DIY Pest Control: Myths & Facts

Author: Kurt Treftz, Cascade Pest Control

Let’s face it. No one likes an infestation of ants or wasps or rats. But when you are facing a roach invasion, you might be tempted to seek advice from family and friends. After all, Grandma knows best, right? Well, not to disparage memaw, but many common do-it-yourself pest control tips won’t do as much to fix your pest problem as you might think. So, which advice should you take, and which should you kick to the curb? 

Let’s sort fact from fiction.

DIY Pest Control Myths

Spread some grits on your counter to keep ants away

You may have heard this old wives’ tale, or its similar cousin ‘draw a line of chalk and ants won’t cross it’. Sorry to disappoint but this just isn’t true. The rationale is ants will consume the grits and it will expand in their guts, killing them. The truth is that ants are actually likely to be attracted to this food item which could make your problem worse. Ants, also, aren’t deterred by chalk. They will walk right over it.

Pour boiling water on an ant hill to destroy it

You might take out a few surface-level ants with this trick, but it isn’t going to destroy the colony or solve your ant problem. The boiling water will cool quickly and won’t reach the deepest level where the queen is. And it wouldn’t be hot enough to be fatal even if it did reach that far. There is plenty of time for the queen and her entourage to escape and set up camp nearby. So, you will still have an ant problem on your hands.

Ultrasonic devices repel insects and rats

Advertisements and taglines make these sound like the solution to all your pest problems. The trouble is that they don’t really work. As much as we would love such a non-invasive, non-chemical, non-fatal option, ultrasonic devices aren’t it. They don’t really work through walls and furniture which makes them pretty useless.

Rub a dryer sheet on baseboards to repel pests

Grandma always said to rub a dryer sheet on your baseboards to keep away pests. Unfortunately, those dryer sheets aren’t doing much to keep away spiders, roaches, or mice. Simply wiping down your baseboard with a cloth can have the same effect, because the real benefit is found in picking up lint, crumbs, and other things that can attract pests. Save the sheets for the dryer.

Hang a bag of water to deter flies or mosquitoes

The idea here is that the eyes of flies and mosquitos are super sensitive and complex. So, hanging a bag of water will refract light to confuse these flying bugs and they fly away. Sorry, but no. A little bit of reflected light isn’t enough to keep these flying nuisances at bay. They are more motivated by a tasty snack than they are confused by refracted light. Any success at keeping flies away is more attributed to a clean counter than a bag of water.

You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar

Now this one may hurt a little bit if you say it to a friend. However, while it might be a bigger metaphor for life, it doesn’t hold true for flies. In reality, a fly is more attracted to that dish of vinegar than a pot of honey. Who knew, eh? 

Irish Spring soap repels rodents 

This one has been spinning around on the internet lately, but unfortunately, those bars of soap aren’t going to do you much good if you want to repel rats. The idea is that rodents are repelled by the scent of Irish Spring soap and won’t come around your place. There are a few problems with this thinking.

  • Most rats we encounter today are commensal which means they have lived alongside humans for thousands of years. They have learned to adapt to human sights, sounds, and yes, even smells like Irish Spring 
  • While you might initially see a rat avoid the bar of soap, it is likely a “new item avoidant” behavior rather than a true repellence. It won’t take long before the rat becomes accustomed to it – or the smell degrades
  • Speaking of the scent degrading, even if you cover your crawl space with bars of scented soap, the smell will dissipate all too soon. The scent usually fades quickly from the few millimeters of soap that is exposed. Not to mention, crawlspaces are intentionally well-ventilated to prevent moisture build-up, so the scent goes away quickly as well.

DIY Pest Control Facts (sort of. . . )

Repel insects with bitter cucumber. . . or orange peels. . . or peppermint oil. . .

While there is some truth to the repellency of these items, their results are mixed. Ants don’t like bitter cucumber, but they may just avoid that space and still swarm into your home. Roaches dislike osage orange and you could keep the green bumpy fruit on your counters, but it won’t keep them from the rest of your home. Peppermint oil (like Irish Spring soap) might keep rats away for a time but the concentration needed to be effective would be uncomfortable for the homeowner. And because it dissipates so quickly, it needs to be reapplied. 

There are so many other scents, essential oils, etc that are touted to have pest-control benefits but they are needed in such high concentrations, with limited duration, and with limited coverage as to make them basically impractical. 

Use a fan to deter insects:

A strong blowing fan can be a way to keep flying insects away. Flies, mosquitoes, bees, and wasps will all have difficulty flying into a stiff breeze. But again, this isn’t getting at the root of your problem and is only effective in a limited area for a limited time.

Use cheese bait for mouse traps

Every cartoon we ever saw told us that mice like cheese. And this isn’t wrong. Mice will certainly eat a piece of cheese. But did you know that it isn’t really their favorite food? Mice actually prefer foods that are higher in carbohydrates. If you really want to bait your traps well, use peanut butter or chocolate to attract the rodent.

DIY Pest Control Best Practice

Cascade is committed to finding the best, most environmentally-conscious ways to control pests. However, we’ve found many DIY options have little and limited efficacy. So, what can homeowners do? Of course, you can call the experts at Cascade, but the best DIY pest control is cleanliness and exclusion. Do everything in your power to not attract pests and to prevent their access to your home. 

Keep your house clean.

Grandma was right about this one: cleanliness is next to godliness (or at least close to pest-free-ness). Make sure to sweep and mop floors regularly. Ants love sticky spills. Wash the dishes and don’t let them collect for days in the sink. Cover your trash can. Store food in air-tight containers. Wipe counters to cut down on crumbs. Run your dish disposal and clean it routinely. Did you know that rats can be attracted to your house through the sewer pipes, including the pipes to your kitchen sink? 

Seal up entry points and leaks.

Always be aware of ways that pests can access your house. Check screens and make sure they don’t have holes. Look for gaps or cracks in your foundation. Gaps in your doorways. Mice can enter through a hole of ¼ inch and roaches in a hole ⅛ inch. If you have a leak, take care of it promptly. Water is a huge attraction for all bugs and rodents.

Trim hedges and dispose of organic debris.

Tackle the outside of your house as a good defense. Don’t let any bushes, tree limbs, or hedges touch your house. They just become highways for invading insects. If you have a pile of rotting leaves, wood, or other organic matter around your house, dispose of it quickly. It just becomes a breeding ground for bugs and rodents.

Declutter and organize storage areas

Out of sight, out of mind is a danger for homeowners, which can lead to pest problems. It is important to tackle storage areas regularly so that they don’t become home to unwanted guests. Roaches love cardboard and rats / mice love to get comfy in rarely used closets, attics, crawlspaces, and basements.

Have a pest or rodent problem? The expert technicians at Cascade Pest Control can help! Call 888-989-8979

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