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 Nine Common Household Pests
and How to Control Them Naturally
by Wendy Priesnitz

controlling ants and other pests naturallyThe need to eject insects and rodents that have moved into your home or garden can be a problem that makes even the greenest person consider reaching for a chemical solution. Many pests are often just a nuisance; however, some can damage food or possessions, or bite and pass along diseases to people or pets. Simple preventive measures stop most problems before they begin. Often, simply removing their food supply and breeding sites is the most effective control. Steps like managing garbage so that it is less attractive, cleaning up spilled food – especially pet food – and eliminating damp conditions around the house are other simple deterrents.

The first defense is making sure pests don’t get into the house. Seal cracks, including spaces around exterior plumbing and electrical outlets, attic vents, and under doors. Use window screens. Don’t leave porch lights on all evening, as they collect insects, which are swept into the house when the door is opened. (That wastes energy anyway, so install motion-sensitive lighting.)

Here are some tips for dealing with specific pests without using use pesticides or other poisons:

1. Ants
To discourage ants, sprinkle their nest or areas where they are entering your home with red pepper, eggshells, cinnamon, bone meal, talcum powder, wood ash, blood meal, or coffee grounds.Prevent an infestation of carpenter ants in your home by repairing wood damaged by moisture, ventilating damp areas, cleaning gutters, and storing firewood on a raised platform away from the house.

2. Flies
Small packets of crushed mint, bay leaf, clove or eucalyptus placed around the house will help to repel common house flies. You can also make your own flypaper by soaking strips of brown paper in a solution of 1⁄4 cup of corn syrup, 1 tablespoon of granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon of brown sugar.

3. Cockroaches
Cockroaches thrive in areas with moisture, food, and darkness. To trap them, place glue board traps in areas to which they are attracted. Monitor these traps and clean all areas where their droppings are present with soap, water, and a disinfectant. To repel roaches, mix up a red pepper solution (two tbsp of Tabasco in a quart of water works), pour it into a pump spray bottle, and mist it onto surfaces. The oils of cedar and mint, as well as bay leaves, also repel roaches.

4. Crickets
A large infestation of crickets can be damaging to fabric items like clothes and furniture, and contaminate food. Mix molasses and vanilla extract or lemon juice with water to attract and drown crickets. Caulk the tiny cracks and crevices by which they can enter your house.

5. Food Moths & Beetles
The older food is, the more likely it is to develop an infestation of moths and beetles, so buy small amounts or store in the freezer. If you buy food from open bins, seal it in plastic bags and freeze for a week before using. Dry and bulk food should be stored in glass containers with tight lids. Spreading cloves, eucalyptus, bay leaves, and dried lemon peels near stored foods is a common food moth repellant practice. (Lemon peels are also, along with cedar chips) a good repellant for clothing moths.)

6. Bed Bugs
Bed bugs can be stubborn to eradicate. You might have to discard infested furniture. But here are some things to try first. Carefully and thoroughly vacuum your mattress, box spring, or futon, as well as any carpets, rugs, and upholstered furniture. Then, thoroughly vacuum every crack and crevice along the baseboards, behind light switches and switch plates, as well as the bed frame and other furniture. When you’re finished, empty the vacuum canister into a plastic bag, seal, and destroy. Extreme heat and cold will kill nymphs and eggs, so put furnishings, toys, etc. outside in those temperatures if possible. Wash clothing, bedding, pillows, area rugs, and any other fabrics in extremely hot water and dry in a hot dryer. Delicate clothing can be sealed in plastic bags and put in the freezer for at least six hours. If all else fails, there are a few supposedly non-toxic insecticides sold especially for bed bug infestations.

7. Rodents
Rodents are omnivorous and usually inhabit abandoned or unclean areas, inside and outside your house. So proper waste management is important in controlling the population of rodents. Never leave garbage uncovered and store it outside or in a shed or garage in containers with tight lids. Do not leave food uncovered in your kitchen, including pet food. If you do notice evidence of mice, clean and disinfectant the area, wearing gloves. Then seal up the small holes and cracks through which they enter your house. Outdoors, incorrect composting practices and abandoned wood piles, as well as bushes and garden shrubs can also provide shelter to rodents.

Peppermint is an effective rodent repellant. Soak some rags or cotton balls in peppermint oil and then place them in the areas where rodents are active. Sprinkling some pepper, cinnamon, and cayenne in such areas, especially in rodent holes, can also be helpful. And growing these plants in your garden – especially near the foundation – will help keep these critters away from your home.

8. Centipedes
Centipedes are fast moving, but if you can catch and destroy them, that is usually the fastest way to eradicate them. Be sure you actually want to do that, because they are helpful insects that eat other bugs, including spiders. They are attracted to moist areas, so make sure you have no lingering water issues in the dark reaches of your bathroom, kitchen, or laundry room. Installing a dehumidifer will often send them off to somewhere else where there is more moisture. And a few backyard chickens will also do the trick, because they enjoy eating centipedes.

9. Slugs
Keeping plants healthy in an organic garden involves avoidance techniques. The common slug is too common a pest to even need much of an introduction. Slugs attack a wide range of plants, causing anything from slight damage to death. Unfortunately, there is no foolproof method for eradicating slugs. All one can hope for is to reduce their numbers and protect plants when they're at a vulnerable stage. Toads, frogs, and beetles eat slugs and are worth encouraging in your garden.

There are few fleshy plants that slugs don't eat. But if your slug problem is particularly bad, avoid growing their favorites, such as hostas and marigolds. One of the best ways of dealing with slugs is to use physical barriers. Place plastic bottle cloches around plants, or sprinkle circles of lime, eggshells, or sawdust around plants. Slugs are attracted to saucers or plastic pots of milk or beer (they drown themselves in ecstasy). To be sure you're keeping your slimy slug population under control, collect them by hand at night or on damp days. Try collecting them under a tile or wet cardboard, and squash all eggs you find while digging.


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