Ants and flies and mosquitoes, oh my! Summer is a wonderful time of year. Long, leisurely days and nights filled with fun and friends make it, arguably, the greatest season there is. But along with the good comes the mildly annoying- the bugs and pests. Perhaps worse than the bugs, though, are our methods of getting rid of them.
We all know how harmful pesticides are to the environment and to our health. One Harvard study found a link between neonicotinoids, a class of insecticide, and the collapse of honey bee colonies (more on the bees here, if you feel so inclined!). And according to the World Health Organization pesticides “may induce adverse health effects including cancer, effects on reproduction, immune or nervous systems.” That’s some scary stuff! It seems like a lot of risk just to keep the flies away, doesn’t it? Well, no fear, my friends! I’ve found some natural (chemical and pesticide/insecticide-free) solutions to some of your (mine, too!) most common pest problems!
Every Spring the ants come marching in! Keeping them away can be simple, clean and chemical-free. The easy answer is to remove any ant-attractants- clean up those crumbs and wipe away the sticky spots on your counters. If you have ants, though, you know it’s not always that simple! It is as easy, however, as peeling a cucumber! Seriously, the skin of a cucumber is a natural ant deterrent because it’s so bitter. Simply peel the skin of the cucumber the next time you’re making a salad and place the skins at the ants’ point of entry. The bitter skins help keep the ants away!
Need more solutions to keep the ants at bay? The next time you are cleaning your kitchen opt for a 50/50 solution of vinegar and water when wiping down your countertops- particularly in any areas of heavy ant traffic (for the best results, repeat multiple times per day). Cleaning with this solution destroys the scent trails that the ants use to navigate, keeping them out of your kitchen and out of your mind!
One last trick before we move on. If you’ve found an area where there seems to be a lot of ant activity, consider leaving a small, low-wattage night light on in that space. The ants’ foraging pattern may be disrupted by the change in light and it may discourage them from returning to your home. Plus, you can find some pretty fun night lights!
These biting pests are my summertime nemeses! It seems no matter what I do I come home each day with another mosquito bite! Every being has its place in the world, I know, but man, are these guys annoying! They are most active in the evening and early morning and tend to prefer areas near standing water so the most important thing you can do to get rid of them is to remove the source. Be mindful of any yard items that collect water and change and/or clean them regularly, that includes pet bowls, wading pools and birdbaths (a couple times per week is a good rule of thumb)!
If you are still seeing mosquitoes, combat them with catnip! Mosquitoes hate the stuff! According to Science Daily catnip is a more effective repellent when it comes to mosquitoes than DEET. It also happens to be a native plant, so it’s great for your garden and for the environment! (For more on sustainable gardening check out our Sustainable Gardening post!)
They are still buzzing around, huh? Ruining your big BBQ? No fear! Throw a bit of sage or rosemary on the grill and let the smell of the herbs repel those buggers away. While you’re at it, mix one part garlic juice with 5 parts water. Dip a few cotton cloths in the mixture and place them in areas you’ll be hanging around for the night to naturally repel the mosquitoes and keep your party mosquito free!
One last tip that’s sure to be a crowd pleaser! Buy a couple bat houses and hang them around your yard. Some bat species can eat up to 1000 mosquitoes each per night and they’ll put on quite a show! Your guests will surely be impressed!
Finally, the house fly. Sometimes they seem to exist just to annoy us. The good news is they are easy to get rid of and without any chemicals to boot! Flies are deterred by various smells, most of them very easy for us to obtain, so keeping flies out of the home is really a lot easier than we might think! One way to repel them is to use crushed mint. Placing small sachets of crushed mint around your home not only makes your home smell great (so fresh and so clean!) but it keeps the flies away too! A win, win!
Flies also hate the smell of fresh basil. Notoriously easy to grow indoors, place pots of fresh basil near doorways, on windowsills and on kitchen counter tops. This keeps them away from the entryways to the home as well as the areas they tend to congregate in.
(BONUS: Not enough sun to grow fresh basil in your home? Simply put dried basil in a small muslin pouch and rub it often to keep the basil scent strong. This will keep the flies out of your home and, once again, your home smelling sweet and fresh!)
Hopefully, you’ll have noticed that none of these solutions permanently eliminated the pests (with the exception of the bats/mosquitoes- it’s the circle of life, you guys!). I chose each of these repellents specifically because they didn’t harm the animals and thus, I knew they were no harm to humans or the environment. According to the National Pesticide Information Center “even the least-toxic products, and those that are natural or organic, can cause health problems if someone is exposed to enough of it.” There are, of course, options out there for elimination and some of those options are organic and less toxic (see links above). Please use them with caution and at your own risk.
Let me know if you try out any of the tips in this post, if you’ve used any of the organic pest solutions or any have comments or feedback. I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Spread the word, share the tips- it’s bug season- everyone can stand for a little less pestering! Until next time…