Our guest blog author this week is Richard Gillespie. Richard is a part-time freelance writer and a full-time exterminator who prides himself on practicing eco-friendly pest control. He worries about the safety of kids and pets as much as the environment.
Eco-Friendly Pest Prevention Tips
Your house and the property that surrounds it is a refuge. It’s a place where you can relax and feel comfortable. Keeping it a safe haven for you and your family is a high priority.
The term “pest” represents a host of creeping and crawling critters that can disrupt the comfort of your home. Some do it by eating the food in your pantry. Others do it by showing up in showers and bedrooms and other places they’re unwelcome. And some pests can even cause damage to your property or the people in it!
If you’re dealing with a pest problem or trying to prevent one, you’ll notice many solutions involve the use of some harsh chemicals. The Centers for Disease Control estimates 20,000 people visit an emergency room each year after improperly applying toxic pesticides. You can avoid being a statistic by keeping the critters at bay using more-natural means.
Pest Control for Gardens
Gardens are the No. 1 place where you’re likely to run into bugs, rodents, or larger creatures. Many are actually there to do you a favor. One of the challenges with controlling pests in gardens is getting rid of the visitors you don’t want while keeping the ones you do.
The three most beneficial visitors to your garden are:
Worms – They break down organic matter into material that’s easy for plants to consume.
Spiders – They capture and eat nuisance bugs.
Bees and flying insects – You need them for pollination and garden yields.
The goal is to get rid of harmful pests while keeping the helpful bugs happy. You have several options:
Know that different blends are more effective on different pests. Many recipes depend on spicy chili powder, soap, oil, vinegar, and other ingredients you likely already have. That makes these perfect for pest control on a budget.
Natural Deer Repellents
Deer are cute and fun to see out in the wild, but they can chew your garden down to the nubs in no time at all. Human hair and ordinary bar soap are often used to keep deer and other larger animals out of gardens. If neither does the job for you, tall chicken wire or a deer fence is another great way to keep your trees and plants safe without endangering any animals.
You can also plant deer-resistant flowers. The scent of these botanicals repels deer:
Snail and Slug Traps
Snails and slugs are common in most gardens. Though they are beneficial later in a garden, they can do serious damage to seedlings. Homemade slug and snail traps are both easy to put together and pose no harm to the environment.
Natural Pest Control for Grass and Lawns
You’ll notice several different types of grass in Mississippi. Each has a different look and performs best under different conditions. Fescues are the most resistant to insects such as chinch bugs and grubs. But it does need constant watering to maintain its green color.
No matter what type of grass you choose, regular mowing is a must to control pests. Mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks often hide in tall grass. Thatch build-up attracts grubs and cutworms.
Natural insect control in lawns is often characterized by the use of biorational pesticides. These are non-manmade materials that make your grass taste bad, preventing insects from maturing. Some will kill the insect when ingested.
These microscopic worms are already present in your soil. Some types will kill insects. In fact, insecticidal nematodes are able to combat over 200 different species, but won’t hurt your beneficial worms and bugs!
This is a bacteria that targets grubs, specifically the grubs of the Japanese beetle. These grubs attack the roots of your grass and can ruin a yard in no time. Milky spore will attack and kill them and stays effective for over a decade!
Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt)
Bt is a microbe that produces proteins that are deadly for certain insect larvae. Much like milky spore, Bt’s main advantages are its natural presence in soil and its pickiness when it comes to what it affects. One of the advantages of Bt? It kills mosquitoes.
Bug Repelling Plants
While no plant will kill bugs, several are effective at keeping them away. Basil, bee balm, catnip, lavender, and citronella will keep mosquitoes at bay. Mint repels spiders and ants, and chrysanthemums will deter just about any insect that bugs you.
Eco-Friendly Pest Control for Kitchens
Kitchens are the most unsettling places to have a pest problem. This is where we store and prepare our food. It’s also the room where half the party often ends up hanging out at gatherings. When unwelcome visitors breach the sanctity of our kitchens, it’s time to take action.
Eliminate Pest Access
Filling holes and closing gaps is the cornerstone of controlling indoor pest populations. Unlike outdoor pest control, you can prevent indoor pests from gaining access to your home. A caulk gun can go a long way toward blockading roaches, centipedes, and other bugs. Combine with a toolbox and a little elbow grease to seal up mouse holes in walls, cabinets, and under sinks. Most of these pests search for wet surfaces.
Boric Acid to Kill Ants
No matter how many holes you seal, some insects seem to find their way in. Ants come in thousands of varieties, but the ones that make their way into your kitchen are only interested in one thing: food. The most effective natural remedy for ant invasions is to give them what they want. Mix boric acid with honey, peanut butter, butter, or jelly and leave it where you’ve seen ant activity. The scout ants will bring the bait back to the nest. Once everyone has a bite, your ant problems are over.
Live Traps for Mice
Sure, ants are cute when you see them up close and in a cage. Many folks who won’t bat an eyelash squishing a roach or smacking a mosquito aren’t able to bring themselves to exterminate a little mammal. Fortunately, there are lots of options when it comes to live traps for mice. Some you’ll have to buy. Others are easy enough to make yourself. No matter which style you go with, make sure you transport any mice you catch at least three miles away from your house. Otherwise, you’ll be repeating the process.
Pest Control in Other Indoor Areas
Kitchens aren’t the only place in your home where insects and rodents are less than welcome. Attics, basements, and bathrooms are also common areas where unwanted guests like to congregate. These spots can host a variety of crawling insects and rodents, and the best eco-friendly fixes are pretty familiar.
Squirrels in the Attic
Get rid of squirrels much the way as you do mice. Environmentally-friendly squirrel control is a combination of live traps and limiting access by filling holes and gaps. Also helpful: regular raking to keep your yard free of seeds, nuts, and acorns.
Spiders in the Shower
While spiders are great in gardens, a lot of us draw the line when any bug comes into the shower. Thankfully, spiders don’t care for the smell of a fair number of common household items. Peppermint, vinegar, and citrus are all used to keep spiders from nesting in areas where we’d rather not see them.
Centipedes in the Basement
House centipedes might not be the most destructive bug in your home, but they’re high in the running for the ugliest. Centipedes tend to dislike many of the same smells that spiders dislike. But the absolute best way to keep these guys at bay is to cut off their food source: other bugs. Keeping basements dry and free from clutter and debris gives other bugs less reason to be there, which in turn means the centipedes have to leave or starve.
Don’t Tango with Termites or Bed Bugs
Termites are sneaky, they’re quiet, and their populations can grow quickly. Most of all, the damage they do can cost you thousands. In some cases, termite damage can be so bad it renders a structure impossible to repair! When it comes to termites, pull out all the stops.
The same goes for bed bugs. These bloodsuckers will infest your bedding, furniture, and clothing, leaving you with painful bites and red splotches. An infestation is nearly impossible to tackle yourself.
Professional exterminators have a number of tools they can use to combat or prevent a bed bug or termite infestation. Some of these methods require the use of chemical insecticides, but even the most eco-minded homeowners should consider these. These pests are extremely destructive. While we might not like to use chemical solutions in our homes, the alternative is sometimes losing the structure all together. In these cases, there’s no better argument for letting the pros handle the situation the best way they see fit.
Richard Gillespie is an exterminator whose interest in household and landscape pests began as a child, when he would crank up the radio to hear “I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes.” He prides himself on practicing humane and eco-friendly pest control, unless he finds a rat. Then, all bets are off.