Most of us are fine seeing bugs outside. We're in their world, where they're just trying to find food and bring it back to their dirt-hilled home, so we just let them be on their way. Spotting those same creepy crawlies inside, though, is a whole other story. They're now in our homes. In some cases, all it takes is an empty jar or a firm slap with a shoe.
But some indoor invaders aren't so easy to get rid of. If you have an ant problem, you can't step on all of them or capture the whole trail to be released back into nature. Some pests, like mice, you can't even find to catch. So how do you convince these intruders to go back to their own homes? Sometimes it's as simple as removing their food source, but many bugs and rodents need more of a nudge than that.
We've got just the nudge you're looking for. Believe it or not, there are a few human foods that aren't on an ant's diet, and there are a couple of secret tricks to keep mice from scurrying through your walls. We're willing to share them with you so you can bake without worrying about bugs in your flour. First up, the pesky invaders that find any kind of food left out: ants.
If you discover that ants have invaded your home -- if you, say, left food out overnight and return to find a dotted black line leading from the plate to the wall -- you might just have to spice up an ant's life to convince it to leave.
Try sprinkling ground cinnamon in the areas where you see the ants, especially along baseboards and into any cracks and crevices that may be serving as their entry points, highways or home bases. The smell will deter them from following that path again, and you'll be dotted-line free.
It's okay for you to indulge your sweet tooth, but you don't want ants to do the same -- especially not in your supply of sugary treats!
Some folks have had success at repelling red ants by placing sprigs of fresh, aromatic garden sage in the cabinet or pantry where they store sugar, honey, molasses and other sweet staples that ants may find attractive. Dried sage leaves may also work. Simply wrap some of the dried herb in small pieces of cheesecloth or muslin, use twist ties to secure the bundles and place these sage sachets on the shelves in your pantry or cabinet.
Here's a secret Tom might wish he'd known years ago to help him corner Jerry. You can make your home a little too hot and spicy for mice by filling a watering can with 2 gallons of water and mixing in 1 cup mild dishwashing liquid (the kind that doesn't contain antibacterial agents) and 2 tablespoons of hot sauce (the hotter, the better). Sprinkle the solution around the perimeter of your home, especially around doorways; mix more solution as needed. This spicy fix will keep mice from getting in. It's probably best Tom didn't know this, because what would he have done all day without Jerry around to chase?
You may have never heard of a weevil, but if you've ever scooped out flour for a recipe and found creepy crawlies burrowing inside, you've probably encountered them in a way you can't forget. Unless you want some extra protein in your cakes and breads, try this tip to prevent weevils from settling into your flour and grain products: Tuck a dried chili pepper into each bag or container of flour or grains. The peppers won't alter the taste of these foods but should repel those nasty weevils, and you can get back to cooking without surprises in your ingredients.
If you eat cucumbers in your salad or use them to soothe your eyes on at-home spa days, don't be so quick to chop them up. Peel the outside of the cucumber before you slice it to serve another purpose: fighting creepy crawlies.
Cucumber peels are said to be useful in fighting cockroach infestations, and they're certainly far less toxic than modern chemical roach controllers.
So before you go to bed, spread fresh peels at the edges of the floor along the baseboards, on the bottom shelves of low cabinets and around drains. Come morning, remove the peels. Put down fresh peels for three nights in a row to help chase roaches from your home.
To kill ants or roaches indoors, trick them into thinking you're doing something nice by making them a meal with this recipe. Sprinkle borax onto a dollop of jam, mix together thoroughly and then spoon a bit of the mixture into soda bottle caps. Place the caps under appliances and sinks and in the back corners of cabinets, where they will be safely out of the reach of children and pets. Life will be anything but a picnic for your six-legged foes -- the sweet but toxic borax-spiked jam should kill any creepy crawlies that ingest it, and they'll stop making their own meals in your pantry.
If you've ever reached for an open bag of grains in your pantry and found it the new home for wiggling worms, you're probably wondering how you can prevent yourself from ever having a surprise like that again. Don't worry -- while mealworms do love a nice, starchy home, we have the secret to evicting them and keeping them away for good.
Protect your pasta, rice, cereals and other grains from mealworms by placing a few wrapped sticks of sugar-free spearmint chewing gum on the shelves where you store these kitchen staples. Apparently, unlike those of us who love a mint after dinner, mealworms just can't tolerate that minty fresh scent (they enjoy their bad breath). Because it doesn't contain sugar, the gum itself shouldn't attract any ants, either. When the sticks of gum start to lose their spearmint smell, replace them with fresh sticks.
Peppermint oil can be used to stave away vermin, such as ants, roaches and mice. Use the oil in its undiluted form, storing it in small bowls placed strategically at entrances and around the perimeters of a room -- particularly, a room that has an exterior wall. Putting the oil near entrances and exits will keep the vermin from crossing into your home.
This oil also acts as a natural air freshener, so you can leave bowls full of it out year-round to keep your house free of both vermin and odors -- two unwanted birds with one stone.
Ants will find any edible grain that's loose in your house, so if any morsel of food has ever toppled out of an open bag when put back on the shelf, there may be a bug problem in your cupboard. Instead of trying to scrape up every last crumb, do what Grandma would've done to vanquish a bug problem.
It's a simple solution of placing a few bay leaves in your cupboard to help discourage ants and other creepy crawlies from settling in. This will also give your cabinets a nice, herbal aroma.
The potent smell of cloves also proves an effective deterrent to roaches and ants -- and won't repel you like the smell of chemical repellents. Try laying a tiny trail of whole cloves along baseboards and near doors. Put some in kitchen cabinets and drawers, too, if you find the invaders there.
If you hear scurrying in your walls at night, or if cheese is missing from your fridge, mice have probably managed to find their way into your home. To get rid of these noisy pests, sprinkle dried, ground, hot (cayenne) pepper into any mouse holes that you find. Also, liberally sprinkle this natural rodent repellent in areas where you frequently spot mice or find their droppings. You can get back to having wine and cheese, fondue, or as many grilled cheeses as you want, now that no one will be stealing wheels out of the fridge.
Adapted from "101 Old-Time Country Household Hints," © 2008 Publications International, Ltd.