Pesticides are designed to kill. Designed to kill pests, yes — but anything that’s made to destroy living organisms is, well, poison. If you want a natural, green home, you probably don’t want anything like that hanging around your children, your pets, or your food or clothing. But what to do about pest control? The best bet is to take preventative measures to keep pests away in the first place. But if that fails, some extermination may be necessary. With either method, there are safe and effective natural pest control solutions.
Indoor Pest Prevention
If you have indoor pest problems it means two things: you have something in your house pests want, and they found a way inside to get it. Chances are what the pests are after is food and water, and you can make your home a lot less attractive to them by:
- Keeping food (especially sugary food) in well-sealed containers
- Keeping sinks and counters clean
- Checking for leaky pipes and standing water that bugs can drink or breed in
- Pruning any decaying leaves and limbs off of houseplants
Removing pests’ incentive to enter your house is a good first step, but eliminating their means will minimize the risk of infestation even further (not to mention give you the peace of mind that all unwanted critters are outdoors when you lay down to go to sleep). Pest-proof the outside of your house by:
- Walking around the outside and sealing any cracks you find with caulk
- Replacing torn window screens and weather stripping
- Keeping tree and shrub branches trimmed and away from the house
- Storing trash in closed containers
Indoor Pest Control
Even if you take preventative measures, pests can still end up in your house. This is when a quick, severe solution like using pesticides can be the most tempting — and dangerous.
Human exposure to pesticides can result in health problems ranging from skin irritation to neurological birth defects depending on the type of pesticide and severity of exposure. Indoor pesticide use often requires quarantining, covering and washing everything in the treated area. Before you head down that road, consider trying:
- Natural repellents
If pesticides are absolutely necessary for your infestation, try to choose the lowest risk kind for your specific pest. Low-risk pesticides will have a “signal word” of CAUTION — or possibly no signal word at all — instead of WARNING (more harmful) or DANGER (most harmful). Depending on your pest, there may be a natural, plant-derived pesticide for it, which would be the safest of all.
Outdoor Pest Prevention
Spraying pesticides outdoors, while less immediately harmful to you and your family, still poses problems because most of the animals in your yard do more good than harm. Dragonflies, birds and bats eat huge quantities of mosquitoes and other pests. Butterflies and honeybees pollinate the plants in your garden. Spiders eat aphids and other garden pests. Earthworms compost organic matter in your soil, increasing its fertility. When you spray pesticides, you are bringing biological warfare to more allies than enemies.
Ideally, your yard should function as a self-sustaining ecosystem with predators keeping pests in check. You can facilitate this by providing basic requirements for pest predators so they’ll continue their natural pest control services. Consider providing things like:
- A water source (but avoid large bodies of standing water, which attract mosquitoes)
- Shelter (birdhouses, native plants, fallen logs, etc.)
- Food (native plants, birdfeeders)
Outdoor Pest Control
Of course, there’s no guarantee that your yard and garden will have the perfect balance of species, and you may still need to do some pest control if your garden is under siege. First off, you need to identify what kind of pests you’re dealing with. Mammals can often be dealt with using fences, traps or motion sensors attached to lights or sprinklers. For insects, it can be a little trickier.
There is no shortage of recipes online for natural, homemade pest control concoctions for use in and around your garden. Most of these natural pesticides are very similar, containing something with a strong smell (like fish or garlic) to repel pests, something to burn them (chilies or salt), cooking oil to suffocate them and soap to help it stick to the plants they’re seeking. A tablespoon of each ingredient is mixed together and then diluted with about six cups of water. Load it in a spray bottle and this remedy can be used to spot treat plants or as a perimeter to keep troublesome insect pests away from the area.
Always Think Prevention
When it comes to pest control, think prevention first. If that fails to keep unwanted intruders away, always try to use natural pest control solutions first. Research your specific pest, and chances are you’ll find some safe, chemical-free options. If not, select the least toxic repellent or pesticide possible for your specific pest (“CAUTION” label, not “DANGER”). Your skin, family, pets, plants, neighbors, and planet will all thank you.