Natural Pest Control

posted by Andrea | 06/19/2013

natural pest control

Nora absolutely LOVES being outside — which is great because Dave and I enjoy being outside too (and great because she can play while we do yard work.)

We’re fortunate that we have an acre yard for Nora to explore and play — and a super long asphalt driveway for fun with scooters and sidewalk chalk. However, something we don’t like about being outside are all the bugs.

So many bugs — gross!

Even if they don’t bite or sting, it’s not tons of fun to be be outside with bugs flying around everywhere (especially if we’re trying to eat!)

In the past, Dave and I haven’t thought anything of spraying harsh chemicals around our house and yard to prevent these unwanted pests. However, now that Nora is so curious — touching and licking everything she sees — we figured harsh chemicals might not be the best idea this year.

Around our house, the 4 pests we have the most issues with are Box Elder bugs, Mosquitoes, Flies, and Bees (in that order) — and I’m happy to share that I’ve found relatively simple, and natural remedies for all of them.

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Box Elder Bugs:

These things are nasty — they don’t bite or sting, but they are big and they fly everywhere. We have them crawling all over our deck, our porch, the siding on our house, Nora’s swing-set, in our planting beds, etc. And even thought they are just around for about a month — they are stil super annoying.

Natural Box Elder Bug Remedy: 

Fill a 2 gallon pressure sprayer with water (to the fill line). Add a healthy squeeze of Dawn dish soap (about 1/4 cup), swirl mixture in the container, pump to pressurize, and spray any bugs you see.

If you don’t have as many bugs, you can also mix up a smaller batch in a spray bottle and just squirt as necessary.

The dish soap paralyzes the bugs and they literally die instantly — it’s actually pretty amazing! Because they die so quickly, you’ll need to eventually go back and sweep them up or suck them up with a shop vac — unless you want loads of dead bugs lying around!

NOTE: I was told to specifically use Dawn dish soap and that worked really well for me. You can try other types of dish soap if you’d like — and then let me know if you have success!

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Mosquitoes:

Mosquito’s LOVE me. We can be outside and no one else will be bothered by them, but I’ll be swatting and swatting (and I’ll still end up with 15 bites by the time I come inside).

I also hate mosquito spray because it smells awful and always seems to get in my mouth! So I’ve looked into a few different (mostly natural) ways to keep mosquitoes away.

Natural Mosquito Remedies:

First of all, remove any standing water from your yard (kiddie pools, bird baths, water sitting in your gutters, etc)

Then, the easiest idea I’ve found so far is to tuck a Bounce brand dryer sheet in your pocket or in your belt loop as this will ward off mosquitoes. I’ve tried this a couple times and it does seem to work pretty well. I realize it’s not 100% natural, but it’s quick, simple, and smells a whole lot better than traditional mosquito spray.

I’ve just recently tried this recipe for natural mosquito spray and it seems to be working well. Here is another similar homemade spray that seemed to have really positive reviews.

Of course the citronella candles and tiki torches work too — but those are a fabulous solution with little kids running around.

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Flies:

Flies are kind of like the Box Elder Bugs — they don’t sting or bite (most of the time) but they are just super annoying to have around.

Natural Fly Remedies:

You can make your own fly paper by mixing 1/4 c. syrup with 1T. white sugar and 1T brown sugar. Then dip strips of craft paper into this mixture and let dry overnight. Hang the paper from strings or clothes pins outside to attract flies

I also found this fabulous non-toxic fly trap for less than $15. It lasts for a month and can catch up to 20,000 flies before it needs to be replaced!

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Bees:

I realize that bees are good for pollination  but I still don’t want them buzzing around our porch, in our garage, or by Nora’s swing-set. When I was searching the internet for natural bee control ideas, I found this awesome article about how to get rid of bees. It has tons of helpful ideas and tips (with clear photos and videos). It also explains the difference between types of bees and what bees are most prone to sting.

Natural Bee Remedies:

To reduce the number of individual bees that might be flying around a particular area, simply make a “pop bottle trap” and place it next to the area (but not right IN that area). The bees will fly in and will eventually drown.

However, if you have visible bee hives that you want to remove, you can make a mixture of 50/50 water and vinegar. Put the mixture in a spray bottle, wear protective clothing, and spray the hive at dusk once the bees are inside. In the morning, you can check for any activity — or dead bees laying on the ground around the hive.

Please note that if the hive is large, or if you don’t feel comfortable tackling this on your own, it’s probably best to call a professional since bees can be nasty!

Here is some additional information specifically for natural wasp control (and yes, wasps are different than bees — something I didn’t understand before!)

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My Favorite Natural Bite/Sting Remedy:

If you do get bit or stung, my favorite natural remedy is the Healing Wand from Prairieland Herbs. I talked about this product in my Favorite Things post a couple weeks ago — but it really is amazing. I have it out all summer long for all those pesky bites, stings, cuts, scratches, and burns.

More Resources:

This article shares how to build homemade bug traps with milk jugs and pop bottles — there are a bunch of different traps to try and it’s basically the same concept as the bee trap I mentioned above.

Here are a bunch of natural insect control tips and ideas from EarthEasy.com

I love this natural way to get rid of fruit flies from MyBlessedLife.net.

Here are a few more natural fruit fly remedies from Whole New Mom.

Do you have pests in your vegetable garden, if so, this post from TogetherFarm.com might offer some helpful tips.

Want to get rid of ants in your home? This post from Kitchen Stewardship shows you how to do it the natural way.

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So this is just some of the information I’ve learned over the past few months as I looked for more natural ways to ward off these pesky bugs. Most of it seems to work really well — and all these solutions are quite simple.

What are your favorite natural pest remedies?

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30 comments

  1. Leigh

    06/19/2013

    Diatomaceous earth is my go to for ants in the backyard. Hills are deserted in a day.

    My friend woke up to a bee swarm in her yard and by that evening had found a beekeeper to come pick them up for free and a bottle of local honey.

    [Reply]

  2. Nathalie

    06/19/2013

    Dear Andrea

    I really enjoy your blog. And I would agree with today’s post, except for the part with the bees. While I can understand people don’t like mosquitoes and flies – neither do I – I absolutely dislike the idea of the suggested “pop bottle trap” for bees or the idea of destroying bee hives with vinegar. Bees are protected in most countries, they are useful insects and do abolutely no harm if not molested. And even if they sting, it is not an issue for a person / child that is not allergic (the whole subject is completely different if talking about allergic people).

    As much as I agree with protecting children from real harms, my personal opinion is that we cannot remove everything possibly harmful from nature (i.e. from our gardens) to prevent any possible sting. In our street, lots of elderly people are selling their houses and moving to smaller appartements or to residences for the elderly. The buyers, mostly young families, start removing any plant that could harm a child – even if the possibility is extremely remote and the harm wouldn’t be serious at all – from their gardens. I don’t want to say anything against removing really poisonous plants. But why remove beautiful plants that will – in the worst case – cause a rash? Kids need to learn how to deal with nature, they need to know that some plants do nothing and others can be dangerous. Our kids knew from the very beginning that some plants should not be touched, and that some bugs sting and some don’t. And they love to trap a bug in a glas and observe it or paint it. Don’t teach your kids to kill animals, even if it is “only” insects, just for convenience reasons. God created the bees as he created you, and only because we cannot see their usefulness, it doesn’t mean we should kill them.

    By the way – watch the movie “more than honey” and you will never be able to kill a bee again.

    Regards
    Nathalie

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    nathalie Reply:

    … and sorry for my bad english, I’m writing from overseas, english is not my mother tongue.

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    Jenn L. Reply:

    First, your English is fine! Far better than some native speakers and writers, for sure.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. The bee population has faced an extremely sharp decline in recent years, and it is a larger problem than many people realize. Frankly, we need as many as we can get. It is one thing to try to discourage hives from forming on her swing-set (I’m sure there is information on how to do this out there) since she is small, but unless she is allergic a sting won’t kill her…won’t even cause that much distress aside from a little crying at first.

    Perhaps the swingset can be moved to an area of the large yard that is less bee-laden?

    This picture is from a Whole Foods in RI who did this to demonstrate the effects of our actions: https://fbcdn-sphotos-d-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash4/8471_555978734444890_1201807455_n.jpg

    Knowing is half the battle.

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  3. Gina

    06/19/2013

    Hi there,

    Don’t want to start up a “swarm” on your fabulous blog but I do want to also advocate for bees everywhere. In the U. S there is a honeybee shortage, see this recent article in the science times for more information:

    http://science.time.com/2013/05/07/beepocalypse-redux-honey-bees-are-still-dying-and-we-still-dont-know-why/

    I am considering starting to keep a beehive in my backyard because each honeybee is so precious to the US right now. Eventually, if this bee shortage keeps up, it will effect our ability to grow some of the foods we love, (because I am writing to you I am thinking apples). Again, I appreciate the blog and it is okay with me if our opinions differ, just wanted to offer some information.

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  4. Norma

    06/19/2013

    Hello,

    I love “Bee Movie” and although it is a kids movie it shows how important bees are. I feel you as a parent but we don’t have to kill bees, just teach kids to not bother them. Unless your child is allergic then that would be different of course :)

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  5. Jennifer

    06/19/2013

    Thank you for this post I will be pinning it!

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  6. Dyticia

    06/19/2013

    We just moved to North Carolina and our it’s bug city out here! I absolutely HATE ALL BUGS – including and especially SPIDERS! Not only do I hate bugs, but I have a true fear off them. It’s a shame the things I have gone through over bugs. We happen to have an overabundance of wasps and bumblebees that prevent me from spending time outside on the front porch with my son. I’m willing to try the pop bottles and anything else so that I can to be more comfortable outside with him.

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  7. Jo

    06/19/2013

    I work in the biology dept. and there are a large variety of insects that look similar to bees: Wasps, Yellow Jackets and Hornets, etc. I agree with some others – don’t kill the bees! They are incredibly valuable with pollinating our plants and flowers. Unless the bees/wasps/hornets, etc are inside your house or building a huge nest by your front door, I would just let them be.

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  8. Karen

    06/19/2013

    I have to agree about killing bees, I just don’t. But wasps and hornets are another game entirely. We have hung a brown paper bag from our deck awning and can watch the wasps veer away from the deck. Just blow up a lunchbag size paper bag as though you were going to pop it like a balloon, tie it up and hang it near where you want the wasps to avoid. Apparently it looks like a wasp or hornet nest to others not from that “colony” so they avoid infringing on another colony’s territory. It has been rained on several times, and it just dries out again. When my sister hung one from an open doorway we noticed it also repels flies. She could leave the door open all day, with no screen and not have a house full of flies. I have seen commercial versions in several hardware and department stores. They fold up like a paper lantern. The paper bag version is cheaper and greener, just not as authentic looking to the human eye.

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    Debby Reply:

    I am so going to try this for deterring the yellow jackets and wasps away from my deck and backyard. I am all for the honey bees but this girl can tell you that yellow jackets can invade your home literally. They were getting through the tiniest opening on the corner of our siding and built this huge nest between the floor to our daughters bedroom and our family room. We could hear the buzzing and thought it was our old tv. When we figured out what it was and called a pro, he said they would have been through the drywall in about another half day and once they saw daylight, they would have just filled the inside of our house. So one cannot use the broad statement of just leave the bees alone and they won’t bother you. They can invade your home

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    Stacey Reply:

    I agree, and Debby, they DID in fact come into my home. A huge nest of yellow jackets and they chewed their way through my ceiling tiles (drop ceiling). It was horrible. While I harbor no ill will toward honeybees, wasps/hornets/yellow jackets have to go at my house. I’m allergic and I don’t want to find out the hard way that my little girls are allergic too.

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    Jenn L. Reply:

    A yellow jacket is not a bee, it is a wasp. They don’t really do much for crops. It wasn’t a blanket statement.

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  9. Maria

    06/19/2013

    Thank you for sharing natural ways of handling these pests. I have to chime in with some of the other comments. PLEASE do not kill the Bees! They are having a hard enough time right now. If you have more bees that “normal” or can see a hive Please call a local bee keeper. I hear some will come take care of your problem for Free. You get rid of bees, the beekeeper gets more bees/honey and our crops still get pollinated. Win-Win-Win

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  10. Barb A

    06/19/2013

    Mosquitoes love me, too!!! Tried the Bounce sheet but didn’t work for me. :( Will have to try the homemade spray. Thanks for this article.

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  11. Adrienne @ Whole New Mom

    06/19/2013

    Hey Andrea. Thanks for the highlight. Just a comment. Bounce has a lot of chemicals that can be a real problem to sensitive folks. My family all ended up with horrid allergic reactions to it and my mother even needed to go on steroids to get better. And she wasn’t that sensitive of a person. So take care out there :).

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  12. Janice

    06/19/2013

    The last two years my roses have been decimated by the Japanese Beetle and I have learned to despise them. Tried diatomaceous earth but the beetles just kept chomping. I think I’ll try the Dawn dishwashing liquid spray you mentioned if the nasties come back again this year. I now use Dawn for just about everything after reading Pinterest articles. It has become my new magic “elixir” to bring things back to life.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Hi Janice — sorry to hear about your roses! However, please note that Japanese Beetles are completely different than Box Elder Bugs — so I’m honestly not positive the Dawn/water spray will work for them. I do know they make inexpensive Japanese Beetle traps that you can hang from a tree branch… and then just throw the traps away when they get full. That might be something to try??

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  13. Cherie

    06/19/2013

    I have used Skin So sotf by Avon for years and it NEVER fails to keep away the Mosquito’s

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  14. Kalyn Brooke

    06/19/2013

    We get super big bugs in FL, and I have been reading that catnip will help repel those cockroach/palmetto bugs. I’d like to plant a whole bunch around our house, but then I’m afraid all the cats will come calling!

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  15. JoDi

    06/19/2013

    I bought a bunch of products from Prairieland Herbs after your last post about them! Thanks! I love the healing wand. Did you know they have a citronella Buzz Off Wand too? I haven’t used mine yet so I can’t vouch for how well it works.

    My go-to mosquito repellant is Avon’s Skin So Soft original bath oil spray. Works great for me! I’m trying the Prairieland Herb repellant because I like the convenience of the wand for when I don’t want to get my hands oily rubbing in the spray.

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  16. susie

    06/19/2013

    If you ever do a post on weeds, my favorite tip is to use boiling water!

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  17. Kerrie

    06/19/2013

    I clicked over from my reader to comment on the bees, please don’t kill bees. We need them and they aren’t a pest. I love your blog but the last part of this one broke my heart a little.

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  18. Kathy C

    06/20/2013

    I just want to add my support for honeybees. They don’t sting unless they are protecting the queen or honey. When they are gathering pollen, they are not threatened and won’t sting you. If you step on one, that’s different (like on a dandelion). But if you are talking about wasps and hornets, then I would definitely trap them.

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  19. Mollie

    06/20/2013

    No bees : no crops. No crops : no food. No food : no people. Just a thought.

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  20. Sara

    06/21/2013

    I haven’t read all the comments, so I don’t know if someone already mentioned this. There are people that will take away honey bee hives for free if you have one near you that you don’t want. I’ve seen the listings in Craigslist. I assume the people are beekeepers looking for more bees. I thought this was a nice alternative to killing this useful insect.

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  21. Kayla Sue

    06/27/2013

    There’s actually been research indicating that the massive decline in honeybees because of human interference is also causing huge ripples through a variety of ecosystems. Yes, they are good for pollination, which means healthier and more plants, which in turn provide food for other critters.

    Some fringe theorists even have the idea that the extinction of the honeybee will be a harbinger of our eventual extinction around the planet.

    I don’t know about that personally, but it bears mentioning that bees are a protected species in various places around the US too and there are many skilled bee extractors that can help with removing hives and settling them in places where they are safer.

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  22. G

    07/11/2013

    Hi Andrea,
    Thanks for the awesome blog and tons of tips and information that we can use.
    Can you please do a post on “weed -control” and lawn maintenance.The people who I spoke to charge a bomb to do it.If I knew how and what products to use I think I

    [Reply]

  23. G

    07/11/2013

    Hi Andrea,
    Thanks for the awesome blog and tons of tips and information that we can use.
    Can you please do a post on “weed -control” and lawn maintenance.The people who I spoke to charge a bomb to do it.If I knew how and what products to use I think I could do it myself,ofcourse with a little help frm you!
    Thanks,
    G

    [Reply]

  24. Ryan F.

    07/18/2013

    I definitely agree that I prefer home-made or natural insect repellents especially, those I am about to put on my skin. I also don’t mind using things that aren’t invasive or that seem harmful to ones body. Last year when we went camping, I bought the entire family insect repelling mosquito eliminators which are pins that you can put on your clothing. They seemed to work okay- there were so many bugs it was hard to tell.

    When at home in the yard, pests are also a pain so we plant a lot of lemonbalm around the yard, which is a herb that repels bugs. You can also throw it into the fire to keep bugs away- just be sure it wasn’t growing near or with any type of poison ivy, sumac or oak. You can also take the leaves and rub them right on your skin. You will keep the bugs away and smell good!!

    For ants, my neighbor just taught me to shake cinnamon around. Sure enough, works like a charm!!

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