Commercial bug sprays get the job done fast, but our homes and environment pay a hefty price for overuse of insecticides, which can poison beneficial insects and wildlife. When you use sprays and foggers indoors, you also run the risk of making pets and children sick.
Fortunately there are lots of easy to use natural alternatives that actually work to repel and kill insects. Next time you get bugged and bitten by mosquitoes or when the ants on your counters are driving you crazy, you might check out some of the following “natural pest control” options.
How to Repel Insects With Essential Oils
Quite a few plants have insect-repellent qualities. There are a number of essential oils that will do the job, and a few living and dried herbs also can keep bugs away.
Try mixing a few drops of any of the following essential oils in a spray bottle filled with water, or add to a damp cloth, and wipe-down your counters and sinks. You can also place cotton balls with a couple drops of essential oils inside your pantries and cupboards, or even add a couple of drops to a bandana and tie loosely on your dog. However, never apply essential oils a pets’ skin or fur without consulting your veterinarian. Not only will bugs head the opposite direction, the oils will make your home smell fragrant and clean.
- Any citrus oil, including lemon, lime, and sweet orange
- Mint, including peppermint and spearmint
You might also look for products containing cedar oil or shavings. These sprays, shampoos, and pet bedding are great to both repel and kill fleas and other biting insects. They are safe to use on both cats and dogs, and they smell great too!
For mosquitoes and flies, you can’t go wrong with lemon eucalyptus, rosemary, tea tree, and neem essential oils. You can add a few drops to hand lotion to make your own insect repellent, but do not use eucalyptus or tea tree oil on pets — tea tree oil is particularly toxic to cats.
Some plants will also repel mosquitoes even as they grow in your garden. Consider planting lemongrass, catnip, rosemary, lemon balm, citronella, scented geraniums, mints, and marigolds around your patio or deck. These grow well in containers and hanging baskets. These plants will add color — and possibly culinary bonuses — to your yard, as well as keep the bugs at bay.
Tuck sprigs of rosemary and bay laurel leaves in your cabinets or under your kitchen and bathroom sinks to repel a variety of insects from food, paper products, and clothing.
How to do Pest Control at Home By Yourself
Below, we have highlighted some of the most common pest control problems for homeowners. If you have further questions of concerns, please start a conversation in the comments down below.
For anyone who has pets, you know summertime is flea season.
If you know fleas are going to be an issue, a natural pest control method is to spray your yard and outdoor runs or kennels with beneficial nematodes in the early spring. These tiny parasites are safe for the environment and will control the outdoor flea population, significantly reducing the need for pesticides or flea medications on your pets. Throughout the spring and summer, also be sure to keep your lawns mowed and trim back all weeds, as this will help keep flea numbers down (and also help control mosquitoes and other biting insects).
How to Kill Fleas on Your Pets
For treating fleas on your pets, there are a few easy things you can try. Giving dogs a bath with non-toxic flea shampoos can substantially reduce the flea population in your home.
Many people swear by Dawn dishwashing detergent as the best flea shampoo out there. When you give your dogs a bath, suds them up and leave the shampoo on for at least 3-5 minutes. Rather than subject your cat to a bath, try using a flea comb to safely remove the majority of fleas. You can drop them into a cup of soapy water or diatomaceous earth to kill the fleas after you pull them from your pet’s fur.
How to Treat Flea Infestations Inside Your Home
If you have a flea infestation inside your home, you should vacuum regularly, wash all bedding, and use a steam cleaner to sanitize all the areas where your pet spends the majority of their time. These cleaning methods will significantly reduce the number of active fleas inside your home, as well as kill their eggs.
You can also sprinkle pet bedding with diatomaceous earth. Diatomaceous earth is a fine white powder that is made from fossilized aquatic creatures, and contains significant quantities of silica. While entirely nontoxic to pets and humans, it kills fleas and other insects by getting into the areas of their exoskeleton and dehydrates them. Once you apply the powder, leave it for a few hours to kill fleas and then vacuum it up again.
Mosquitoes aren’t just an itchy nuisance. Health officials warn of Zika and West Nile viruses spreading in the US. When it comes to cats and dogs, there’s also the added concern of heart-worm, which is transmitted by mosquitoes. With these illnesses becoming more common in the US, it’s imperative that you protect yourself and your family from mosquitoes and their nasty bites.
How to Reduce Mosquitos Outside Your Home
There are some easy things you can do outdoors to reduce mosquito populations. Be sure to regularly drain any standing water on your property. Water often collects in potted plants, wheelbarrows, tires, children’s toys, playscapes, and pet bowls. If you a pond, fountain, or birdbath in your yard, you should consider using mosquito dunks or granules that contain a non-toxic bacteria that prevents mosquitoes from breeding.
Keeping your lawn mowed will help with mosquito issues. Even better, consider inviting mosquito-eating bats to your property with low-profile bat houses that can be easily installed on your house or fencing.
Natural Methods to Repel Mosquitos
A safe alternative to bug sprays when spending time outdoors is citronella oil lamps and candles. Mosquitoes don’t like the smell of citronella, and just adding a few of these can help make your entire patio safe for your next cookout or pool party. And when you absolutely need an all-natural repellent, look for products that utilize lemon eucalyptus oil. Even the CDC has recommended lemon eucalyptus oil as an effective alternative to DEET for repelling mosquitoes.
3. Bees and Wasps
While mosquitoes get most of the attention, there are a number of other flying insects that you don’t want interrupting your next picnic. Stinging insects like bees and wasps may be nuisances, but they are actually beneficial insects for the environment.
Because of the benefit these bugs provide, it’s important to leave them alone whenever possible. Many people want to kill wasps who build nests in their doorways, under eaves, or swarm on the porch. Instead of reaching for bug spray, consider making your house less appealing to them so they find another place to call home.
You can make a simple homemade repellent spray that will discourage rather than kill these helpful insects. Fill a spray bottle with water, a couple squirts of Dawn dish soap, a few drops of peppermint oil, and a pinch of powdered cinnamon and cayenne. Spray this mixture around your entryways and anywhere else these insects like to buzz around.
If you have an active and unwanted bee hive or wasp nest on your property, rather than destroy it, call out a professional beekeeper or natural pest control company that can attempt to relocate the nests rather than kill the insects.
4. Ants, Grain Moths, and Weevils
Several species of ants find their way into our homes in search of food or water. While it can be difficult to get rid of them even when using commercial products like ant bait, the good news is that there are much cheaper and easier options.
How to Make a DIY Cleanser for Ants
Because ants use their sense of smell to find food, you can disrupt their plans by cleaning your countertops and walls with a 1:8 mixture of vinegar and water. For even better control, consider adding several drops of peppermint or orange oil to your cleanser. This all-natural cleanser is a great everyday cleaner and will make your ant problems a thing of the past.
If you get ants or other bugs in your pantry, especially in your dry goods, try sprinkling some cinnamon, cayenne pepper, or diatomaceous earth — or a combination of the three — in the corners and along your floorboards. You can also put bay leaves in bins with flour, pasta, grains, and cereals. All of these all-natural methods will help control and prevent pests.
It’s also a great idea to invest in tightly-sealing plastic containers for items you keep in your pantry, such as flour, granola, and cereal. Not only will this help your food stay fresh for longer, but it will also prevent tiny insects from getting inside your food.
If you still have issues with weevils in your flour, we would strongly recommend storing it in your refrigerator or freezer.
Rather than using mothballs, — which are toxic — try making your own repellents by adding dried lemon peels or cedar chips into a stocking, and then tie it to a rack inside your closet. You can even make small individual sachets out of cheesecloth to hang around the neck of clothes hangers.
This is one of the best natural pest control methods for preventing moths from destroying your clothes.
6. Other Creepy Crawlers
To discourage centipedes, rolly-polly bugs, and silverfish, homeowners should try placing cotton balls with peppermint or eucalyptus oil around baseboards, behind bookshelves, and in damp locations. You can also add bay leaves or sachets with cedar shavings to boxes of papers or books.
When it comes to spiders, scorpions, and other crawling pests, on of the easiest non-toxic pest control techniques is to simply seal off access to your home. Caulk around window sills and doorways, and fill in holes around utility lines or plumbing.
If you’ve tried all of this and still can’t determine how/where insects are gaining access, then you should contact a local pest control company to provide a thorough inspection of your property and recommend improvements.
Final Thoughts on Natural Pest Control
Not only are these natural pest control options safer for the environment and your family, most are also less expensive and easier to apply than commercial alternatives. For example, although a bottle of essential oil may seem a little pricey at first, when you discover that one bottle will last many years, you’ll realize what a smart investment it can be.
Next time bugs get on your nerves, give one of these alternatives a try, and you might not ever want to purchase bug sprays again.