Indoor pests are very annoying, even if the pests themselves are not harmful. No one needs little bugs or rodents running around a pantry or closet, and certainly no one needs to have harsh pesticide sprays stinking up rooms or making their homes temporarily uninhabitable. Using organic indoor pest control methods helps eliminate those problems, but you have to know how to use the methods correctly, and what exactly the methods will do.
Are these methods all I need?
These pest control methods need to be used along with outdoor control and vigilance. For example, an ant invasion inside requires finding and destroying the nest outside. Getting rid of pantry moths means constantly sealing up food containers in the home and also being very careful to isolate new bags and boxes of grains that you bring in.
What are these methods?
Organic indoor pest control involves sprays, baits, and other methods, tailored to the particular pest for the most part. Occasionally you get a method that applies to most or all pests, such as exclusion.
Exclusion can be difficult to achieve sometimes. If you see a crack through which ants are coming in, and you seal the crack, you still might find ants coming in through a different crack later on unless you eliminate the outside source from which the ants are coming. It’s very hard to totally exclude termites from ever getting into your home, which is why in this case you need to have a pest control company helping to inspect and protect the property.
Sometimes exclusion is achieved through quarantines. Take the aforementioned pantry moths. Even if your home has never had them before and is totally clean, you can always bring some in when you bring home another box of rice, for example. Wrapping up the box or transferring the rice to an airtight container keeps it isolated, so any new moths will not move into your kitchen.
Other methods include using mint-oil-based sprays to control ants and roaches, placing lines of chalk (note: regular chalkboard-type chalk, not the neurotoxin you find under the counter at some markets) or cinnamon to limit the reach of a pest, filling in cracks and stuffing steel wool into openings like window weep holes, and mixing boric acid with jam or honey.
How long do these take to work?
This depends on the method and the pest you are dealing with. A boric acid bait can take about a week to start having a visible effect. Exclusion has a mostly immediate effect if you take care of the actual source of the infestation as well. Mint sprays work within a few minutes, and chalk and cinnamon are immediate but have to be refreshed (i.e., redone) every couple of weeks.
A good rule of thumb is to give methods a few days to a week to start reducing numbers visibly. If the problem gets worse or stays the same, switching out the method for another tactic is a good idea.
Are these methods food-safe, kid-safe, and pet-safe?
Many are, but some are decidedly not. Even though they may be organic or “natural,” you still have to take precautions when using them around kids, pets, or food. For example, a mint oil spray for ants, while generally safe, really isn’t something you want to spray near your pet’s eyes or near your dinner plate. Chalk, if you’re not careful and you place it near a fan, can spread over the room and cause respiratory problems (just like chalk dust in a classroom can). Boric acid, often used in homemade ant baits, is decidedly not kid, pet, or food-safe even though it’s less of a problem than what you’d find in many pesticide sprays. But sprinkling cinnamon in a line to contain invading ants is very safe as long as you don’t let it blow all over the place — it’s food, but it is a powder and can get in people’s eyes if you’re not careful.
Do these have to be homemade?
No, there are several organic, natural, or non-toxic indoor pest control methods that are commercially available. Pheromone traps are one such example. If you have moths or similar pests, you can get these traps that have pheromones, or hormones that attract the pests, embedded in a small section of the trap. The section is surrounded by super-sticky adhesive that grabs the pests when they try to crawl toward the pheromone section.
Mint-oil sprays and pre-packaged baits are also available commercially, as are humane traps for rodents. Pest companies know that customers want these less-dangerous methods and have adjusted their manufacturing to accommodate this. However, many methods can be homemade. One of the simplest, for example, is placing a mint tea bag near areas where ants have been coming in. Depending on the species of ant, the mint tea can be a handy repellent.
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