With the charms of summer also come not-so-charming and unwelcome visitors. With consistent 100+ degree weather in the desert we call home, 6- and 8-legged visitors (or really more like trespassers) are almost a regular part of life. But we have discovered a few safe and relative effective ways to keep the trespasser traffic under control without endangering our health or that of our children/pets Ludwig and Wolfgang.
Ways to Safely Repel and Kill Ants
Ants are the largest problem for us. In this desert, there are more types of ants than we have seen anywhere else we’ve lived – there are tiny red ants, medium ants, and jumbo ants (luckily the jumbo ones don’t see fit to come inside).
Prevention is the Best Medicine
The most basic, safest and easiest way to keep the ant traffic down is simply keeping the kitchen as clean as possible.
- Avoid leaving dirty dishes in the sink.
- Wash pots and pans immediately if you cook anything with meat or a lot of oil.
- Wipe the counters several times a day with soap. A minuscule crumb or little drop of something sweet can quickly bring a hoard of ants.
- Take out the kitchen trash everyday. Take out trash immediately if it contains meat, bones, greasy paper towels and napkins, meat packaging and sweet things.
- Avoid eating in bedrooms, and be careful of dropping crumbs in other rooms of the house.
- I’ve also found that having the air conditioner on helps.
Creepy Fact: When you dispatch an ant on duty, you are in fact killing a “she” and not an “it” (or “he”). Worker ants are all female. The males are only used for breeding.
Ways to Safely Kill Ants
Sometimes keeping clean doesn’t keep them away completely (scouts sometimes explore squeaky clean counters), or if you miss a crumb or two. If you have children or pets as we do, the fewer poisons you use around the house the better. Even if you don’t have children or pets, it is best to avoid using toxins as they will affect your health.
Vinegar is our preferred ant killer. It kills small ants almost immediately and is completely safe. Simply spray the ants and wipe them away.
- Yeast and Sugar
Mix some dry yeast and sugar and leave it out in a place ants frequent. The sugar will attract the ants to the yeast, which once brought back to the nest and consumed, will expand in their bellies and kill them. This method might cease to work after a few times as the ants might wise up and avoid the yeast. Caution: Make sure the yeast is in a location that can’t be reached by your pet(s). It’s not poisonous, but ingestion can be dangerous.
I recently discovered a natural and effective insecticide called EcoSmart, which is made of organic vanilla, cinnamon and rosemary oils. It kills ants and other insects on contact and smells nice while at it. It is also affordable at $3.87 per can at Walmart. This is the only commercial insect repellent and killer we use in our house.
Keep reading for tips on repelling and killing other insects (spiders, roaches, silverfish, etc.)
To Repel and Kill Other Insects (Spiders, Roaches, Silverfish, etc.)
Our main non-ant pest here is the black widow spider, which flourishes during the warm months. When we moved into our house in 2005, we were ecstatic to find that there were no roaches here. However, since then, many new houses have sprung up in the area and people moving in seem to have brought more than their kids and furniture with them. Starting late spring of this year, we have begun to see the first signs of cockroaches in the yard. Argh!
Really Creepy Fact: After a single mating the female cockroach may continue to produce multiple egg capsules for many months. The male cockroach may give the female an edible gift as part of courtship.
To prevent insects from frequenting or nesting in your home:
- Keep clutter down. Insects like hiding in boxes and among paper.
- Keep your yard free of dead leaves under which they can hide.
- Keep all food sealed tightly.
- Keeping humidity level down by having your air-conditioner on can help reduce cockroach population as they like humidity.
Ways to help repel insects:
- To keep them out of the house
Spray EcoSmart (or your preferred repellent) around doorways, windows, and any other points of entry.
- To Keep them out of cabinets, drawers and closets
- Remove the contents of your cabinet, drawers, etc. and spray EcoSmart into the storage space. Let it air-dry for a few hours and put contents back in the drawer when dry. There may be a little oiliness so be careful with delicate things.
- Pouches filled with dried lavender flowers or cedar shaving (you can pick up a large pack in the pet section at Walmart fo $3.00) in your drawers can help keep insect population down. We like to use cotton, polyester, linen, and burlap fabrics, and you can get creative with your cedar pouches to make them look nice in your closets. For extra protection, you could spray the pouches with EcoSmart or some other safe repellent before putting in in your drawer. We also put a few pouches inside the bottom of our piano to discourage insects from nesting.
Creepy Fact: The average spider has eight eyes.
A few ways to safely kill insects:
Keep a spray bottle of vinegar handy. Not only is it a good safe cleaning agent but, it is also very effective for killing small to medium-sized insects.
- Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol
Rubbing alcohol (also kept in a spray bottle) is surprisingly effective on small to medium-sized bugs and spiders. We have not tried this on roaches though.
- Cleaning Agents
For larger insects, spraying them with cleaning agents such as 409 and Lysol can kill them. While cleaning agents aren’t always the most eco-friendly things, I still prefer them over outright poisons such as Raid. My favorite is the 409 Multi-purpose Antibacterial Kitchen Cleaner, which we use for everything including floors, because I figure if it is designed for kitchen use, it should be a little safer than those not designed for kitchens. Be sure to completely wipe the area clean after to prevent children and pets from getting any on them.
When the above don’t work quickly enough and that giant spider looks like it’s getting away, I pull out the EcoSmart, which does the job straight away. As with the cleaning agent, clean it up when you are done. It is child and pet safe, but because it is made of vanilla, rosemary and cinnamon oils, it is oily and you don’t want your child or pet getting it in their eyes.
You might ask “Why not just bust out the EcoSmart on every creepy-crawler I see?” The vinegar and rubbing alcohol come much cheaper than cleaning agents and EcoSmart, with distilled white vinegar at just $2.50 a gallon at our local supermarket. Rubbing alcohol is a little more expensive at $2.29 per quart at our supermarket, so that is my second choice. Also, they are the safest and most natural alternatives.
Creepy Fact: Houseflies can only ingest liquids. To eat solid foods, they first spit out saliva to predigest the food before sucking it in.