Cohabitating with pests is not ideal, but a few preventive steps can keep them at bay. For instance, a clean home is less attractive and hospitable to pests. Store food in containers with tight lids and sweep and vacuum regularly. Keep trashcans and dumpsters closed, and eliminate clutter.
Moreover, customers can try DIY methods like sticky traps to nab winged invaders. Or, they can subscribe to DoMyOwn Pest Box and receive professional-grade pesticide treatments tailored for their region.
Keep Your Yard Clean
One of the best things you can do to prevent pests is to keep your yard clean. Pests love easy targets, and a well-kept garden is a perfect target. Sweep your walkways, weed lawn areas, and remove any rotting or decomposing material regularly. Make sure trash cans are tightly closed and compost bins are securely sealed, too. If rodents are a problem, block their access to bird feeders and place rat traps around the garden area.
The soil in your garden beds is another critical factor. Avoid overworking or compacting the soil, which reduces its ability to hold moisture and nutrients. This can lead to shallow root systems and stress that can make a plant vulnerable to pest attacks.
Healthy plants are better able to defend themselves against insects, disease, and other threats. When weeds appear, pull them as soon as you see them rather than waiting for them to crowd out your vegetables and flowers. Weeds provide pests with a great breeding ground and can compete with your plants for water and nutrients, so they’re a magnet for many unwanted visitors.
If you’re prone to certain pest problems, try to choose the right varieties of plants for your garden. For instance, if you have trouble with Japanese beetles, try to grow squash and pumpkins that are resistant, like the ‘Butternut’ and ‘Royal Acorn’ varieties. You can also look for potato varieties that are bred to resist Colorado potato beetles, such as the ‘King Harry’ variety.
Clean up and dispose of old, dead or diseased plants, as well as any spoiled produce that you find in your garden. This denies pests an easy meal and prevents them from spreading their damage to other healthy plants. Eliminating debris and keeping your growing spaces clean also helps to prevent fungus diseases such as powdery mildew that can attack vines, tomatoes, and other fruit trees.
Seal Up Entry Points
One of the best ways to avoid pests is to make your home less attractive by removing bait. Piles of leaves or stacked firewood, trash cans without lids and pet water left out all provide food, shelter and moisture to mice and other pests looking for an easy entry point into your house. Clear away these hazards and clean up messes as soon as they happen to keep pests at bay.
A clean home is also a pest-free home. Sweeping rids the floor of crumbs and other debris that pests love to munch on, and mopping eliminates sticky residues from which cockroaches feed. If you have outdoor toys, furniture or other items, bring them in for a thorough cleaning every now and then to prevent pests from crawling inside.
Keeping food in sealed containers is also a great way to avoid pests. Roaches, flies and ants can smell ripe bananas, apples and other foods in the open air from quite a distance. Invest in some odor-blocking, airtight food storage like plastic bags, Mason jars or Tupperware to stop these pests before they start coming into your kitchen.
Rodents and other pests can get into your home through cracks in the foundation, gaps around doors and windows, and holes in the roof, chimney, siding and utility lines. Perform regular interior and exterior inspections to identify these potential entry points, and repair them right away. For example, replace the weather stripping around your doors, caulk holes and patch cracks to block rodents from entering. For more specialized repairs, consult with a professional.
Keep Your Home Clean
The more clean your house is, the less attractive it will be to pests. Make sweeping, mopping and vacuuming part of your weekly routine to ensure that your home is free from potential food sources and breeding sites. Keeping a regular cleaning schedule will also prevent pests from nesting in dark or out-of-the-way areas, such as the attic or crawlspace.
Clutter and unused items like wood piles, old automobiles and trash cans provide hiding places for pests to breed and live, so eliminate them if you want to keep your home pest-free. Make sure that your garbage cans have tight-fitting lids and that you empty them frequently. Wash dishes promptly and drain dirty dish water daily to remove food scraps that would attract flies, ants, beetles and other pests. Store fruits and vegetables in sealed containers and use a pantry with lids that close securely.
Dirty, cluttered spaces like basements and attics are breeding grounds for pests such as rodents and cockroaches, so be sure to declutter these spaces regularly. Consider using a dehumidifier to decrease moisture in these areas.
Many pests need only the tiniest gap to enter your home, so examine all windows, doors and walls for cracks and crevices that can be filled with caulk or steel wool. Also look for entry points around utility pipes, ductwork, and the roof.
White vinegar is an inexpensive and safe household item that can deter a wide range of pests, including ants, flies, roaches, aphids, and mosquitoes. It works by emitting a strong scent that repels pests and kills them upon contact. It is best used when applied directly to these pests and can be added to your daily garden spray as well.
Plant Good Insect Repellents
There are many plants that repel bugs naturally and can be used in garden settings or placed in pots on your patio. Basil, mint, rosemary, lavender, thyme and marigolds are good examples of plant-based insect repellents. These herbs and flowers also release fragrances that mask human odors and make you less attractive to insects.
Petunias are brightly colored annual flowers that repel asparagus beetles, tomato hornworms and other pests while adding color to your yard. They’re easy to grow and a good choice for garden settings or containers on your patio.
Marigolds contain the natural pesticide pyrethrum, which repels mosquitoes, beetles and other pests. They’re easy to grow and come in a variety of colors, making them a popular summer flower. Chrysanthemums, or mums, also repel beetles and other pests. These flowers release a neurotoxin that disrupts the nervous system of the insect it affects.
Nepetalactone, a chemical in catnip, repels mosquitoes and other pests that are drawn to sweet fruits and vegetables. Planting it in your vegetable garden can deter asparagus beetles, aphids and carrot rust flies, as well as other pests.
Thuja, or cedar, trees have been touted as effective indoor plants that repel mosquitoes, ants, ticks and other pests. You can harvest the essential oils from the leaves, berries and bark of these hardy cedars to use in homemade insect repellent sprays.
Keep in mind that pests are attracted to moisture, so you can also help keep pests away by reducing humidity in your home. Using a dehumidifier in your basement and sealing crawlspaces can go a long way towards keeping pests at bay. Finally, when it comes to applying bug repellents, be sure to follow the label’s instructions for application and safety. Repeated applications of repellents containing DEET can cause serious health problems and may even be dangerous for children.
Learn About Pests
Pests can cause significant damage to crops, landscapes and wildlands and can impact human health. A pest can be a plant (weed), vertebrate (bird, rodent or mammal), invertebrate (insect, tick or mite) or pathogens (bacteria, viruses or fungus that cause disease).
To make informed decisions about whether to control a particular pest, it is important to learn more about the characteristics, habits, habitats, threats and damage caused by that pest. It is also helpful to understand the life cycle of the pest so that management tactics can be timed with the most susceptible stages of the organism.
A number of useful websites provide information about pests and their control. For example, The Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use website provides guidelines about the correct and safe application of rodenticides outdoors.
Many pests are responsible for the transmission of diseases that threaten millions of people around the world. For example, malaria is transmitted by mosquitoes, plague by fleas, typhus by blood-sucking bugs and Chagas’ disease by the tsetse fly. The emerald ash borer has killed hundreds of millions of ash trees in North America and was likely transported here on wood packing materials from eastern Asia.
A combination of cultural and physical controls can help reduce the risk of pest infestations. These include sweeping and mopping kitchen floors regularly, making sure garbage cans are sealed and removed from the house as quickly as possible and using a good quality, low toxicity bait or trap when needed to control rodents. Pesticides should be used as sparingly as possible and always with great care to ensure that they do not pose a danger to pets, children or other plants.