Avoid insect invasion during the height of bug season with Stephanie Tourles’s simple tips for protecting your home — and your sanity!
Summertime is bug season – no doubt about it! If you spend any time outdoors, you’re bound to encounter all manner of flying, buzzing, creeping, crawling, stinging, biting, chewing, and burrowing bugs — and not just ones that irritate you, but also those that get under your pets’ skin. Summertime is also when outdoor bugs like to weasel their way indoors. You’ll often find them in bathroom and kitchen cabinets, under the refrigerator and stove, in pet food bowls, on the kitchen counter, in the food pantry, lurking on your window sills, hovering around the fruit bowl, buzzing around your head at night, and setting up shop in your warm garage or basement. Annoying and nasty! No thanks!
Bugs have a keen sense of smell and are drawn to anything that even remotely smacks of sustenance. This can include household dirt, human and pet hair and dander, stinky shoes and sweaty clothes, bits of litter box matter, and any kind of food, be it crumbs or sticky smears. Many bugs are particularly drawn to sugary foods.
So, what to do? Prevention is the best solution! A home that is tidy and well-maintained will be much less attractive to unwanted “guests.” There’s no need to purchase toxic insecticidal sprays and powders when just a good old-fashioned house cleaning is in order!
An Ounce of Prevention: Keep It Clean
Here are some useful tips for keeping your home naturally bug-free:
- Vacuum floors and furniture frequently.
- Shampoo or spot-treat carpets to remove food spills and pet accidents.
- Wipe up all spills immediately.
- Regularly clean beneath appliances.
- Keep pet feeding areas and bowls clean. If pests are a problem, don’t leave bowls out at night. Pet bedding needs to be washed weekly, too.
- Cat litter boxes need daily attention. Regular removal of waste is mandatory. Freshen litter as needed.
- Brush pets daily to minimize collection of fur and dander on floors.
- Avoid keeping bowls of overripe or rotting fruit on tables or counters.
- Store pantry items in tightly sealed containers; this includes pet food and birdseed that may be stored in the garage. Put food waste in lidded garbage cans.
- Thoroughly disinfect bathroom surfaces and toilets at least once per week.
- Many bugs love the smell of sweat, so don’t let dirty laundry pile up on floors or overflow from the laundry bin.
Clear Away Clutter and Stop Leaks
Bugs seek out warm, damp, dark crowded places. Keep the basement and garage dry, scrupulously clean, and clutter-free. The same goes for bathrooms, laundry rooms, and cabinets. Here are some other household habits and hazards to avoid:
- Stacks of old newspapers and magazines make great hiding places. So do boxes and bags of stuff you think you “might use sometime.”
- Foundation plantings that are too close to the house might hold moisture against the siding or roof. Trim them back or remove them. Keep leaves from piling up against the house, too.
- Broken window screens and drafty windows and doors give bugs easy access to your home. Rotting wood is another open invitation, so keep sills and other entry points well maintained. Store supplies of firewood and lumber under cover and away from the foundation.
- Leaky pipes attract bugs looking for a cool drink. Loose wall paper attracts cockroaches and silverfish that find the paste appetizing.
- Pests like mosquitoes breed in standing water. Eliminate sources of standing water outside your home, such as clogged gutters, planters, birdbaths, old discarded tires, tree stump holes, unused livestock watering troughs, and abandoned fish ponds and swimming pools. Soggy compost piles also attract myriad mosquitoes, flies, gnats, and other water-seeking bugs. Make sure your compost pile has sufficient drainage, is covered with a thick layer of leaves or grass clippings, and is far away from your living quarters.
Use a Diffuser to Deter Bugs
An ultrasonic aromatic diffuser sprays a very fine mist of water and essential oil, sending a stream of activated ingredients into the air to deter flying insects. One relatively inexpensive machine freshens and humidifies a large room for hours.
Try these essential oils to fend off the following pests:
- All flying insects: geranium; lavender with eucalyptus OR rosemary; lemon and peppermint
- Moths: lavender, alone or with patchouli OR peppermint
- Flies: peppermint and clove
Caution: Do not use a diffuser in a room with any caged animal, particularly birds, but also rodents, reptiles, and dogs or cats in crates. The vapors may cause adverse reactions. Remember to always follow the manufacturer’s directions for your particular brand of diffuser.