our friends and catching and eating all the disgusting bugs we really don’t want in the house. Think “Charlotte’s Web,” or as this entomologist explains it:

… Spiders are relatively poorly known and needlessly feared. Actually, there are VERY few spiders whose bites require medical attention …. Most spiders do not have fangs that are strong enough to pierce human skin or venom which can affect us. Of the 38,000 spider species described, there are only four species in the USA which are poisonous (black widow, brown recluse, hobo, and yellow sac spiders). Only the ranges of the black widow and brown recluse may be uncommonly found in Colorado.

Other bugs

We sometimes suffer from silverfish (keep things dry!) and earwigs, which are most annoying when they get into ears of corn and come wriggling out when you go to husk the corn (one way to look at it is that you can tell the corn isn’t laden with pesticides; my solution is not to grow corn).

We thank our lucky stars that we don’t have waterbugs (also known as Palmetto bugs or American cockroaches) in Colorado, but when we had them in New York City, we learned that hysterical screaming does not faze them, and our cats were afraid of them, but chopping them in half with a machete does the trick. This blog suggests some other solutions.

What about your neck of the woods? What bugs you, and how do you get them to keep their distance?

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