Last Updated Aug 7, 2012 · Written by Craig Gibson
Many people's first reaction to finding pests is to buy a can of bug-killer or call in a pest control company to spray your home. This might get rid of pests, but at what cost to your health and to the environment?
Many pest control products contain highly toxic chemicals, yet there are ways to control household pests without using chemicals. The key word is control, rather than eradication. Natural methods will not achieve the same 100 per cent “kill rate” as chemicals. But a few simple steps will keep most pests out of your home without chemicals. Try these methods first before you reach for the spray can.
1) physical barriers - such as flyscreens and termite mesh;
2) biological controls - such as encouraging predators, or companion planting in your garden;
3) natural repellents – such as citronella, mint, bay leaves, chilli, salt;
4) removing food sources - by keeping your home clean and keeping food and rubbish bins sealed;
5) removing breeding habitats - such as stagnant water for mosquitoes;
6) traps – such as mousetraps or sticky fly paper;
7) inspection – so you tackle pests before they become an infestation.
Termites, cockroaches, spiders, ants, flies, dust mites, pantry and clothes moths, mosquitoes, rats and mice.
Termites can cause thousands of dollars of damage, and there is no 100 per cent effective, natural way to prevent them. That makes them one pest for which you may not want to entirely rule out chemical-based protection. And modern termite systems generally involve injecting chemicals into tubing systems, rather than spraying, so much less of the chemicals get into the air you breathe. That said, you can still protect effectively against termites without using chemicals by adopting an integrated pest management approach. This involves removing any exposed timber near your home (such as woodchip mulch or firewood), sealing any exposed timber (such as decking) and inspecting regularly. An integrated pest management company will also advise you on other ways to discourage termites, such as improving ventilation and eliminating moisture.
You should only use chemicals if termites are actually detected. And that might only be once every twenty years – or never. That’s very different to having your home sprayed once a year. You can also use physical barriers, if you are building a home with a concrete slab. The slab itself is a barrier but it can crack with earth movements, so you can put in a steel or granite barrier underneath the slab. However, this can only be done during construction of a new home, before the slab is laid. If your home stands on footings or poles, you can put physical metal barriers on the poles. You can also eliminate the risk of termites by not using timber in your home – for instance by building with a steel frame rather than a timber one.
Consider consulting a termite inspection professional if you are in any doubt.
Ants are a useful part of a garden ecosystem, aerating the soil and controlling insect pests. You can discourage them from entering your house by keeping floors and surfaces clean and keeping food sealed. Ants don’t like to cross chilli powder, salt or peppermint, so you can put a line of any of these across their entrance points. Spraying or wiping surfaces with vinegar also discourages ants.
For peace of mind why not consult an ants pest control professional?
Most spiders are harmless. In fact, as predators of flies and mosquitoes, they are good to have in your garden. Tolerate "daddy-long-legs" inside your home. They are harmless to humans but can kill other spiders, including potentially dangerous (but non-aggressive) redbacks. You can catch spiders by placing a small plastic tub (such as a takeaway container) over them, sliding a piece of cardboard underneath and removing the spider into the garden.
For more information speak to your local spider control expert.
It is easier to keep cockroaches out than to get rid of them. Seal off any entry points, such as holes around baseboards, pipes, doors, and windows with steel wool, cement or putty. Don’t leave food lying around, make sure you kitchen dustbin has a tight seal and fix any dripping taps. Spraying cupboards with a mix of vanilla essence and water, or scattering bay leaves, can also help discourage cockroaches. You can also buy sticky cockroach traps which use natural ingredients to attract the cockroaches, or make your own trap by half-filling a glass with beer then greasing the inside walls. (The beer attracts the cockroaches, which fall in and drown.)
Why not speak to a local cockroaches pest control professional?
The most effective solution is to put flyscreens on doors and windows. Use a fly swatter to get rid of any flies that do get in. Adding peppermint to a pot-pourri mix and placing it near doors and windows also discourages flies.
Put camphor wood balls, cedarwood oil or sachets containing a mix of lavender, cloves, mint and rosemary in wardrobes to repel moths. You can also buy commercial natural moth repellents. Bay leaves in rice and flour will repel silverfish and weevils.
For more information speak to your local silverfish control service.
Use mouse traps. You can also scatter mint and wipe peppermint oil around spots they frequent.
Your local rodent control service may also have some ideas?
Keep or encourage predators in your garden, including chickens, frogs, skinks and blue-tongue lizards. Make sure there is no stagnant water in your garden, as mosquitoes breed in stagnant water. Again, flyscreens on doors and windows are the best way to keep mosquitoes out of your house. You can also use plants and plant-based repellents such as citronella candles, or sweet basil.
If bees or wasps build a nest to close to your home, you should call a professional pest control company to remove it. Bees at a safe distance from your home are beneficial for your garden.
For more information locate bee removal services in your local area.