By Iris Gage
It’s the time of year where we begrudgingly transition into autumn and winter, moving more of our activities inside the household. For many, this is when we become aware of all the neglected tasks at hand, such as repainting the house, putting the gardens to bed, or dealing with those pesky clothes moths that seem to multiply with every sweater and curtain eaten. Moths aren’t the only uninvited guests who may move into the warmer crevices of your home. In fact, there’s a boom in the mouse population this year, thanks to increased seed production during the year, that’s keeping exterminators busier than usual. But if poison pellets and kill traps don’t appeal, here are some natural deterrents you can use safely in your house to reduce or eliminate house pests.
Rodents such as mice, rats, and squirrels can be quite cute until they chew through your insulation and electrical cords and make nests in your walls and attic. I personally feel bad when I set up deadly mouse traps with peanut butter or use torturous poison (that is also attractive to my dog and other innocent creatures). So, instead of continuing this strife, I suggest trying a different approach: placing cottons balls saturated with certain essential oils that rodents hate around their favorite areas, such as up against floorboards and behind appliances. Some of the most discouraging scents are peppermint, spearmint, and eucalyptus. About 10–20 drops of oil per cotton ball is really all you need. So long as the aroma remains, the mice will keep away.
Note: Use utmost caution with essential oils in homes with cats; they are toxic to our feline friends. Please keep them far away from cat play and nap areas.
Killing Bed Bugs
Bed bugs, once you have them, are quite challenging to get rid of naturally (except to just get rid of the bed). However, rubbing alcohol sprayed liberally onto the mattress will kill most bed bugs, but only diligence will kill every last one. Another remedy is a cup of diatomaceous earth with 30 drops of lavender or tea tree oil spread onto the mattress. Leave it on for 24 hours and it should do the trick. Also spread it around the bed, so any migrating bed bugs will crawl through it, which is the action that actually kills them, although not instantly. The earth works equally well for many other insects, so feel free to drop some in bug-friendly areas. Best of all, diatomaceous earth is so non-toxic, you can eat it.
Clothes moths, like pantry moths, are the bane of my existence. I have mourned many favorite sweaters from moths eating large holes in them, and I’ve composted many rolled oats because of pantry moths and their larvae. For clothes moths, buy empty sachets and fill them with dried herbs such as peppermint, cinnamon, lavender, and rosemary (the essential oils of these would also work), and hang them in your closet or store them in bureaus and linen closets. I have been doing this for the past couple of years and haven’t spotted a moth since.
Stamping out Ants
Ants are fascinating insects, with their supernatural strength and ingenious pathways, but they make themselves too at home inside our dwellings. Try leaving out a small shallow dish of equal parts borax and white sugar where the ants have a pathway. They will grab all the white granules, thinking it is sugar, while also bringing home the borax, which will effectively kill them. Vinegar can also be sprayed onto ant areas, which they dislike greatly, along with cayenne and black pepper powders.
Multi-Purpose Pest Control Powder
- 3 cups diatomaceous earth powder
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1/4 cup dried lavender flowers
- 1/4 cup dried peppermint leaves
- 30 drops tea tree essential oil
Combine all ingredients and store in a glass container, out of the sun and in a cool, dry place. Place a liberal amount of powder in areas where pests are known to travel or dwell.