By Richard Fagerlund
[Fagerlund has been in the pest control industry for over 40 years and realized a long time ago that pesticides are more dangerous than pests.]
The pesticide industry defends the use of pesticides because pests in the United States kill between 100 and 300 people annually. They claim people need to be protected from these hideous pests. There are over 325,000 certified commercial pest control applicators in the United States using pesticides. It is the National Academy of Science’s estimate that pesticide poisoning causes over 10,000 cancer deaths every year and creates over 20,000 cancer cases. These figures don’t include neurological damage, heart disease, lung damage, birth defects, miscarriages and other chronic exposure deaths.
A nationwide report has found that pesticide and herbicide use in or near U.S. schools have sickened more than 2,500 children and school employees over a five-year period. According to a January 2001 article in Epidemiology, one of the largest studies of pesticides has found that pesticide use around the home can more than double the chance of a child developing neuroblastoma, which is a condition that accounts for about 10% of all childhood tumors. A similar study in Cancer (2000) has shown that children who have been exposed to household insecticides and professional extermination methods within the home are three to seven times more likely to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma compared to children who have not been exposed to pesticides.
I believe it is safe to say that pesticides are far more dangerous than most pests and we have to continue to develop alternative ways of dealing with them. Never let an exterminator spray pesticides in your home, school or business, as it is never necessary. There are many non-toxic alternatives that are much safer for you and your family.
Chances are that no matter what you do, you will see an occasional insect or spider or something else. There are several things you can do to minimize the chances of seeing these intruders. First, proper sanitation is important. Keep debris on your property down to a minimum. This includes dead leaves, mulch, wood, garbage, manure, pet feces, weeds, boxes, grass clippings, and anything else that isn’t necessary and that bugs would find attractive. Also, install door sweeps on your outside doors if they do not close tightly. If you can see light under the doors, insects can crawl in. Raise any garbage containers off the ground and place them on concrete pads, bricks or pallets. Routinely clean any gutters you may have. Inspect the outside of your house and seal or caulk any cracks in the foundation or voids abound pipes or any other areas which will give bugs access to your house. Of course, make sure all of your screens are in good repair. Do not let any branches from nearby trees or shrubs touch your roof. Prune them back if necessary. If you live in an area where cockroaches are prevalent, make sure all of your drains are closed at night. If you don’t have a drain cover, you can put a Ziploc bag filled with water on the drain to keep the roaches from coming up and into the house. Cockroaches are most active from 10 pm to 2 am.
Probably the most common household pests are ants. There are several things you can do to prevent ants from entering your home. The first step is exclusion. Go around the outside of your home and inspect it very carefully from an ant’s point of view. Ants can sense cool air and aromatic odors emanating from your home and will try to gain access. Check around the house at ground level and look for cracks in the foundation, voids around pipes, areas under stucco, weep holes in bricks and similar areas that ants can use to gain entrance. All these areas need to be sealed, caulked, screened or otherwise altered to prevent ants from using them to get into your home. Check around your windows and doors to make sure they close tightly. If the doors aren’t tight, you may have to install door sweeps on them. Check your bushes, shrubs and trees to make sure you don’t have any branches touching the roof. Don’t stack firewood, bricks or anything else next to your house or ants and other insects may find a good place to nest. If you have bushes or shrubs next to your house, periodically inspect them for aphids, scales and similar bugs, as ants are attracted to the honeydew they produce. The ants will get on the plants and eventually find their way into your home. Don’t put flagstone or flat boards on the ground too close to your home or some species of ants will nest under them.
On the other hand, mound-making ants will generally stay outside. They rarely leave their complicated and efficient home life in the mound to enter homes. If you don’t want the ants making mounds in your yard, you can flood the nests with club soda or with white vinegar or food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE). DE is not an insecticide in chemical form; it is a desiccant that scratches the insect’s body causing it to dehydrate. If you use the DE, mix 4 tablespoons per gallon of water. You can also use 1 gallon of orange juice diluted with 2 gallons of water and a dash of soap. If you prefer, you can also spread dry instant grits on the mound. The ants will eat it and not be able to digest it and die.
You can repel ants with a wide variety of products, including cinnamon, baking soda, Comet cleanser, cedar oil, medicated baby powder, Tide, talcum powder, chalk, coffee grounds, borax, garlic, broken egg shells, bone meal, black or red pepper, peppermint, paprika, chili powder and mint leaves.
If you have ants going into your hummingbird feeder, you can put duct tape, sticky side out, on the wire holding the feeder, to deter them.
The best way to control them when they get in your home is with baits. Different species have different food preferences. Some species will take a wide variety of baits, while others are more fussy.
You can use a bait containing half baking soda and half powdered sugar and place it where you see foraging ants. You can also use instant grits, which they can’t digest, or use 2 packets of Equal or NutraSweet, which contains aspartame, wherever you see the ants.
If the ants have a preferred food in your home, such as applesauce, peanut butter, canned cat food, Karo Syrup, jelly or similar products, you can mix in small amounts of boric acid or borax or aspartame. Mix about 2% of any of these products in the food. Make sure you keep these baits away from children and pets. If the ants are dying near the baits, you are making it too strong and need to make a fresh batch with less boric acid or borax.
Here is a recipe for effective, homemade ant baits/traps that use borax. It attracts ants looking for either moisture or food. You will need: 3 c. water, 1 c. sugar, 1 tsp. borax or 2 tsp. food-grade DE or aspartame, 6 small screw-top jars with lids, such as jelly jars covered with masking tape, which will enable the ants to climb up the side. Mix the sugar, water and borax (or food-grade DE or aspartame) in a bowl. Loosely half-fill the jars with cotton balls or pieces of sponge or wadded paper towels. Pour up to ½ cup of the sugary mixture over the cotton balls, saturating them. Make several small holes in the lid. Screw the lids on the jars tightly. If you smoke, always wear plastic gloves when making ant baits or they will sense the tobacco smoke on the baits and not go to it. Ants do not like cigarette or cigar smoke.
If you are finding ants in a classroom or office building and baits aren’t practical, then you can spray all of the foraging ants with Greenbug for Indoors, which is a cedar product and will kill the ants it hits and repel others. Greenbug is available online at www.greenbugallnatural.com.
I will help anyone who has pests solve the problem without using toxic chemicals. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-385-2820.