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Pest-laid plans: natural pest solutions for your home

Oct 21st, 2011
Pest-laid plans: natural pest solutions for your home
Illustration by Antonia Pesenti
Oct 21st, 2011

When you find creepy-crawlies invading your home, these simple solutions from Shannon Lush will give bugs and critters a powerful disincentive.

At some point we might find ourselves playing host to uninvited creepy-crawlies. When that happens, the easiest way to let pests know that they're not welcome is to make your home inhospitable to them.

Deprivation therapy

In order to get rid of pests, you need to understand their habits. Insects need food, water, warmth and a nice-smelling environment. (What they consider nice is different to our definition.) When you take away these necessities, they'll go elsewhere in search of them.

One of the easiest things to take away is water. Always make sure kettles are empty and plug up the sink before you go to bed. Never leave any standing water where it's easily accessible. Tap washers should be in good condition, as a single drop of water is enough to quench the thirst of a whole family of cockroaches. To limit their feeding resources, clean up crumbs and put away other food sources securely. Make sure the fridge has plenty of space between it and the wall so you don't create a haven for them.

Crunch time

Many people share my discomfort about cockroaches but in many parts of Australia it's impossible to get away from them. It's difficult to kill them using low-toxic methods but you can inhibit cockroaches from coming into your home with the following barrier treatment. Mix two cups of non-iodised cooking salt and two teaspoons of lavender oil in a two-litre plastic soft-drink bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with water and screw a spray top onto it. Spray this around doors, windows, drains, air vents and anywhere else a cockroach can enter.

Cockroaches don't like the smell of lavender. In addition, the salt will stick to the underside of their carapaces, causing them to dehydrate and die without dropping their egg casings.

Ant antics

Little black and brown ants can be serious pests and are difficult to deter, but you can poison them using borax. The trick is to make it irresistible by mixing it with either parmesan cheese or icing sugar.

To find out which of these your ants are most attracted to, put a small pile of grated cheese and a separate pile of icing sugar in a spot where you usually see the ants. After a couple of hours, see which has the largest ring of ants around it. Mix their preferred food with an equal quantity of powdered borax and leave this out on a tray. When ants eat the mixture, it will also stick to their bodies, so they'll take it home and kill the rest of the nest. Borax is mildly toxic, so place the tray out of reach of pets and children.

To get rid of ants in the garden, follow the ant trail back to the nest and pour boiling water down it.

Snail mail

To prevent snails and slugs eating your mail, wipe a little Vaseline around the top edge and the opening of your letterbox. The crawly critters can't get traction and will simply slide off. If you add a couple of drops of lemon oil to the mix, it will keep spiders out as well, and you needn't worry about putting your hand on something scary in the dark.

From beer to eternity

To catch and kill slugs and snails in the garden, strip out the flesh from half an orange, leaving a cup-shaped rind that you simply fill with beer. Slugs and snails are highly attracted to beer — they will climb up the outside of the orange, then fall in and drown.

Shannon's pest-control solutions

Most pests run away from smells they don't like. In most cases, a light spray with their most disliked pong is enough to keep them away. Here are some tried-and-true formulas I've created and use to deter the most common household pests.

Fleas, bees and wasps
Place six teaspoons of dried common mint (not peppermint tea) in a teapot full of boiling water. Leave to steep for about 15 minutes and strain into a spray bottle. Spray lightly over your pet's bedding to keep fleas at bay. After wasp nests or beehives have been removed, spray the area with this mint tea to prevent the insects from returning and building a new home.

Weevils (pantry moths)
Place 12 dried bay leaves in one cup of boiling water. Leave to steep for about 15 minutes and strain into a spray bottle. Use this spray to clean down the shelves in your pantry. Afterwards, placing one dried bay leaf every 60cm along the pantry shelves will break the weevils' breeding cycle and eradicate the problem over time.

Flies and mosquitoes
Mix one teaspoon of lavender oil with one litre of water in a spray bottle. Lightly spray the solution onto a cloth and wipe the cloth over all doorjambs and window frames to keep flies and mosquitoes out of the house. This canalso be used as a personal insecticide — just spray it lightly over the skin.

Slugs, snails, slaters, centipedes, millipedes and mice
Mix one teaspoon of Vicks VapoRub with one litre of boiling water in a spray bottle. Lightly spray around doors, windows and drains to keep all these critters out.

Wardrobe moths
Simply place a small bowl of cedar chips in your wardrobe to keep moths away.

If silverfish are present in your carpet, place one whole clove at 1m intervals along the skirting boards. If they are in your wardrobe, a couple of cloves on each shelf will do the trick.

Stuff the head of a soft kitchen broom down the leg of a pair of pantihose and tie the excess leg material around the broom handle. Wipe just two drops of lemon oil across the head of the broom and start sweeping away those cobwebs. This treatment lasts for several months; you'll be able to tell when the effects of the lemon oil are wearing off because you'll notice new cobwebs appearing around the house.

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our Eco-living section.



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