June 25, 2012

Natural Pest Control

Pests can cause trouble both inside and outside your home, but the last thing you want to do is expose yourself and your family to the noxious chemicals most commercial pest control products contain. The simplest, and not to mention cheapest and healthiest, thing to do is use natural methods to eliminate pests. Here's how.

First, remember that prevention is the best form of pest control. Sweep up crumbs, vacuum, and wash dishes before they attract any unwanted guests.

If no matter how tidy you keep things the ants keep marching in, try one of these ideas:
  • Mix 1 or 2 tablespoons of liquid soap with a quart of water in a spray bottle and spray the ants. This concentration is safe enough to use on plants. 
  • Place bay leaves, cloves, lemon juice, cinnamon, coffee grounds or cayenne pepper at the ants' point of entry. All these produce odors found offensive by acute-smelling ants. 
  • Mix borax and sugar (so the ants will bring the borax back to their nests) and sprinkle along the ants' trails. 
  • A spritz of vinegar will eliminate ants' scent trail, so go ahead and give an extra spray while cleaning green
  • Sprinkle baby or talcum powder on the ants, their scent trail, and at their point of entry. 

If your problem is fruit flies, start by taking care of how you store your fruit. Fruit flies lay their eggs in overripe fruit, so store any fruit about to become overly ripe in the refrigerator. Then try the following:
  • Leave out a glass of either apple cider vinegar or white wine (fruit flies apparently like both) with a bit of detergent mixed in. The flies will die shortly after taking a drink. 
  • To make your own fly paper, boil together water, sugar, and corn syrup and spread the mixture on heavy paper or cardboard. Leave the traps out where the flies tend to congregate and they'll soon be stuck. 
  • Fruit flies don't like basil, so try keeping a basil plant in your problem area or spray a mix of basil oil and water around your kitchen. 

If you're pestered by mosquitoes, start by removing any sources of standing water. Change the water in birdbaths, fountains, and any other garden water features at least twice a week. Then try the following repellents:
  • Mosquitoes dislike the scent of marigolds, lemongrass, rosemary, mint, and clove. Incorporate some of these plants in the outdoor areas you use the most. 
  • Mosquitoes also dislike lavender so try using its essential oil on your skin and/or keeping the fragrant plant in your favorite outdoor areas. 
  • A dab of vanilla extract on your pulse points can also help keep mosquitoes at bay. 

If you do happen to get stung, try one of these all natural bug bite remedies.

If you have a wasp problem, you can create a simple and effective trap with an old soda bottle. Cut off the top third of a 2-liter bottle. Turn the cut off top over and place it into the rest of the bottle so the bottle neck is facing downward. Use tape or a stapler to firmly and tightly attach the bottle neck to the rest of the bottle. Fill the bottom of the bottle with soda, fruit juice, or jam. Wasps will enter the bottle and become trapped. Clean and refill the trap daily until there are no more wasps.

Slugs can be a gardener's nightmare. Any tactic used to eliminate slugs must be safe enough to use on the plants they love to munch. Your best bet may, believe it or not, be beer. Place a few small bowls (or tuna cans or pie plates) of stale beer in the areas of the garden where the slugs are most active. The slugs will crawl in and drown. The trick is to make sure the container is pushed into the soil enough so that the beer is about an inch lower than the soil. The slugs must fall in and be unable to get out, not just take a sip, get buzzed, and keep on eating your plants. You can also create a slug trap with fruit rinds. Start by cutting a grapefruit, orange, or lemon in half and scooping out the flesh so only the rind remains. Place the rind, skin side up, where slugs are most apparent. Let the rind sit overnight. Then lift the rind and dispose of the slugs you find underneath. Repeat this process until there are no more slugs.

Here are a couple all-purpose garden pest repellents:
  • Mix one or two crushed garlic cloves, a teaspoon of chili powder, a tablespoon of dish soap, and a cup of water. Spray the mixture anywhere flies, aphids, and beetles are bothersome. This solution is safe enough to be sprayed directly on plants. 
  • A simple mix of dish soap and water (about a tablespoon of soap to a gallon of water) sprayed directly on pests can help take care of aphids, mites, and thrips. 

As for mammal and bird pests, red pepper spray makes plants less palatable. Mix cayenne pepper or Tabasco sauce with water and a teaspoon of dish soap (dish soap helps remedies stick to plant leafs) and spray any areas being damaged by squirrels, mice, rabbits, deer, or birds.


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