(Guest post by alternatives supporter Jack Malone)
How do we save the birds and the bees while getting rid of the bugs that bug us? The environmental damage and health risks associated with commercial synthetic insecticides are enough to scare anyone away from these products.
Additionally, studies show that insects eventually develop resistance to these chemicals. Searching for alternatives to keep bugs out of your home is the healthy choice. If you have a six-legged (or eight-legged) pest problem and want to deal with it the eco-friendly way, you’ll find some tried and true methods.
At the top of the list is a product you probably already have in your home – but may not know it.
1. Neem Oil
This oil has been extracted from an evergreen native to the Indian subcontinent for thousands of years for use as a natural insecticide. Because of its reputed health benefits, you can find it in products ranging from toothpaste to dandruff shampoo. For pest control use indoors and out, you’ll find neem oil in garden centers or at online retailers. Always apply according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
2. Peppermint Oil
More of a repellent than a killer, peppermint oil has a reputation for sending ants, beetles, fleas, lice, and spiders scurrying away. It’s also repugnant to mice. You can soak cotton balls in it and place them where pests are lurking, or mix 10 drops of oil per 16 ounces of water and spray it. Planting mint in containers outside your windows is also a good way to repel bugs.
3. Garlic and Onion Spray
It sounds awful to us humans, and bugs don’t like it either. Mince a garlic clove with a medium-sized onion and stir into a quart of water. After it sits for an hour, add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper and a tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Use it outdoors and spray directly on plants that are infested with insects. Be sure to wash any sprayed crops before eating. Use care when working with this spray since the mixture can be irritating to people and animals, so wear gloves and avoid breathing it in.
4. Boric Acid
This substance is inexpensive and available at grocery and gardening stores, and online. Boric acid comes from the mineral borate, so it’s naturally derived, but can be dangerous to mammals if consumed or inhaled. It’s important to always follow product label instructions and keep it out of reach of pets and children. Boric acid can be mixed with sugar as an ant bait, or with peanut butter to kill cockroaches.
Plain ol’ household vinegar has excellent uses indoors and out. In the garden, it repels ants, slugs, and snails. A spray mixture of vinegar and water will get rid of ants indoors by sanitizing the space and disrupting their pheromone trails. Be careful using vinegar outdoors because direct contact can harm plants.
The best solution for managing pests is prevention. Insects like places where they can find food, shelter and water. Keeping your home clean, especially of crumbs and spills, is the most effective way to keep unwelcome tenants from moving inside. Fill cracks with caulk and larger holes with steel wool to keep small creatures out.
Some plants can serve as barriers to keep bugs away from your yard and home. Mint, spearmint, basil, and peppermint planted around your house will discourage unwanted insects. A bonus? They also add a pleasant aroma to your yard. Some plants are beautiful in the garden, but can attract unwelcome insects. Do some research before selecting what to introduce to your yard. Finally, a healthy, balanced ecosystem contains both predator and prey insects. Planting a variety of species, especially native ones, will attract beneficial predator bugs to your yard.
Jack Malone is a farmer and freelance writer who prides himself on being eco-friendly. He enjoys finding new ways to practice green farming with no chemicals.