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Get Rid of Household Pests 
by Audrey Finkel Esposito May 23, 2005

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.

Drain Flies

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 family for.


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