October 21, 2016
Even if you think you live alone, whether you make your home in an apartment, condo, or mansion—you have roommates.
The average human lives alongside 100 different species of insects. For the most part, these creatures will leave you alone—you’ll never even notice them. But what happens when a colony of ants move in, or a cockroach takes up residence under your fridge?
Here’s what you need to know about getting rid of 11 common household pests, from ants to weevils. These natural remedies and DIY tricks make it easy to serve them an eviction notice.
One ant—not such a big deal. The hundreds of relatives back at the hive that it’s relaying information to? Definitely a big deal. Colonies behave like “superorganisms,” thinking with one mind and acting as a unified front.
Once you see the first ant, act quickly to stave off a full-on invasion. First, clean up any food they might be after: crumbs, fruit, sticky countertops, or even other insects might attract them. Next, you’ll want to locate their entry point. Seal any cracks or crevices with caulk, then sprinkle ground cinnamon or dab cinnamon essential oil anywhere you see ants.
Got an outdoor ant problem? Spray the little buggers with a solution of garlic and water or hot chili oil—the strong odors will drive them away.
The tiny green insects look cute, but they can stunt the growth of your garden quickly. Leaves will turn yellow and wilt; entire plants will die. For quick control, hose down the garden twice a day to wash the aphids away. Then, buy some ladybugs—they’re the aphids’ natural predator, and will keep the population under control over the long term.
Bed bugs: the enemy of college students everywhere. Anywhere a lot of people reside, you’re bound to find them. Apartment buildings, hotels, and dorms are all susceptible. Though they’re hard to spot with the naked eye, bed bugs do leave a few calling cards. If you wake up feeling itchy or notice tiny brown spots on your bedding, you might have an infestation.
Start by washing all of your bedding, blankets, and clothes in hot water and drying them on the highest setting to kill any insects. Vacuum the whole room, scrub your mattress clean with a stiff brush, and get rid of any furniture you can’t sterilize.
Since these creepy-crawlies are nocturnal, you’re most likely to spot one skitter across the floor in the dead of night—a very unnerving sight. They’re notoriously difficult to kill, so you may want to call an exterminator. But first, try one of these DIY remedies.
Cockroaches need water to survive, so stop up any leaks and use H2O as a trap. Fill mason jars with water and set them against the wall. The roaches will be able to crawl up the wall to get in, but drown as soon as they get a drink. You can also try making your own roach bait out of boric acid, flour, and sugar. Combine equal parts of all three ingredients, then sprinkle it anywhere you’ve seen the bugs: under the stove, under the fridge, and inside cabinets. Just make sure to keep it out of reach of curious kids or pets.
Uh oh. The dog won’t stop scratching, and that can only mean one thing: fleas. Once you’ve gotten the vet’s advice for treating your pet, make sure to remove any fleas in or around your home. Inside the house, wash all your pet’s bedding and toys in hot water. Don’t forget the yard, either—that’s often where the fleas come from. Enlist the help of more live nematodes, or sprinkle diatomaceous earth, the fossilized remains of aquatic algae, all over to dry up any outdoor bugs.
Flour beetles feed on (you guessed it) flour and cereals, but can’t digest whole grains. They’ll also sometimes attack pet food. Unlike weevils, however, flour beetles cause their food to change color and take on a sickening smell. It’ll be pretty clear if you have a problem.
Store food in airtight metal or glass containers, and keep your shelves spic-and-span to deter bugs. If you do spot one, throw away any contaminated food and thoroughly clean the entire area.
Perhaps the most annoying of all insects, these tiny flies seem to appear as soon as that first banana turns brown. The constant buzzing can be insufferable, and that’s not the only problem. Since fruit flies can transmit pathogens like E. coli to fresh foods, there’s a very real chance of foodborne illness.
Stop them fast with a trap. Pick up a store-bought option, or make your own from a little apple cider vinegar and dish soap. When the bugs zoom into the glass in search of the sweet smell, they’ll fall into the liquid and drown.
It’s a parent’s nightmare: the call from the school nurse asking you to come get your little angel because their scalp is teeming with nits. It’s just plain icky, and most over-the-counter treatments take hours. The natural route is much easier—just apply a mixture of coconut oil, anise oil, and ylang ylang oil to the scalp for 15 minutes, every five days for the first fifteen days. Studies show it’s just as effective as medicated shampoo.
Meal moths will go after everything from flour to spices to candy—pretty much all dry goods are fair game. As soon as you see a moth, it’s best to throw away any food that may have been contaminated. Wash the pantry out with soapy water to be sure they won’t come back for any leftovers.
Though you’re less likely to spot them, termites can cause massive amounts of damage—about $5 billion dollars every year. If you see a termite, take immediate action to keep it from harming your home. Spread orange or neem oil near the infestation to kill the bugs on contact, or try introducing live nematodes—a small species of worm that feeds on termites—to your backyard.
If you eat grains, you’ve most likely already eaten weevils—or at least their eggs. These bugs that infest rice, grains, and flours can go undetected for months. You won’t even realize you have a problem until you open the bag of oats to discover it’s moving.
All it takes is one mama weevil. Once she gets into the food (often at a manufacturing or processing plant), she starts laying miniscule eggs inside kernels. One weevil can lay up to 400 eggs (!), which then take anywhere between one and seven months to hatch, depending on the time of year. In other words, the bulgur wheat you bought last April that looks completely fine could very well contain hundreds of eggs—it’s impossible to tell.
Thankfully, infestations are largely preventable. When you buy new grains, freeze them for a few days, or even store them in the freezer permanently. The extreme cold kills the eggs, and you won’t get sick from eating them.
Take care to store any flour, rice, or grains in sealed metal or glass containers—weevils can chew through plastic or cardboard. Since most bugs don’t like bay leaves, try adding a few to the container as well. Cleaning the pantry regularly will also keep weevils away.
Here’s to a home free of creepy crawlies!
Illustration by: Foley W.
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