I have bugs. Eeek!! What’s a greener alternative to harmful pesticides?
We love summer for the warm weather and lazy days but we may not love the little extra “friends” that tend to show up this time of year.
Ants, flies, mosquitoes, spiders and uh…others, we may not want to mention, they are all part of our summer. So what’s the greenest way to “discourage” these warm weather visitors from hanging out in our homes and yards without using nasty chemical pesticides? Is there a non-toxic alternative to Raid? We want to hear your ideas, concerns and solutions. Please! Meanwhile, the Green Team will get to work doing some heavy lifting research, so be sure to check back in a few days There has been a fair amount of “buzz” (pardon the pun) in the media recently surrounding the use of pesticides. Whether it’s growing tomatoes for food, cotton for fabrics or corn for biofuels, pesticides are very present in our everyday lives. We are exposed to them everywhere; in our homes, schools, the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the fuel we use. In this two part blogpost, we will first cover the use of pesticides in our homes (including gardens) and then later, in the broader context of agriculture.
There has been a fair amount of “buzz” (pardon the pun) in the media recently surrounding the use of pesticides. Whether it’s growing tomatoes for food, cotton for fabrics or corn for biofuels, pesticides are very present in our everyday lives. We are exposed to them everywhere; in our homes, schools, the food we eat, the clothes we wear and the fuel we use. In this two part blogpost, we will first cover the use of pesticides in our homes (including gardens) and then later, in the broader context of agriculture.
So how do we control these buggers? There are definitely healthier, more environmentally friendly ways but know this: pesticides don’t always prevent pests from coming in to your home and/or garden. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency encourages the use of “Integrated Pest Management (IPM),” which stresses managing the conditions that attract pests, thus reducing the opportunity for them to thrive before they set up camp in your kitchen.
So what can you do to better manage your surroundings? First of all, keep it clean. Here we go again, preaching cleanliness, but the fact is that pests inhabit every nook and cranny of your home – from the cupboards to the yard to the carpets. Be sure to keep your counters and cupboards free of uncovered food, especially sugar and sweets (wash and seal that honey jar!) and eliminate any standing water – even in your kitchen sink. Ants party hardy in a sink full of food and water, so do those dishes right after meals (sorry guys) and fix those leaky faucets asap.
Standing water is also the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes! Make sure any containers that capture water are emptied regularly (don’t forget the trays beneath your potted plants) and if you have water features in your yard (bird baths, fountains, etc.) change the water at least once a week to wipe out potential habitats.
Get Rid of ‘Em
Here are some non-toxic remedies that you can try before you get out that spray can.
Ants: Spray with soapy water, vinegar water or clove based ant deterrents, rub with cucumber peels or crushed mint leaves, line the point of entry with cayenne pepper or citrus oil, pour boiling water or lemon juice into ant holes
Mosquitoes: Citronella soap or scentless body oil, 30% concentration of eucalyptus oil, one part garlic juice with 5 parts water in a spray bottle, Neem oil products and, if you’re grilling outdoors, throw some sage or rosemary on the coals.
Flies: Crushed mint, bay leaves and eucalyptus oil act as a natural deterrents, or you can make your own flypaper by soaking craft paper in a mixture of syrup, granulated sugar and brown sugar, let soak over night, and then hang with string.
For your yard, you can follow Xeriscape and Greenscape techniques. Xeriscape uses native plants that require less maintenance, fertilizer and pesticide than traditional gardening. Greenscaping encourages such practices as “grasscycling” and “composting” which reduce the amount of waste produced and provide a quality soil that also reduces the need for fertilizers and pesticides. Greenscaping also encourages using plants and insects that work as natural deterrents (i.e. ladybugs eat aphids!)
This Doesn’t Work!
If you still have bugs, Eeek!!, there are natural pesticides available – your local home and garden center will be able to help you choose the best one for your needs. If you MUST use chemicals, make sure you follow a few simple rules:
- Follow the label and instructions – improperly using pesticides can endanger you and your family’s health
- Use baits before sprays as a first line of chemical defense.
- Spray only on cracks and crevices – the entire area often does not need to be sprayed. Concentrate on the effected area and spot treat.
- Don’t use outdoor pesticides indoors, and vice versa.
- Store pesticides in proper containers (to avoid accidents, never transfer/store them in old food containers) and don’t mix different pesticides together.
- Never re-use pesticide containers to store anything else!
- Dispose of pesticides properly – don’t throw them in the garbage! Read the labels, and follow appropriate disposal instructions.
For more information on pest control, the IPM, Greenscaping and pesticide best practices, visit the EPA at: http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/controlling/index.htm
For more information on natural garden products, visit http://www.planetnatural.com/site/index.html