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I’ve decided to interrupt my regularly scheduled primary bath update to bring you a post about bugs. Or more specifically, to whine and complain about how much bugs bug me, and share with you some ideas on how to keep your home as pest free as possible.
Like many homeowners, pest control in an old home can be a less than fun game of find-the-spot-where-they-enter, then seal it off. In an older home, especially one that had a less than stellar history of upkeep like mine, it tends to snowball. Between termites, ants, flies (from sliding the patio door open to let the dog out), moths, lady bugs, and other pests, the onset of summer can feel like an especially daunting task of dealing with creepy-crawlies.
I’ll spare you a picture of what I’m dealing with, but instead will give you an entertaining snapshot of how much seeing a bug in the house grosses me out.
Since I live in the south, and in an older home, it’s simply something that must be dealt with. In general, every few months I spray the house with a chemical treatment (that’s safe for people and pets) around the exterior and interior perimeters using a pump-and-spray that you can easily find at any local Blue or Orange. It seems to be pretty effective, and when considering that we have so many access points for a bug to make its way into the home during the various DIY remodel projects, I’m fairly impressed with our success rate.
In addition to general pest control, it’s especially important that I deal with termites for the simple reason that I live in a cedar-sided home. In other words, termites see my home the way Hansel and Gretel saw the old witch’s candy house. In the state of Georgia (and many others), it is required that a termite letter be issued before a loan to purchase a home is approved. For those unfamiliar with the term, a termite letter is an inspection report specifically dedicated to addressing active or previous infestation of wood-destroying organisms. If termites are found, the house must be treated before closing. Guess what happened in my case?
A pest control company took care of the treatment before moving in, and I’ve continued service with them to keep the house protected. After the first year (the termite treatment was bonded for the first year with the option to renew), I did a cost comparison for proper DIY termite care versus continuing with the company already treating my house. The difference was so minimal I decided to continue termite protection with professionals. After all, one less thing to be concerned about and maintain? Worth it.
Since chemical treatments in today’s green(ish) world can be a bit suspect, I’ve been doing some research on other ways to keep the house protected with natural alternatives. Plus, there are some bugs that simply don’t seem to respond well to chemical treatments – like common gnats. We keep the trash tucked away, rinse off dishes before putting them in the dishwasher, and put Colby’s food in a plastic container, and yet little pesky flies were somehow attracted to the outside of the kitchen patio door. With a little bit of research, I discovered that they were not after Colby’s food, the trash, or even our dishes; instead, they were gnats that have a particular affinity for potted plants that get over watered (and we all know I have no talent for keeping plants alive, so I guess I solved two mysteries with that little factoid). Along the way, I discovered a few more helpful pointers – read on!
- Cucumber peels: Have ants? Think they make food a little too crunchy? Try cucumber peels – the bitter(-er?) the better. Put them around the areas where they are making their way into your home as the “anti-welcome” mat.
- Orange peel extract: If you think about it, peels are nature’s way of protecting fruit, so it makes sense that these are often used in natural pest control products. Orange peel extract is a common ingredient for general pest control. Orange oil also repels bees.
- Grow mint in your garden: Peppermint, spearmint, and pennyroyal plants repel ants, aphids, and mice. Plus, it smells great, and I wasn’t going to say anything, but your breath is a little funky and I thought this might be a good time to drop a hint.
- Grits kill ants too, but it takes a while. Sprinkle it on an ant hill during a dry spell. The worker ants will carry it to the queen, and when it rains, the water she drinks will cause the grits to expand in her stomach. Kind of gruesome visual if you think about it, but a bloated queen is a dead queen.
- I’ve already mentioned this before when I tried growing some, but basil is a natural repellent for common house flies.
- Boric acid can be found in home improvement stores and is a great roach treatment. Just puff a little of this into your outlets for long-term roach control behind your walls. I used to do this when I lived in dorm housing in college. It works!
- Moth balls stink; cloves deter winged pests just as well and smell better. Sidenote: Cats hate moth balls, too. If you find your home to be the cage match site for opening a can of feline whoopass, consider putting these in your bushes.
- Rosemary leaves deter fleas. Consider grinding them up into a powder and sprinkling it on your dog’s bedding, or putting a pocket on your next DIY dog bed project and putting the leaves in there.
- Dilute Ivory liquid dishwashing soap with water until it is a 1 or 2% solution, then mist on your plants to keep bugs at bay.
- Use this great tip from Life in Rehab to keep fruit flies from getting to the good wine. I hear flies are like old women; they prefer Chardonnay.
- The “psst over here” approach: Put a small saucer in a spot that is a few feet outside of your house where you see fruit flies collecting. A mixture of apple cider vinegar with 3-4 drops of dish soap swill attract bugs to it and away from the home, and the dish soap kills them off. I’ve also heard that half a Smirnoff works too, and the bottle neck prevents them from flying back out. Think about it the next time you decide to ice one of your house guests.
- Or a plain ol’ bag of water: Flies don’t like spiders. When the sun shines on a plastic bag filled with water, it looks like light reflecting off a spider web, and they stay away in fear. Update: I’ve heard this theory is bogus and it’s because the moving water mimics predator movement, but it’s apparently effective nonetheless. Put a penny in the water to preserve the water longer.
- Bunches of lavender are not only lovely and smell nice to humans, but they also deter pests.
Have any of your own tips to share? Please do.
Thanks for some great tips! I have recently planted some Citronella Geraniums outside my back door, as the scent deters flys. I'll let you know if it works!
I was going to chime in with Citronella as well! They are a fly- and (thank you Lord) mosquito-repellent, and they smell nice. I have also noticed that putting citronella oil on the wood around your porch tends to provide a more long-lasting solution to repellents. :)
We also have carpenter bees that infiltrated our porch, and we got a tip from the pest control guy to paint over their entry points with polyurethane-based paint (can't use wood paint). We found some pretty cheap at craft stores, since I guess that's where you usually use that kind of paint. :)
That's great advice – as a person who lives in a wood siding house, carpenter bees would not be welcome here, either!
These are great natural ideas for bug remedies! I had no idea that rosemary & lavender would deter bugs – good to know, because I love those smells.
I tried a product called DeadPest – http://www.deadpest.net – that has the same effect as an exterminator, but it's DIY, so costs much less money than having a guy come spray every few months.