LLO's Guide to (Natural) Bug Control

August 25, 2015

We moved into our home four years ago, and like most families we spent the first few nights sleeping on mattresses on the floor amongst boxes of our things. The house had sat vacant for months, and after a thorough scouring and heaving our belongings safely inside we were simultaneously at ease and giddy with excitement to call this place our new home.


We slept.


I remember how hot it was, the fan overhead doing nothing to deflate the heat surrounding us like a damp bubble. The next morning my husband entered the bathroom and, bleary-eyed from sleep, switched on the light. He jumped and almost screamed at the sight of my face. I thought, "Honestly now, how many times have you seen me first thing in the morning?" I glanced at my reflection and saw, to my horror, what looked like two ping-pong ball sized lumps over my left eyelid and bottom lip.


Naturally, I screamed too.


After the initial shock had worn off, I inspected my face. The lumps were itchy and I could make out two distinct puncture points, one on each. Spider bites. This has happened to me before. At outings, I am usually the bait for all things that bite and sting. Everyone around me will be bug-bite free but at the end of the day I am the one covered in red bumps and wimpering from all that itching and scratching.


After a very embarrassing trip to my daughter's schoool during drop off while sporting a sunhat and huge sunglasses, celebrity-style, I went home to eliminate said spider and ice my face.




Needless to say I have a huge problem with bugs. Don't get me wrong, I'm not afraid of these creepy-crawly nausea-inducing wriggly-little-monsters, but after my many experiences with them, I've decided I just don't want them in my house, my backyard, nor the 10 foot radius of my property.


In the past I donned my exterminator uniform complete with rubber gloves and a paper mask and armed myself with cans of bug spray and a giant pink flyswatter. I sprayed wherever I saw the darn things: the kitchen counters, baseboards, the patio door, bathroom floors, etc. Of course I kept clear of the kids toys and food items and though I commended myself on my preparedness and diligence in the pursuit of a bug-free home, I failed to see the irony that bug poison was also poisonous to the health of my family.


After some research and conversations with friends, I became hesitant to using traditional sprays to kill bugs and actively sought out natural solutions for our bug problem. I found several - some have worked and others have not - these are my go-to remedies for naturally getting rid of household pests such as fruitflies, spiders, ants and bed bugs.





When frluitflies invaded our compost bin, I made this little trap to catch the pesky wizzing bugs:

Take a piece pf paper and roll it to fit neatly inside a tall glass, resting it a few inches away from the bottom. Tape it closed and take it back out. Pour a little white or apple cider vinegar into the bottom of the glass and pop a piece of fruit in, such as a strawberry or a wedge of apple. Put the paper back in making sure the tip opening does not touch the liquid.


You can also use a mason jar and replace the removable lid with a piece of plastic wrap, dotting a few holes along the top with a knife. It looks like this:



Beware though, this trap needs patience. It takes time for the flies to find the bait and work their way in. Set this out somewhere near the original infestation and force yourself to ignore the trap for at least 3 days. Once you see that your home is fruitfly free, throw the whole darn thing away, or wait a few more days until the bugs are dead and wash out your jar or glass. 




First sweep every corner of your home, reaching the bottom corners of walls, baseboards and underneath elevated furniture to eliminate possible cobwebs. Squish spiders as you see them around your home and use a pesticide in your yard when summer and winter arrive to deter them from entering. There are several organic and natural pesticides to choose from, here's what I use. Vaccuum your rugs and carpet, and sweep regularly, this will ensure any unseen spiders (and their hiding places) get taken away.



Then make this natural solution and spray it along your door frames, windows, and entryways:

Mix 1 cup of vinegar and 2 cups of water with a few drops of Dawn liquid dish soap, and a couple drops each of peppermint oil and tea tree oil.


Refresh the spray after it rains or every 2-3 weeks. Lastly, make sure you keep the floors and corners of your home free of dust, as apiders like to hide where there is dust. 




These guys are terribly difficult to get rid of. I've seen them make a line from under our living room bookshelf to the top of our dining table to make off with the crumbs of my kids' breakfast. That's easily a 2-mile obstacle course in ant mode! When I got rid of them there, they showed up with a vengence in my pantry, invading all the sweet treats they could find. My husband thought spraying them dead and leaving them splattered against the wall might teach the other ants a lesson (are all men like this?) Alas, they walked right around their fallen comrades and, like the devout little soldiers they are, invaded our chocolate. That was the last straw. 


Here's what I did to finally get rid of them:


First, find their entry point. Don't just mop them up as you see them, because they'll only come back again all too quickly. Next, get yourself some Terro Liquid Ant Bait - it's basically water mixed with Borax, which can be DIY'd in a 1:1 ratio. Now you can clean up those ants using a damp sponge with a drop of dish soap. Then, put all your sweet treats into zip top bags or airtight containers, including cereals, syrups, toothpaste, and mouthwash. Now set out your bait - place a few drops of Terro or a teaspoon of the DIY stuff close to their original entry point and wait for a few hours to a couple of days for the ants to take enough bait back to their nest. The poison will wipe out the entire colony.


It is absolutely necessary to let the ants feed on the bait without killing them. Avert your eyes from the swarm if you must. If, after some time you see ants lurking around again, be sure to place a few more drops or spoons of bait to get rid of them before they become a problem again.




I'm not sure that we've ever actually had bed bugs, because the little monsters are difficult to see. But I do know that I woke up one morning covered in bug bites (21 to be exact, yes I counted) and went on a rampage to be rid of anything that could bite me - and consequently found a way to be rid of them completely. If you've ever woken up with itchy red bumps, try these steps and I guarantee you'll notice an immediate difference on your next night's sleep.


First, take off all of your bedding, bedskirts and the pajamas you wore the night of said bug attack, and drop them all into the washing machine using your hottest water cycle. Next vaccuum your bed thoroughly, taking care to get into crevices like tufting and piping, as well as underneath your mattress and box spring if you use one. For good measure, I also ran a steam mop in its highest setting all over my mattress, boxspring and curtains - the high temperature will kill any remaining bugs and their eggs. 


Then combine a few drops of essential oil (such as lavender, tea tree, eucalyptus or peppermint) and water in a spray bottle and mist your mattress, curtains, pillows, and boxspring. Give the treament a few hours to dry and put on fresh sheets. This method worked like a charm and I have not had any problems with bug bites during the night.



If you can see the bugs in their hiding places, it might be a good idea to also use a geneorus sprinkling of DE (aka diatomaceous earth) powder, which is a highly potent and 100% organic plant-based powder commonly used to treat bed bugs. It can be found in most hardware stores and definitely online for less than $15. 


As you can tell I have a bit of bug phobia (which I believe is duly warranted), so I can say with confidence that I know what has worked when it comes to getting rid of bugs around the house. A hearty "Hurrah!" for organic bug killing!


After you've tried some of my tricks, share some of yours in the comments section!

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