Between lice coming home with your kids from school, bugs coming in from the cold and the recent rise of bed bug outbreaks in the United States, there are a myriad of pests to be on the lookout for. But harmful pesticides aren't good for us, for the environment, our children or our pets. Fortunately, you can rid your home of these critters safely and naturally with some pretty easy home pest control methods.
Roaches and ants
Let's face it, roaches are just gross. There's not much worse than popping into your kitchen for a late night snack and flipping on the lights only to see a creepy monster hanging out by your sink. Yuck. The good news: you may lose a little weight since you lost your appetite. The bad news: roaches have come in from the cold and are hanging out in your kitchen and bathrooms.
Once you spot roaches, do a few things to keep them from having a party in your house. Seal up all your food, like sugar and flour, in tight containers. Keep your countertops clear of crumbs and fix any leaky faucets: roaches survive on your food and water. This also helps for ants.
Boric acid, while natural, is toxic to kids and pets. So, while you can use it and be environmentally friendly, be sure to place it up high away from kids and pets (which, hey, just so happens to be where roaches like to hang out, up high). The tops of your kitchen cabinets and appliances are a great place to set the boric acid out. The roaches and ants will carry it back to their nests and kill all their buddies, too. You can also craft DIY boric acid ant traps.
Catnip and other deterrents
If you have cats, they will absolutely love you for this all-natural roach treatment: catnip. While it's non-toxic for kids or pets, catnip scares the willies out of roaches. They'll avoid it and your cats will love you, too. Ants are bothered by mint, cloves and cucumbers.
Soap and water spray
Spraying roaches with soap and water will kill them. It sounds crazy, but the bugs breathe through their exoskeletons, so keeping a bottle filled with soapy water and spraying the buggers when you spot them does the trick. The same goes for ants!
You can also spray around the entrances and exterior of your home with DIY natural pesticide to prevent bugs from coming into your home.
Lice spread easily in schools and is most often treated by applying shampoos containing toxic pesticides inlcuding permethrin, pyrethrum, and Lindane. However, there are toxin-free treatments like Licefreee! that uses Sodium Chloride USP to kill lice. You can also craft homemade lice remedies.
The toxins in lice treatments like Nix are classified as carcinogens (albeit with low cancer risk in humans). It has also been cited as causing breathing problems in some individuals. Using a non-toxic homemade remedy may be wise especially for children with a history of allergies, asthma or other breathing issues.
DIY Lice Treatment
2 ounces vegetable oil
20 drops tea tree oil
10 drops essential oils of rosemary, lavender and lemon
Apply to inner arm for about an hour to test for allergic reaction. If none is found, rub oils into scalp and leave on for an hour, covering with a towl. Comb out lice with a lice comb and dry with a hair dryer for 10-15 minutes.
Repeat in a week to 10 days.
While lice have a negative stigma for being found on dirty children with irresponsible parents, lice actually live on clean scalps and can be transmitted from and to just about anyone. They're only more prevalent in schools because of proximity.
Just a couple of decades ago, the phrase, "Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite," seemed obsolete and quaint. Yet if we were to tell our children this today, it is not far from the truth. The bed bug outbreak in the United States is an epidemic. After decades of minimal bed bug infestations, the bugs have come back with a vengeance, particularly along the East Coast and in eastern Midwest states, according to ABC News.
Bed bug infestations are a scary prospect and often have a negative stigma attached. It's important to find out quickly whether your fears of bed bug infestation have merit. Bites and bug debris are early indicators.
"If a person thinks they are being bitten at night, they should look for the bugs or spots of blood/fecal matter around the edge of the mattress," says L. Paul Guillebeau, the Extension IPM/Pesticide Coordinator of the University of Georgia College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Entomology Department.
"Bites are often the first indication, but many people are not sensitive to the bites and do not have itching or red bumps," Guillebeau said.
If you don't have a reaction to bed bug bites, you may notice other indicators: bug debris and the bugs themselves. Bed bugs are, like any parasite, creatures that stay close to what they feed on. Like mosquitos, bed bugs feed on blood. Human proximity is a good indicator of where the bed bugs will be in a home.
"Bed bugs stay near the food," Guillebeau said. "They will be on the bed, bed frame, or near the bed. They may be present in cracks in the head-board or other furniture near the bed. They may also infest sofas and other furniture, particularly if people sleep there."
How to treat bed bugs
The most eco-friendly bed bug solution available is heat treatment. While it's possible to rent a professional heat chamber from an extermination company, contacting a bed bug removal professional to treat an infestation is recommended.
Heat treatment brings the overall temperature of the affected area up to 118 degrees Farenheit for at least 90 minutes. The heat kills any bugs that have infested your home, as well as their eggs.
Bag up all of your clothing before you begin. You'll want to treat all cloth furniture, like mattresses and couches, by passing the heat steamer close to all surfaces. Once the heat treatment is complete, you should vacuum all bed bug debris and immediately throw out the vacuum bag or container contents. Wash all of your clothing in hot water and dry on high heat.
Once you have completed the heat treatment, you should have an exterminator or bed bug treatment specialist re-inspect your home. You'll need to make sure that bed bugs are no longer present to prevent re-infestation. Even if just a few eggs or bed bugs remain, the bed bug infestation can spread again.
Taking the extra time to treat bug infestations naturally and safely can benefit you, your family and the environment. Use these tips to keep toxins out of your home, while getting rid of the buggy invaders.
Keep in touch with Kristi on Twitter @VeggieConverter
Image: Evil Erin