Ants, bats, bed bugs, birds, fleas, rodents, spiders, squirrels, and wasps, oh my! Pest control methods can be difficult to use, and many common pest control products are poisonous and end up in your garden, rainwater systems, and even in the air you breathe, which is obviously not good.
Here are some tips on how to use organic pest control to keep you and your family safe, while keeping any unwanted species away from you and your home.
Types of Pest Control
Look for traps that prevent or control pests without using poison or killing methods. Organic food stores may be the best sources for eco-friendly pest control options, but big box stores also sell environmentally friendly traps. As times goes on, they are offering more and more of these options.
Organic mosquito dunks are non-toxic donut-shaped biological pesticides that specifically target mosquito larvae living in the water. They are safe for humans and wildlife, and will not harm the environment.
Hanging plastic insect traps are a non-toxic way to control, rather than poison or kill off, unwanted bugs. They use visually attractive colors and shapes, pheromones (sexual lures), and/or food sources to attract bugs to them.
You can make your own traps for them by poking holes into bottles covered in plastic wrap and filled with a food source. Fruit flies will be attracted to vinegar-y substances. Wasps, on the other hand, like sugary concoctions, and mosquitos will be drawn to sugary yeast water.
This naturally occurring sedimentary rock is ground up, fossilized algae made into fine powder and will work on just about any insect with an exoskeleton. It can be used inside or outside the home and works by sticking to insect bodies and drying them up.
Simply sprinkle some of the diatomaceous earth powder onto plants, garden beds, on garage floors, and on other outdoor areas where crunchy bugs like to hang out. For inside use, scatter diatomaceous earth into carpets, couches, and beds, as well as other areas the pests might hide out. This will kill fleas and bed bugs, but are safe for animal and human contact.
Look for the food grade option of diatomaceous earth powder, which is the best variety to use to eradicate stubborn infestations such as carpenter ants, which will ingest the powder and die quickly.
Did you know spiders dislike the scent of citrus? Or that flies hate the smell of basil? Pests will avoid certain smells, so utilize essential oils, herbs, and plants from organic suppliers for a pleasant and healthy way to keep them under control.
Popular insect-repellent oils are lemongrass, peppermint, lavender, and vanilla extract. Lemon eucalyptus is thought to be just as effective as DEET at combatting mosquitos, as well as wasps.
To begin, mix the oils with water and keep a spray bottle handy or place small bowls on decks, patio tables, and inside the house. Herbs that give off a bug-repelling scent include basil, catnip, mint, and bay leaves. Keep living varieties of these herbs in the kitchen or around windows and doors to deter pests from the area.
You can plant lemongrass in gardens along with onions and garlic to fend off mosquitos. Cayenne and chili powder deters a variety of rodents and bugs from crossing into a space.
Squirrels, meanwhile, hate the smell of geraniums and marigolds, while rodents are actually allergic to peppermint, making these all great, natural pest reppelents.
DIY Household Cleaners
Vinegar is an amazing product and something every homeowner should have around. Not only is it a powerful disinfectant, but it will stop ants from marching through your home.
Spray a solution of half water, half vinegar into the cracks and crevices leading to the exterior or around baseboards and windows, and make sure to mop your floors with the mixture.
The smell will erase the ant “trail” and prevent them from returning to your area, meaning it will not just get rid of ants in the present but also prevent them from coming back in the future. (You can add a favorite essential oil into the mix for extra strength in freshening up your home.)
You should clean window surfaces with vinegar or lemon water as an extra measure to repel spiders, ants, and other bugs from entering.
Animals / Other Bugs
Sometimes using the natural world to your advantage can work wonders at keeping pests at bay. Outdoor cats are known to be great hunters, and mice and other rodents don’t have a chance at setting up shop near your house with even just one savvy predator around.
They’ll even sniff out birds’ nests in attics or mouse holes in basements and prevent any continued infestations as long as they can monitor the area.
Chickens and ducks love to eat bugs around the garden, especially slugs and other hard to get at insects, making them a great way to keep a pest infestation at bay.
Spiders, as much as some people don’t appreciate living with them, actually do a great job at indoor pest control when left alone; consuming roaches, centipedes, earwigs, mosquitos, flies, and moths.
Larger Pest Control Methods
A great way to keep unwanted rodents like squirrels and mice out of any space without using poison is to utilize sonic repellents. These small boxes will run on a battery or plug into a wall outlet and emit high frequency sound waves that rodents specifically don’t like (they do not target or affect other animals and pets).
The sonic repellents will work up to a certain square footage and tend to take care of an infestation within four to six days, depending on the area.
Exclusion traps work to catch squirrels, rodents, or bats at their point of entry into a structure with a one-way door. These are better at targeting specific problem animals rather than generic traps, which may catch anything.
Some homeowners use motion-activated sprinklers to keep animals like raccoons and opossums at bay, but they can also be used to deter birds, rodents, or stray cats and dogs. Place decoys like scarecrows, plastic snakes, and owls around your property to keep birds from gathering.
Whether it’s an army of carpenter ants or a few mice in the attic, chances are you’ll run into some unwanted pests inside or outside of your home. While it might seem like the easy thing to do is lay down some poisonous traps, just remember that those products can affect your environment as well.
By using organic pest control, you can keep your home and property protected while keeping it green.
Pretty much every pest advice column will tell you to keep garbage picked up and food put away. While that’s true, strategically placing enticing food far away from the house will draw rodents in the opposite direction.
It may seem counterintuitive to feed the little monsters, but a happy mouse down the hill equals a happy house with a mouse-free kitchen.
Build Bats a Home
The same principle applies to creating housing for bats. Would you rather have them living in your attic. An easy to build bat house can give them a less damaging spot to take up residence.
If having bats for neighbors still sounds less than appealing, keep in mind that they're voracious consumers of mosquitos. At the end of the day, which would you rather have around?
Spray Foam, Steel Wool, or Copper Mesh
Mice can enter spaces in your home as small as a pencil eraser, so scrutinize your perimeter and block any potential entrance with copper mesh or steel wool. Then reinforce it with a blast of spray insulation foam.
When we say any hole, we mean literally any space you can see light enter—even that tiny gap beneath the garage door or space around plumbing pipes.
Plant Venus Fly Traps
Yes, it’s a real thing, and yes, it really eats bugs. Besides, you’d be hard pressed to find a better conversation starter. Plant your Venus Fly Trap in a bright, sunny windowsill and watch your leafy carnivore go to work.
Dehumidify to Keep Spiders Away
There’s a reason the eight-legged crawlers love to hang out in the basement or under the house, and that reason is moisture. Create a less inviting atmosphere by keeping humidity low with the use of a dehumidifier or moisture absorbing product such as Dri-Z-Air.
Provide Coffee, Herbs, and Vinegar
If you have a determined mouse or mosquito, it will pretty much plow through any obstacle, but foods with strong scents can work as a deterrent.
Sprinkle coffee grounds in problem areas, annoying fruit flies with apple cider vinegar mixed with a bit of dish soap, litter cloves inside drawers, put a lavender sachet beneath your pillow, and dust around your garden plants with chili powder or cayenne pepper.
Provide a Sweet Surprise
Sugar ants acquired the name for a reason—namely, their propensity to be drawn toward sugar. So entice them with a combination of powdered sugar and a surprise dose of Borax.
If aphids are an issue, invite a few friends to the party by introducing ladybugs that may look pretty, but will actually eat the aphids. As a backup, bury banana peels in the soil beneath the plants to deter aphids from getting too homey on your leaves.
Trim Rodents Out
Rodents are innovative in their tactics to gain access to your home. Scurrying up a bush and out a branch is child’s play for the agile critters, so block direct access by keeping your shrubs and trees cut back away from the house. Although this isn’t failproof, it's a regular maintenance step that can deter problem pests.
Plant Strong Smelling Plants
If cute little rabbits are the pests in question, give them some colorful and fragrant marigolds as a gift, and they might move on to someone else’s garden. Some gardeners prefer onions, garlic, or spicy basil as deterrents for leaf-nibbling critters. The key is powerful scents and tastes that punish curious chewers.
Plant these defensive additions around the edges of your garden to protect the more vulnerable targets in the middle.
Move Your Wood Pile
Your kids might think you’re imposing random chores by making them move the wood pile from against the house to another area, but rodents and bugs love to live in wood, so having a pile next to your home is an invitation into the warmer climates inside your house.
Add a Chimney Cap
The problem might start higher up than you think if pests can gain access through your chimney—especially during the months that the fire is out. Adding a chimney cap revokes the invitation to enjoy a fire inside your home.
Get a Cat
Sure, cats make nice pets, but there’s no denying they are also innate hunters. Adopt a cat and give it free rein for an automatic response to rodents, birds, and snakes encroaching on the house.
Give Wasps a Bath
It may end up being a temporary solution to drive away wasps, but spraying the hive with a mixture of dish soap and water will likely choke them out. Apply the mixture in the evening when they're least active, and be sure the hive is dormant before knocking it down.
Serve Beer to Slugs
Slugs are the gardener’s nemesis, sneaking in during the night to snack on the most luscious strawberries and prime lettuce leaves. Give slugs an offer they can’t refuse with a drink in a short can or Solo cup cut to half height. Place beer in the bottom where the slugs will get in but can’t get back out.
By following these steps, you should be able to rid yourself of pests. Be sure, however, not to make these common pest control mistakes. The best method of pest control is always prevention, so once you get rid of pests, make sure to take steps to prevent them from coming back by making your home less hospitable to them.
Hannah Madans Welk is a writer at the Los Angeles Business Journal where she covers real estate. Prior to joining the Business Journal, Welk was an Associate Editor of doityourself.com, where she still contributes as a freelance writer, in addition to reporting for other publications. Welk has also held roles as a business writer at the Orange County Register and the Los Angeles Register. In 2014, Welk graduated from the University of Southern California magna cum laude, with university and departmental honors. She received Bachelor of Arts degrees in Print and Digital Journalism and East Asian Languages and Cultures, and worked as deputy editor at the university news site Neon Tommy.