Control insects without chemicals

Photo: Photo: istockphoto/Marina Parshina
Natural repellents to beat mosquitoes, spiders, ants and wasps

It’s remarkable that ants can carry 50 times their body weight, that there are 34,000 species of spiders in the world and that a mosquito flaps it’s wings 500 times per second. Impressive indeed. But we tend to lose appreciation for the wonders of nature when it’s buzzing annoyingly around our ears or showing up unexpectedly in the house or on the patio.

Instead of trying to douse those uninvited guests with chemically laden sprays, powders and lotions, try going the natural route! Here are some household items to put to the test—so you can put the DEET, insecticide and other toxic repellents to rest.

Mosquitoes

Mosquito populations have exploded this summer, and the number found to have a West Nile virus is at an all time high here in Toronto. But that’s not to say you should let mosquitoes ruin your summer fun. Aside from the obvious and most effective natural remedy—getting rid of any standing water—there are many natural methods to effectively detour the blood-sucking pests. To keep your skin smelling fresh (but off-putting to mosquitoes) try using citrus peels, an odour that also deters gnats. Take a fresh piece of citrus fruit peel, such as orange, lime or lemon, and rub over your skin. It you’re desperate, you can also use onion in the same fashion, although your friends may prefer the former option.

An increase in garlic consumption during the spring and summer months also helps to keep mosquitoes away. Bonus—your immune system will benefit from the increase, too! For a quick and inexpensive option, mist your skin with an apple cider vinegar and water mixture. In a New England Journal of Medicine study, findings showed using an oil of eucalyptus topical warded off mosquitoes for over 120 minutes, in comparison to widely-used citronella that only stood guard against the pests for 20 minutes.

Spiders

Concoct your own essential oil elixir to detour spiders from getting too comfortable in and around your living quarters. Create a natural spray that consists of any natural liquid soap (such as peppermint or lavender), essential oil and water. Combine one litre of water with any pungent smelling essential oil, such as tea tree, citrus or rose. Add five tablespoons of the natural soap, and spray the mixture around their favourite hangout zones.

You can also say goodbye to your eight-legged nemesis by trying an age-old defence—lining your exterior walls with chestnuts. However, the chestnuts must be fresh as it’s the oil in the shell that acts as the deterrent. If all else fails, reach for the baking supplies. Baking soda can be used to keep spiders (and other creepy crawlers) at bay.

Ants

First things first—wipe up those sticky food spills, and then we’ll talk. The key with ants is point of entry, and these persistent bugs are best controlled by prevention. Stop the troops from marching in by attempting to determine how and where they are sneaking in. At that point, place cucumber slices or peals, as ants have a natural aversion to the crisp veggie. Other things ants hate include cayenne pepper, citrus oil or lemon juice, cinnamon and coffee grounds. You can also try placing mint tea bags, dry crushed mint or cloves in the area where they are in full force.

Attempt to confuse the ants by disrupting their foraging patterns. Do this by placing a night-light where they seem most active, which can discourage them from coming back.

Wasps

You’re having a picnic, or perhaps you’ve decided to dine alfresco. Your impulse is to reach for the fly swatter as a defence against the seemingly persistent wasps. In fact, this piece of weaponry consequently creates a war zone. When you swat at or squash a wasp, they release a call-out to their buddies by means of a pheromone, a chemical that attracts more of their kind. 

Be sure to keep meat, scraps, open garbage and compost sealed. To discourage wasps from hanging around, instead of posting a “No Vacancy” sign, rub a bar of plain soap on areas where they’re landing. Also consider constructing a cleverly devised trap—one that consists of a two-litre pop bottle with an inverted top. To attract the flyers, coat the neck (before inverting) with any sweet substance, such as honey or jam. Fill the bottle to halfway with water, add dish soap and watch as the unsuspecting fall victim to the mixture. If you don’t want honeybees to have the same fate, add a quarter cup of vinegar to the mixture and they should steer clear.

 

As always, we love to hear from you. What natural repellents do you recommend? E-mail editor@green-living.ca.