Bugs seem to be everywhere. Well, not seem, but they are. According to the Entomological Society of America, there are more than a billion bugs per person in the world. (That’s 10 quintillions if you find yourself in a trivia contest.) Once temperatures start rising each spring, bugs emerge and search for water and food.
What can you do to avoid the onslaught? Missy Henriksen of the National Pest Management Association advises homeowners to “incorporate pest-proofing as part of their spring cleaning and yard clean up routines.” We have a few ideas for you.
Watch the Home Carefully
While roaches are expected to survive a nuclear war, and mosquitoes can fly away from your spray, they can’t magically appear. You should watch for problem areas and address them.
An ant colony will send “scouts” to evaluate your place. Even a couple of ants can mean it’s time to act before the scouts give the OK to the group.
Examine your outdoors. Firewood is a prime spot for termites and ants. Store wood at least 20 feet from the house.
Boyd Huneycutt, the co-founder of the pest control company Mosquito Squad, reminds that mosquitoes rapidly breed in standing water. “Yards with bird baths, play sets with tire swings, tree houses, fire pits and catch basins to recycle water should all be checked regularly, and water tipped,” he suggests.
Also, so that bugs don’t have an easy bridge into your house, keep branches and shrubs well-groomed away from walls.
Block Outside Entrances
All insects originate outdoors. The task before you is to keep them from coming indoors.
“The most important means to eradicate a pest problem is to work from the outside to the inside,” says Peter Stieglmaryr of RK Environmental Services.
Roof shingles, chimneys, windows, vents, and pipes are to insects what the front door is to you. Repair things like torn window screens or loose weather-stripping to close those doors. If you find open spaces near pipes or vents, use steel wool to fill large gaps or caulk to fill small cracks.
Keep Things Clean
Since messes are bug magnets, keeping your home clean is the best way to keep pests away. The kitchen, where crumbs and other potential treats can be found, is especially critical.
Vacuum once a week. If you don’t feel like tossing the trash one day, cover your bins or even seal them.
Did you know cockroaches love the smell of paper and hate the light? Address areas where bugs can congregate, such as stacks of magazines, boxes, or bags.
Keep Things Dry
Water is both a water fountain and a breeding ground for the creepy-crawlies. A sink filled with dirty dishes and standing water is obvious, but anywhere water can pool must be addressed.
If the pipes under the sink or in the bathroom are leaky, or there is moisture in the basement or attic, call in a plumber. A dehumidifier may also be needed.
Cockroaches are constantly searching for water, which is why they have acquired the “waterbug” nickname.
Secure the Food
You want to go to bed, but guests don’t want to leave. If you can send a message you want people to leave, take away the hospitable atmosphere. As far as getting rid of people or pests goes, the absence of food will get the message across.
Don’t leave food out – place it in the refrigerator and/or in something that can be sealed. A bowl of fruit is a great table centerpiece, but bugs, especially fruit flies, absolutely love them. Also, keep pet bowls clean so your pet doesn’t have to fight off ants to eat dinner.
Make Your Own Poison for Ants
In years past, the can of Raid was all we needed. Today, we’re more focused on natural products. Many such products are readily available. Ants hate certain smells. Clean your cupboards with vinegar – it disinfects and ants can’t stand it.
If you miss the Raid, you can make your own spray. Simple soapy water both kills ants, plus it eliminates their chemical trail that other ants could find later.
Even the spice rack is your ally. Ants avoid cinnamon, mint, turmeric, black pepper, and red chili powder, among others. Put a light dusting where ants have been spotted.
Reader Nancy D. offers this trick – leave fresh cucumber peels in high ant-traffic areas. “I don’t know exactly why it works, but I never had sugar ants, unlike everyone else in Florida,” she says.
You can even bait ants to kill them if you want to recreate your favorite horror movie. WikiHow offers tips on building traps.
Make Your Own Poison for Roaches
Making your own roach poison is quite easy. You combine something roaches love (like sugar or cocoa powder) with something deadly such as Borax or diatomaceous earth. Let your inner Mad Scientist have fun with it.
Know When to Surrender
Pests are remarkably resilient. Sometimes they can outlast you. Other times, they are simply hard to kill. If you are getting itchy bites in bed, you’re up against a brutal enemy. “Bed bugs would be the most difficult,” says Kevin Lemasters, President of EnviroPest. “This pest is one that requires a pest professional to eliminate.”
Termites can do prolific and expensive damage, so a licensed exterminator is needed for them as well. If you find piles of discarded wings or piles of “frass” (a.k.a., termite droppings), that may mean a colony is already set up, so a pro would be the best option.
Experts from the National Pest Management Association stress, “It’s important to consult with a licensed professional pest management company to evaluate the extent of the problem.” That goes for any type of pest invasion.
Their website, PestWorld.org, has a locator to find licensed pest control companies in your zip code. You can win a war even if you lose a few battles. Choose the war over the battles.