Imagine you find a comfortable, spacious home with great food and lots of it -- all of it free for the taking. You'd jump at the chance to move in, right?
That's what an ant (or stinkbug or cricket) does when it finds your home. And while it's hard to begrudge a bug this slice of heaven during its short time on Earth, you're not about to hand over the house keys. Insects can bring germs into your house, and miniature trails of ants by your kitchen door is not exactly the best way to welcome guests. They tend to pop up in ways that make guests and small children squeamish.
As they say in sports, the best offense is a good defense. You can stop invasions before they start by putting up barriers and monitoring traffic around your home. Any opening that admits light and air is a possible portal for bugs. Here are some quick tips for keeping small spaces closed:
- Caulk around window frames, plumbing pipes, dryer vents and air conditioning units
- Repair gaps in siding and cracks in mortar
- Install door sweeps at thresholds
- Use fine mesh screens in windows
How can you stop the little guys from intruding in the first place? Find out on the next page.
Natural bug repellents are useful inside and outside the home. Pungent-smelling plants like mint and rosemary ward off insects and double as cooking herbs. Lemongrass and geraniums contain Citronella oil, which bugs hate.
Fighting insects with their natural enemies, a concept know as integrated pest management, limits their population. Many common songbirds love to eat insects. Encourage sparrows, cardinals and chickadees to flock to your home with suet cakes -- special varieties won't melt in warm weather. Encourage them to stay by building them a birdhouse. Welcome (within reason) spiders, bats and geckos. One gecko has the same bug-killing potential as an application of insecticide.
If you don't mind getting rid of the critters yourself, sprinkle a mixture of equal parts borax and sugar where ants gather. The stuff will kill them, but not before they share it with the rest of the colony. A type of soil called diatomaceous earth, sold in gardening shops, contains slivers of tiny shells that actually cut bugs. A solution of liquid dishwashing detergent and water is fatal to box elders and Japanese beetles. Don't spray plants, though, because detergent will damage them, too.
Keep It Clean
For bugs that do get inside, make food scarce by keeping a clean kitchen. Empty the garbage frequently, and wipe down counters after you cook. Store food in tightly sealed plastic, metal or other pest-proof containers. Don't leave out dirty dishes, especially overnight, when roaches and other nocturnal bugs are active.
Insects prefer dark, warm, damp areas. Eliminate any potential bug sites by fixing leaky pipes and clearing clogged gutters. Keep attics and crawl spaces ventilated. Stack firewood and landscaping bricks away from the home. Inspect items made of cardboard, wood and bamboo. They provide not only transport but also food for beetles, roaches and borers.
Need more information on debugging the house? There's lots more on the next page.
- Animal Planet. "Fleas." (April 28, 2011)http://animal.discovery.com/cat-guide/cat-care/cat-health/cat-fleas.html
- Colorado State University. "Plants Help Keep Mosquitoes Away." Jan. 5, 2010. (May 5, 2011)http://www.colostate.edu/Dept/CoopExt/4dmg/Pests/mosquito.htm
- Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "What to Feed Birds." (May 4, 2011)http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/About BirdsandFeeding/BirdFoods.htm
- Cranshaw, W.S. "Insect Control: Soaps and Detergents." May 12, 2010. (May 6, 2011)http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/incest/05547.html
- J.C. Ehrlich, Co. "Bamboo Borer."http://www.jcerlich.com/pest-guides/insects-and-spiders/wood-damaging-beetles/bamboo-borer/index.html (May 5, 2011)
- McDonough, Margo. "Stink Bugs." UDaily, March 30, 2011. (May 3, 2011)http://www.udel.edu/udaily/2011/mar/stink-bugs/033011.html
- Nick, Jean. "The Nickel Pincher: Beat Back Household Bugs." (April 29, 2011)http://www.rodale.com/natural-insect-control
- Nolan, Kate. "Don't bug out: Gecko lizards pose no threat." Arizona Republic, June 4, 2005. (May 4, 2011)http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/local/articles/0604B3-env-gecko04.html?&wired
- North Country Organics. "Diatomaceous Earth." (May 3, 2011)http://www.norganics.com/products/pestcontrol/diamotaceous-earth.html
- Rayor, Linda S. "All About Spiders." Jan. 5, 2010. (May 4, 2011)http://www.coopext.colostate.edu/4dmg/Pests/spiders.htm
- Terminix Services, Inc. "Tips for Prevention." (April 27, 2011)http://trustterminix.com/learning_center/tips.php
- Whitworth, Robert J. and Ahmad, Aqeel. "Cockroaches." March 2007. (May 3, 2011)http://www.ksre.ksu.edu/library/entml2/MF2765.pdf