Eco-Living Magazine

How to Manage Pests Naturally

Posted on the 17 June 2011 by Livinggreenor

Using Integrated Pest Management to Manage Pests NaturallyPests in your home can be a nuisance and bad for your health, but using pesticides to fight them can have dangerous side effects.

Pesticides are known to cause eye, nose and throat irritation; skin rashes; stomach cramps; nausea; damage to the central nervous system and kidneys; and increased risk of cancer.

Children, because they are still growing and developing, are especially vulnerable to the chemicals in pesticides.

Integrated Pest Management is an effective, safe, and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management.  All pests need to survive are shelter, food, and water; so there are three main ways to control them:

  1. Make pests unwelcome in and around your home:
    • Seal up small cracks, holes and crevices in visible areas, especially around pipes and wiring.  Don’t forget hidden areas such as under the kitchen sink.
    • Pull soil or mulch back from the foundation of your house, keep tree branches and shrubbery well trimmed, and stack firewood and lumber away from the house and 18 inches off the ground.
    • Remove water vessels like old tires, empty cans, and flower pots from the yard and make sure to fix any leaky pipes.
    • Clean out gutters regularly, especially at the end of Autumn when a majority of leaves have fallen.  Make sure gutters and downspouts are channeled away from your foundation.
    • Pay particular attention to the maintenance and upkeep of your home’s foundation.  Moisture problems can cause major pest issues for homes with basements or crawlspaces.
    • Screen crawl space vents and seal window frames.
    • Do not pile up trash or recycling in the outside bins.  Keep bins closed.
  2. Reduce food availability:
    • Store foods and pet foods in tightly sealed containers.
    • Store garbage in sealed containers and dispose of it regularly.
    • Wipe up spills and crumbs right away.  Clean your dirty dishes.
    • Vacuum frequently.
  3. Eliminate pests themselves:
    • Place traps and baits in infested areas as opposed to praying pesticides.
    • Use homemade repellents.


  • Spray Bottle of Soapy Water: One tablespoon of dishwashing soap in a gallon of water.  Spray soft-bodied insects like aphids, mealybugs, and spiders to kill them directly.  To eliminate scent trails for ants, wipe down trouble areas.
  • Boric Acid (Borax): Boric acid works as a poison for most insects.  Sprinkle the powder in trouble areas.  While boric acid is a better alternative to pesticide, it can still be hazardous.  Be sure to keep out of reach of children and only use in locations where it will not contact people or animals, such as behind counters and in crevices in the wall.
  • Corn Starch in Vacuum Bag: Placing corn starch in your vacuum bag suffocates ants and fleas.

If you must use pesticides, apply only as a last resort and use the lowest effective amount.

  • Chose methods that reduce exposure, including spot applications like baits, traps, gels, and pastes.
  • Read the label and follow the safety precautions.
  • Protect your skin, eyes, and lungs while using pesticides; always wash your hands after use.

For additional information on Integrated Pest Management, check out the Environmental Protection Agency.  They have information for residents on how to solve pest problems in the home.

{image credit: Lance and Cromwell}

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