As a science nerd and ecologically-minded individual, I recognize the inherent worth of all creatures and their roles in the environment. As a human being with an allergy to insect bites and a kitchen I’d like to keep free of invading hoards, I want to know how to keep the little buggers away from my living space. Being an aforementioned tree-hugger, I have been searching for non-toxic, alternative methods of maintaining a pest-free home.
1. Ants- To block ant chemical trails, lay down cinnamon, chalk, cayenne pepper or petroleum jelly. By obstructing the signals ants use to communicate with one another, you can prevent them from making a highway to your pantry. Pet food can should be placed in a small moat of soapy water, ensuring no scouts identify your animal’s kibble as a food source. Stationing attractants near a nest outdoors may persuade the ants to stay outside and keep from venturing further.
For an all-out assault, you may opt to sprinkle cornmeal near their colony. This makes the ants thirsty, seek water, and explode from over-drinking. Desiccating dusts such as diatomaceous earth or pure amorphous silica aerogel applied directly to the insect will kill them by causing them to lose too much moisture. Boric acid mixed with jelly as bait will also exterminate foragers.
2. Rats and mice- As in may areas of life, sometimes the best offense is a good defense. Be sure to seal all gaps and openings to your home with caulking, duct tape, and weatherstripping. Hardware cloth is a good material for screening ducts and floor vents. Raising wood piles, cutting tall weeds and cleaning up after pets can help reduce rodent habitat and food materials.
Instead of buying poison bait that can cause other animals (including humans) to fall ill, live Have-a-Heart traps, glue traps, and fatal snap-traps catch the animals and leave the disposal up to the Pied Piper. The food used to tempt the rodents should be sticky to allow for a loaded spring enough time to work, and traps should be positioned near burrows and along pathways.
If cleaning up after a rat-trap leaves you a bit squeamish, there are always electronic repellent sound devices that disrupt rat rapport and mice musings. The sound is not heard by humans, and can be plugged into a three-pronged outlet. When all else fails, it might be time to adopt a cat or take up falconry.
3. Cockroaches- Not surprisingly, these little guys are not only resistant to a possible nuclear winter, but to most chemical pesticides as well. Your best bets are the boric acid solutions and desiccating dusts mentioned above. The dust should be inserted into drilled holes in infested walls and the boric acid applied directly to the cracks and crevices where the roaches live.
4. Mosquitoes- To prevent mosquito breeding, eliminate as much standing water as possible. To keep water from collecting, regularly clean gutters and properly drain potted plants. Adding natural predators to the mosquito’s environment will reduce the number of larvae who make it to maturity. Fish should be added to shallow ponds and plants that encourage beetles, dragonflies and damselflies can be added as attractive repellents. Installing bat boxes provides homes for the flying rodents during the day and give them a place to return to after a midnight skeeter feast. Certain strains of bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis) added to water containing mosquito larvae will kill them once ingested.
When bats and dragonflies are not enough, there are natural oils and plants to ward off the little blood-suckers. Burning citronella candles on a night without wind controls the pests within the immediate vicinity. Planting lemongrass, floss flower, basil, catnip and eucalyptus will have the bugs shirking your garden and also provide a pretty good stock of herbs for cooking. Orange and cedar oils have been touted as effective repellents for a number of insects, and can be sprayed around the home without fear of poisoning pets or family members.
What kinds of critters do you wrestle with, and what kind of green alternatives have you tried?
* Word of the day: Katsaridaphobia (an enhanced fear of cockroaches)
** Book of the week: “Wicked Bugs” by Ann Stewart