5 Natural Pest Control Options That Work!

Natural Pest Control that actually works

I would have thought that with all the snow we had last Winter, insects wouldn’t be bad this year. And I would have been wrong. I’ve always been a target for mosquitos when I am outside (thus my obsession with natural bug spray recipes), but this year, it seems like there is a giant insect conspiracy to dive bomb and infiltrate every door of our house the second it is open (which is every other second with our kids).

The normal advice to “make sure to keep counters and floors clean and put food away so insects aren’t attracted to your house,” doesn’t works so well when you are fermenting jars of sweetened tea (kombucha) and sugar water (water kefir) on the kitchen counters.

That advice also doesn’t work so well when my kids’ favorite snacks are fresh fruits and veggies and inevitably, some of them drip on the table or floor.

Natural Pest Control Options

Thankfully, there is a great pest control company locally that ran a special where I could have our entire house and yard sprayed with pesticides to ward off ticks, mosquitos, roaches, flies and other things I’ve never even heard of. So of course I jumped on that deal right away.

In case you missed the sarcasm in that last paragraph… I absolutely did not have our house sprayed, but I knew I had to find some natural pest control options that actually worked before the flies few off with my sanity.

I turned to some of the natural pest control ideas I’d used in the garden before, and tried the suggestions of friends. These were the options that worked best for us:

Diatomaceous Earth

Diatomaceous Earth (or DE) is a fine powder made from the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of algae. It has a very hard shell, is high in silica and is very sharp, though it is so fine that it doesn’t do damage to human tissue or skin. In fact, I’ve taken it internally before to get rid of parasites and for its silica content (helps hair and nail growth).

As I explained before:

The strong negative charge of diatomaceous earth means that it naturally attaches to and removes from the body things like: chemicals, viruses, bacteria, heavy metals and even radiation. It’s sharp/strong structure allows it to puncture the exoskeleton of insects on a microscopic level, causing them to dehydrate and die (while humans and animals are left completely unharmed).

Diatomaceous earth (DE) is recognized as safe for human and animal use, and food grade DE is considered safe for human consumption, even during pregnancy and nursing.

I’ve found the DE is especially effective for ants, fleas, roaches and other insects that walk or jump rather than fly. The only caution is to avoid inhaling the powder as it can be irritating to the lungs. This post explains other ways we use DE.

How to use DE for pest control: When I noticed an invasion, I sprinkled DE liberally on the carpets and in areas where the ants seemed to be entering. Within a day or two, the ant problem had solved itself and I just vacuumed up the remaining powder.

Years ago, when we adopted a precious kitten who brought some not-so-precious fleas with her, our apartment became flea infested within days. Thankfully (or unfortunately), we had white carpet, so I just sprinkled DE on the cat and all the floors a couple times a day for a week and the fleas were gone.

Where to get DE: I use this brand because it is food grade so we can also use it internally. I’ve also ordered 50 pound bags inexpensively from local supply stores and co-ops before, it can just be difficult to find a food grade option.

Natural Ant Poison

Katie of KitchenStewardship.com suggested this method when I interviewed her on my podcast last year and it works quite effectively, though it does take a day or two to start working because the ants take it back to their home and it poisons them.

It is made with borax and corn syrup (the only thing I’d recommend using it for) and while you wouldn’t want to let your children play with or eat it, borax is much less toxic than pesticides. (I cover the safety of using borax in this post).

Her method is to mix equal parts Borax powder and corn syrup and spread on an index card. The ants are attracted to the sweetener, eat it and take it back to their nest and it poisons them. Again, not an immediate fix, but a good long-term one.

Natural Fly Traps

Fruit flies have been especially bad this year, and because of their size are difficult to trap. Thankfully, we haven’t had too many large flies, but the fruit flies were starting to drive me a little crazy.

Someone at the farmer’s market suggested these natural fruit fly traps and they have worked great. I keep one on the counter near the fruit and we haven’t had trouble with fruit flies since we got them.

Essential Oils Spray

The easiest way to deal with indoor pests is to keep them from coming indoors in the first place. Easier said than done, but I had good results with using a vinegar and essential oils spray on the outside of our doors where flies and ants were coming in.

I mixed 2 cups of water with 1 cup of white vinegar, 50 drops of peppermint essential oil, 20 drops of basil essential oil and 20 drops of lemon essential oil. It actually didn’t smell bad but seemed to repel the insects.

Fresh Basil Leaf

I liked this natural pest control solution because it was duel-purpose. Fresh basil leaves seem to repel flies effectively, and I love the flavor or basil (pesto anyone?). I potted some fresh basil plants and placed them near each of our doors. It seemed to cut down on the insect invasion and we now have an almost endless supply of fresh basil leaves for caprese salad and other recipes.

Has your home been invaded by pests this year? What has worked for you?

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Reader Comments

  1. The DE powder definitely works! I live in FL, aka the jungle, and the battle of the bugs never ends! I use it inside and outside of my house. It’s also great to add to grains, beans, pasta, popping corn, etc… that I store in 6 gal buckets. If any bugs or eggs are present it will kill them so that my food is not ruined. This is NOT the superheated DE powder that is used in swimming pool filters. That kind will kill you. This is natural food grade, and you can take it internally too like the Mama said. Buy it by the 50# bag. It’s worth it. Keep it sealed well. It won’t go bad, and you WILL use it up.

    • I admire and respect your love for living the way we were meant to live. I am so thankful for all your input and recipes. I look forward to making my first batch of laundry detergent tomorrow. Thank you very much

  2. We bought a carnivorous plant (cape sundew) to take care of our fruit fly infestation a couple of years ago, and it works great! I keep it by the compost bin in the kitchen, so it gets a pretty steady diet of flies. I’m considering getting a Venus fly trap for the house fly infestation we’ve had this summer.

    • What a fantastic idea! I’m smacking myself on the forehead for not thinking of it myself. My son will love getting a venus fly trap!

    • I use a trap made of apple cider vinegar and a few drops of dish washing liquid in a pint jar on the counter and it works great. Fill the jar 1/4 full with the vinegar and mix the dish liquid in. Then put a funnel in the jar. You can use a piece of paper if you don’t have a funnel you can spare. Just wrap in a funnel shape and insert in jar, but not into the liquid. Fruit flies are lured in by the smell of the vinegar, but cannot find their way back out due to the small opening at the bottom of the funnel. The dish liquid diminishes the tensile strength of the vinegar and when the fruit flies land on it they sink and drown. Refresh as needed.

  3. I put some kombucha in a pie plate out on the counter and caught lots of house flies that way. Just happened to notice the same thing you did, that the flies were attracted to it.

  4. Fruit Flies Be Gone!
    Take a small used bottle (water, soda etc.), pour in about an inch of Apple Cider Vinegar and one drop of liquid hand soap. Shake it up, then place a couple of them on the counter. The flies are attracted to the ACV, when they land on the liquid surface there is no surface tension due to the soap and they get an instant swimming lesson.
    They are notorious for breeding in the sink overflow so have one near the sink. It takes a week, up to two to get rid of them all. Watch out for old bananas and fruit, they love them.

    • I also do that. Place a bowl of ACV with dishwash liquid next to the fruit bowl, and it works wonders. Wish I could get rid of the other little red beetles that keep flying in though 🙁

  5. Katie,
    I am surprised that you recommend a commercial fruit fly trap. You can make one at home that is cheaper, safer and very effective.

    Take a glass jar (I use a pickle jar) with a wide mouth and fill it approximately 1″ deep with apple cider vinegar. Add a drop of dish washing detergent to break the surface tension of the vinegar and mix. Then put a funnel in the jar’s wide mouth. Make sure there is plenty of space between the bottom of the funnel and the vinegar. Fruit flies are attracted to anything fermenting and will be attracted by the vinegar. The funnel allows them to get to the vinegar, but they cannot find their way back out. If they land on the vinegar, the dish soap ensures they won’t float, but will fall in and drown. Refresh the mixture every couple of days. If they are not being attracted as much as you would hope, add a small piece of rotting fruit.

    The funnel allows only a very small portal into the jar and blocks the rest of the wide mouth. If you don’t have a funnel to spare, you can make one by rolling a stiff piece of paper into a funnel shape, but be sure to keep the bottom end well above the liquid.

  6. We use apple cider vinegar, water & a drop of dishwashing liquid as a fruit fly trap. Put that mixture into a shallow container. The fruit flies get attracted to the acv & the soap plus water drowns them. Works amazing well & can be refreshed easily.

  7. I have had a lot of luck trapping fruit flues using a small container fill it halfway with apple cider vinegar cover with plastic wrap and put a few holes in the top with a fork.
    The flieswill crawl into a hole can’t get out and die in the vinegar.

    • These are all great ideas. I also use a plastic wrap with holes instead of a funnel and it works perfectly.

  8. Now I just have to figure out where I can buy any of this haha- I recently moved overseas and barely know the language. I’ve been using Raid to keep the bugs at bay since it was the only thing I recognized at the store, but I don’t like using it. There’s an article on wikipedia called “list of pest-repelling plants” and it has a table of what kinds of pests don’t like which plant. Lavender is supposedly great at keeping flying bugs away!

  9. How about fire ants?

    • I have a great and very effective way to deal with fire ants.

      The most important thing is to use organic methods in your landscaping. I swear, this alone, after a few seasons pretty much banishes them from even coming into your yard.

      Until they are gone, The Dirt Doctor has a great formula to kill fire ants. They don’t just move somewhere else, they just die! I’ll give you my paired down version of his recipe that has always worked for me.

      I don’t measure amounts, so I’ll approximate as best I can.

      1 gallon of compost tea
      1 cup of molasses
      1/2 cup of orange oil

      There are many other things some people will say you have to use for it to be effective, but I’ve always had luck just using these 3 simple things

  10. Thanks for the tips. Will definitely be trying the DE on my dog and the acv on the counter.

  11. Thank you so much for all tips

  12. I would like to know what is the safest method of getting rid of those pesky fleas? I know Lavender works good but is there anymore solutions I can use?

  13. Katie, I have plenty of (white) vinegar to spare but am wondering, do I have to use the essential oils? The smell of vinegar doesn’t bother me to much and it seems like a lot of essential oils to use that I could be making other things with, so I was just wondering if they are optional.
    Thanks!

    Love your blog and everything on it, I am constantly showing my friends stuff you post. ??

    • You could use less essential oil, but you will need some to help repel the insects. You could also use the dried herbs instead of the essential oils if you have them and make a tincture.

  14. The tea and sugar water can definitely make pest control a little bit harder in your home. The only issue that occurs with most natural remedies is that they are usually only temporary fixes. However, one idea I would add to your list is placing rosemary and other repellents in and around your house. Thanks for the tips!

  15. Any advice for centipedes? I can’t sleep at night!!!!!

  16. I am trying today bottle option today I have these little things all over the kitchen it is driving my crazy, we keep all fruit in the refrigerator what gives. thanks

    Michelle

  17. You don’t need to use corn syrup! Why support a company that makes toxic foods?! Just use plain sugar. Boil the sugar and borax mix to ensure the borax is completely dissolved. Here is the recipe, and it really works! Just be sure that it stays liquid. For some reason the last batch I made became a hard, clear crystaline mass after a few days: I wondered why the ants were crawling on top of it! I just added some hot water to re-liquify it, and it worked great.

    1 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of water, and simmer in a pan on the stove until all the sugar is dissolved.

    Then I take it off the heat and stir in 1-2 tablespoons of borax.
    The borax dissolves easily this way.

    Then I put some in old butter/sour cream/ baby food/ etc. lids and tuck them in various places around the house, especially where I see the ants, making sure it’s where the kids and cats can’t get to them.

    Good places are under the stove, under the microwave, behind dressers, in window sills, etc.. I put some in a jar on it’s side and tuck it under the back deck.

    Good luck!

  18. I have had small ants since I moved into my home 2 years ago. This year they were really getting bad and I noticed little funnel looking spots in my flower bed near the side of the house. A neighbor told me that was ants.

    So, I took borax and sugar and mixed them together and put them inside the little funnels and anywhere I saw the ants marching along. After just a couple of days, I noticed I didn’t have as many ants in the house.

    So I went outside and could see that they had cleared several funnels, dug some more and were working tirelessly to clear some others. I filled them all up again and will continue to do so. It’s really working and I’m amazed. No corn syrup here. Just the white sugar I also use for the Hummingbird feeder.

    I did about 3 parts borax to 1 part sugar.

    • I’m not able to find Borax, and now that spring is here, little black ants are trying to make my home theirs! Would baking soda work?

      • Check the laundry detergent aisle at your supermarket. Borax is marketed as 20 Mule Team Borax and is a laundry booster.

        My daughter-in-law had a problem with ants in her kitchen in military housing when her children were small and she didn’t want to use anything that might be harmful to a toddler if put in the mouth. So, she sprinkled ground cinnamon along the back edge of her counter tops where the ant trails were. Ants will NOT walk through cinnamon.

  19. Great post! It’s a little weird that I’m looking forward to getting some pests so I can try these different control options. One that wasn’t here that I can personally vouch for is the old “brown paper bag” trick. If you have a problem with wasps’ nests, you can fill a large brown paper bag with other bags or light filling, tie the top so that it is roughly pear-shaped, and then hang it from the rain gutter. Wasps will see the bag, see it as roughly the same shape as a nest, assume that the territory has been colonized by other wasps, and move on. I was skeptical, but it WORKS. Good luck!

  20. Great post! I have learned a lot about pest control by reading this! I really liked how you said that, ” The easiest way to deal with indoor pests is to keep them from coming indoors in the first place. Easier said than done, but I had good results with using a vinegar and essential oils spray on the outside of our doors where flies and ants were coming in.” I have always struggled with keeping flies out so hopefully using these tips can help me win the battle against the flies.

  21. Hello! I am looking for suggestions to help get rid of house centipedes! I’m DEATHLY afraid of them and would rather move than live with them! I have two small children and pets. I am looking for healthy, non toxic ways that work. Has anyone been in this boat? Thank you!

  22. Thanks for all the amazing tips, loved the whole article especially the Natural Pest control options you have shared.

  23. Can I use Borax during pregnancy

  24. I have never heard of using basil leaves before as a natural bug repellent. That would be a great idea for my kitchen. I am excited to try this, because I think it will make my house smell really good.

  25. We have very large ‘house spiders’ (shudder!), and windows here don’t have any screens (we live in the UK). Any thoughts on keeping the spiders out of the house. They’re fine in the garden, but the bodies of these are about the size of a nickel and the legs an inch and a half out on either side. I really really don’t like them!

  26. The article above on Diatomaceous Earth is great for garden pest control & indoor pest control. However, the writer doesn’t distinguish the difference in the two different brands enough. Just plain Diatomaceous Earth is to be used outdoors only! If you want to use it indoors for pest control make sure you buy Diatomaceous Earth Food Grade. I can’t stress this enough to only use the FOOD GRADE Diatomaceous Earth indoors, on your pets, or ingesting. Just plain Diatomaceous Earth is a pesticide for Outdoor Use Only. The article above is a great informative article about the product. I was just worried someone would not notice to buy only Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth for home use. You can find Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth on Amazon.

  27. Where we live, they spray the apartments every 8 weeks with insecticides! I am horrified of this. We have an almost 1 year old and that’s who I worry most about. Do you have any suggestions as how to counteract this and make or place as safe as we can considering the circumstances? (We are stuck in a lease for 13 months)

    • That’s tough. I would ask them not to spray and let them know I’m chemically sensitive and could have an allergic reaction to the insecticides.

  28. Do you know any natural remedies to kill Ticks in the yard?

  29. Any remedies for keeping spiders out of the house?? Killed 8 in the past few days. They’re brown recluse too. I’ve been bitten already, and I’ve tried the essential oil thing, but haven’t had any luck. I’m also arachnophobic on top of being bitten and trying to sleep after even seeing one is impossible. I’d rather move than deal with these things. Especially since I have three children, I don’t want to buy the normal pesticides but I don’t know what else to do to keep these out of the house!! I’ve heard that the diatomaceous earth kills them, and it helped outside in my husbands shed, we bought some for horses edible version at the local tractor supply I’m assuming this is the edible safe version for humans too??? I’m not sure but it said it was for horses to eat to keep gnats from bothering them. Do you think this would be safe to use inside?

  30. Thanks for the tips. Will definitely be trying the DE on my dog and the acv on the counter,Do you know any natural remedies to kill Ticks in the yard?

  31. What works with roaches, big & small breeds?