Whether you are plagued by insects, spiders or mice, it's easy to get rid of household pests by following some simple rules.
Bugs, mice and other
annoying critters were on this earth long before we were, and it’s likely they
will be here long after we are gone.
However, that doesn’t mean we have to live with them in our homes. It’s easy to get rid of household pests,
with a little preparation and a lot of perseverance.
First, let’s define our terms. A household pest can be a bug, animal, or anything that’s living
in your home that either isn’t paying rent, or hasn’t been invited. Some of the more common household pests
include ants, spiders and mice.
Depending on where you live, there are regional pests. For example, in Florida they have Palmetto
bugs the size of small jeeps. And in
Texas they often have surprise encounters with fire ants. Regional pests are best conquered with
specialized chemicals and equipment from local exterminators. But the following pests, which can be found
around the country, offer a few more options for extermination:
There are almost as many kinds of ants in the world as there
are people. Sweet ants or grease ants
are small and like to hang out in the kitchen.
Slab ants are winged, and usually live under houses with concrete
foundations. Carpenter ants can be up
to an inch long, and chew up rotting wood to make their homes. You can pick up poison traps at your local
home improvement store to get rid of the smaller species. They crawl in, get covered in poison, crawl
back home and spread the poison all over the place. It can take a week or two, but they’ll be gone.
Carpenter ants, however, require a professional exterminator
to eradicate. We once had a rotting
tree removed in order to exterminate a nest of carpenter ants, only to have
them move inside our house. Have the
exterminator spray all likely spots, including rotting trees, wood piles, and
crawl spaces. Be prepared to see dead
and dying carpenter ants around your house for the next few weeks, as they
carry the poison back and forth to their nest.
Ants are opportunistic little guys. That means if you don’t have the food they
like, or the materials they need to build a house, they won’t come
indoors. So keep food well-sealed,
counters clean and floors swept. Move
wood piles away from the house and get rid of rotting trees. And move pet food off the floor if you can;
many pet supply catalogs carry special dog food bowl holders that keep dog food
a foot off the floor.
Box Elder Bugs
For many people, summertime is Box elder bug time. Box elder bugs, as their name suggests, like
to hang out near box elder trees (as well as some other kinds of trees
too). The little red box elder babies
and their larger red and black parents don’t hurt people. But they are prolific, like to swarm, and
can stain carpet and siding if you squash them. If they get into your house, you can sweep or vacuum them
up. Apply a pesticide around windows
and doors to keep them out. Outside,
pesticides with Malathion as an active ingredient are pretty effective.
You may also know these by the name “sewer flies.” They are tiny, with wings that may remind
you of a moth or butterfly. They hang
out in bathrooms, especially public bathrooms with floor drains. Even bathrooms that are kept clean can have drain flies if the drains are not regularly cleaned as well. They don’t bite or do anything nasty, but they are not much fun
to watch when you are busy doing your business.
The most effective way to get rid of drain flies is to clean
rotting, organic goo out of floor drains, sink drains, drainpipes and
traps. A stiff, long-handled brush and
a plumber’s snake should do the trick.
There are also special cleaners for this purpose, although many people
report success with pouring bleach or hot water down floor drains on a regular
basis. Just make sure anything you pour
down a drain is compatible with your septic system, and non-corrosive to your
pipes. And don’t mix chemicals; pouring
a couple different things down the drain at the same time is a recipe for
disaster, especially when the fumes threaten to kill off the inhabitants of the
building as quickly as the flies.
Contrary to legend, earwigs don’t crawl in people’s ears
while they sleep. And those
pincher-shaped things on their bottoms can’t hurt you either. But it can be pretty freaky when you go to
brush your teeth or take a shower and see a family of earwigs lounging by the
drain. Getting rid of them is fairly
easy. They like moisture, so keep crawl
spaces as dry as possible. Repair
leaking water spigots, wipe out sinks before you go to bed, and make sure your
gutters carry water away from the house foundation. Some people say changing their outdoor lights to sodium vapor
yellow lights has kept earwigs away too, since like most insects, they are
attracted to white light. Caulk or
putty around doors, windows, pipes and other places they may be using as
doorways to your house. When you see an
earwig, just vacuum it up and empty the vacuum bag far from the house. Or if you prefer, drop it in a glass of
soapy water to send it to earwig heaven.
There are insecticides on the market for earwig control, but they should
be applied outside where the earwigs make their homes.
Spiders arguably cause more heebie-jeebies among the general
population than most household pests.
But when they are outside, you should restrain yourself from
spider-cide. Spiders eat up many
insects that feed on your garden. And a
well-placed spider in a window sill can actually keep other bugs from entering
your home. If you absolutely cannot
stop yourself from getting rid of an outdoor spider, simply knock down their
webs with a broom or a squirt from a hose.
Spreading pesticide around your backyard just to kill off spiders is not
likely to work well, and it’s not safe for your kids or pets either.
Spiders inside the house are another story. Spiders like to make webs where there is
moving air (such as a window sill or a baseboard), since they are smart enough
to know that more bugs are likely to move through the area. So one way to prevent them from setting up
housekeeping is to eliminate drafty areas from your house.
If you can bring yourself to do it, carefully remove the
spider from its web with a stiff piece of paper or a paper cup and relocate it
outside. But don’t be surprised if it
comes back again. Spiders come inside
for one reason only; there’s a food supply in your house. If you want to get the spiders out of your
house, you’ll have to get rid of whatever insects they are finding so
irresistible in there. Clean up your
kitchen, seal up insect entry points, eliminate moisture, and soon the spiders
will move off in search of an outdoor meal.
In the meantime, you can vacuum up webs, and clean up bookshelves and
other spaces where spiders like to put their egg sacks. Purchase a pesticide rated specially for
spiders, and spread it along baseboards, and in corners and closets.
A Mouse in the House
Insects and spiders are not the only household pests that
need removal. Mice are cute and cuddly,
until they have babies, chew through your drywall, bite your pets and spread
diseases. Mouse incursions are not
limited to rural areas either. Many
suburbanites are finding that as their towns grow, and more land is broken up
for development, mice that used to live unmolested in fields have to find new
places to live. Often, those new places
are nice, warm, nearby houses.
Most experts agree it takes three steps to get rid of mice;
sanitation, construction and reduction.
Sanitation is simple; keep food sealed tightly and mice won’t have any
reason to stop by for a snack.
Construction involves shutting any openings that mice can use to get
into the house. Mice can squeeze into
very small spaces, so caulk or plug even the smallest openings to discourage
them from entering. Reduction involves
trapping or poisons. The old-fashioned
wooden trap that we all remember from "Tom and Jerry" cartoons works just fine. Glue traps also work well, although my
family ran into a problem when our cat would attempt to swat at mice that were
stuck to the glue. Our cat would get
stuck too, and in an attempt to get loose, would free the mouse as well. Speaking of cats, not all cats are good
mousers. And the ones that are are
often so proud of their feats of mouse-murder that they will leave the tiny
corpse in your shoe or on your doorstep just to show you how great they are.
Most mouse poisons cause death through internal bleeding or
disruption of their nervous systems. It
goes without saying that these poisons should be used with caution in a house
with children or pets.
Household Pests Rules of Thumb
No matter what the household pest is that you want to get
rid of, there are some general rules that apply to all. Find whatever they are feeding on, whether
it’s food, moisture or other bugs, and remove it or seal it up. And remember, if there is ever a question in
your mind about the safety of a pesticide or a trap, call a professional. No household pest is worth endangering your