Natural Solutions for Spring Pests

Warmer weather in Georgia brings the blooms we love, but it also brings back the bugs we hate. No matter how clean your home, no one is immune to household insect pests. And while you might consider hiring a professional exterminator to treat your home, there are natural, non-toxic ways to keep pests at bay as well.

Your first line of defense is to start outside the home, clearing dead leaves away from the foundation, cleaning gutters and picking up all the sticks and debris in the yard that provide a cozy cover for insects. Next, remove the things that attract them inside the home: food and water. Keep your counters free of crumbs and sticky spots. Repair any leaky faucets and don’t leave dishes soaking overnight.

Ants are one of the most difficult pests to eradicate. One of the most popular natural substances used to rid homes of ants is borax. There are many recipes out there, but my father was a fan of the following mixture: one cup of water, two tablespoons of borax and two cups of sugar. Boil ingredients for three minutes, then pour in small containers (such as yogurt containers) with holes punched in the lids for ant access. Place containers near where ants are present. Ants will carry the bait back to their colonies where it will eventually kill the colony. Important: Although borax is not considered acutely toxic, it should not be ingested; therefore, keep the mixture away from pets and children.

You can also trace the ants back to their point of entry and try setting any of the following non-toxic items at the entry area in a small line, which ants will not cross: cayenne pepper, citrus oil (can be soaked into a piece of string), lemon juice, cinnamon or coffee grounds.

Another spring pest we love to hate is the cockroach. Catnip is a natural repellent to cockroaches. Small sachets of catnip can be left in areas of cockroach activity. Catnip can also be simmered in a small amount of water to make a “catnip tea” which can be used as a spray to apply around baseboards. This natural repellent should only be used in homes without cats!

Borax can also be used to kill roaches, but the recipe is a little different from the one for ants: Mix borax and sugar together in equal parts (no water). Then apply in cracks, under cabinets, under the sink, behind the refrigerator, and anywhere else you’ve seen roaches. A little known fact about cockroaches is that they like high places, so try placing some of the mixture on top of kitchen cabinets (not inside) if you have space between your cabinets and the ceiling. Again, keep away from children and pets.

Dog and cat lovers know that pets can become a “flea factory” in warm weather. For every flea on your pet, there may be as many as 30 more in the pet’s environment. Before reaching for pesticides, try these safer choices: Bathe and comb your pet regularly. Use pet shampoos containing Neem oil instead of harsh chemicals.

Citrus is a natural flea deterrent for dogs. Pour a cup of boiling water over a sliced lemon. Include the lemon skin, scored to release more citrus oil. Let this mixture soak overnight, and sponge on your dog to kill fleas instantly. (Do not use citrus oil on cats.)

Don’t forget to take care of the carpet too. Vacuum frequently and put flea powder in the vacuum cleaner bag – before you vacuum. When you’re finished, put the bag in an outdoor garbage bin.

As with commercial pesticides, improper use of natural insect repellants can be harmful. Be sure to do your homework first. Ask your local professional exterminator about non-toxic strategies to reduce the amount of pesticides needed to treat your home.

Jill Prouty

Jill is a reader, writer, and professional librarian who enjoys spending her free time with her husband of twelve years and their two sons. She has an MSLS from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and a BA from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.