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 (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. Another great option is this natural blend to attract and kill the common fly.
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?
Discussion (46 Comments)
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Any advice for centipedes? I can’t sleep at night!!!!!
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!
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.
Love your blog and everything on it, I am constantly showing my friends stuff you post. ??
Katie - Wellness Mama
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.
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?
Thank you so much for all tips