The Best Pest Controls, for a War You'll Never Win

Bold butterfly, perched on cat's nose

It's not even close! There are far more bugs on earth than humans. Scientists estimate there are about 200 million bugs for every human. Use as many pest controls as you will, but know in your heart it's a war you'll never win. You can keep bugs from your house and yard with some relatively easy bug control measures however. This page is just an overview of steps you can take to push back against bugs in your corner of the world.

Keeping Pests off People

For the most part, keeping bugs off yourself and family members is relatively straightforward. Just avoid bugs that crawl and swat those that land on you. The devil's in the details though, so let's get into it a bit.

Insects are single minded creatures. When they're hungry or thirsty, they forage for food or water. Their survival, and perhaps that of their hive or colony, depends on their success. Ants crawling over your foot at a picnic are probably interested in your sandwich, and not in you. On the other hand, ticks wait on nearby plants, ready to jump onto your exposed arm or leg. The ticks are not interested in your picnic - you are their next meal!

If you follow the suggestions below to keep your house and yard pest free, there is no need to be on high alert for bugs on your home turf. Fields, rivers, and forests are another matter though. If you're going hiking, hunting, or camping, you're well advised to use an insect repellent containing DEET. As a quick aside, DEET was originally developed for the Army, and has a remarkable safety profile after 40 years of use and nearly 8 billion human applications. It has proven effective against mosquitoes, ticks, and a host of other bugs.

Hiking boots, long pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a hat further limit your exposure to bugs while off the beaten track.

Household Pest Controls

Your house can harbor a wide variety of pests, from termites and bed bugs to boxelder beetles and cockroaches. Your first line of defense is to control moisture and to close any cracks or holes in the exterior walls.

Control moisture

Eliminate moisture to control pests

Keeping things dry may require no effort, or it could take a fair amount of time and money. You may find it necessary to install gutters and downspouts, or you may have to re-grade your yard to improve its drainage. On the other hand, your moisture control efforts may be just nudging the air conditioner condensate drain line back over the floor drain. Another simple task might be replacing the washer for a drippy faucet. Regardless of the difficulty, keeping your house dry is one of the most important pest controls you can implement. Bugs need water to live, and many require water to breed. Don't call any attention to your house; be sure to keep your kitchen, bath, and laundry areas clean and dry. Deny bugs any moisture, and they will move on.

Close all cracks and holes

Bugs may also be drawn through cracks and holes to sources of light or heat, to the smell of food, or even to the carbon dioxide you exhale. It's important that you close all openings at grade (near ground level), and carefully consider any openings above grade. Closing cracks and holes in the exterior walls of your house will also improve your home's energy efficiency by keeping conditioned air inside. Cracks and holes, as well as openings for outside spigots, switch covers, and electrical outlets can be sealed up with a long-life, paintable, UV resistant caulk or pre-cut pieces of foam.

It's important to add good pest controls, but you cannot break other systems in your house. Openings such as attic ventilation windows, cupolas, or soffit vents must remain open at all times.  Make sure these openings have screens in them to provide needed ventilation, and that the screens are in good condition.

Once you've tackled the moisture issue and you've closed off cracks and holes in exterior walls, many bugs will view your house as a non-starter when searching for a place to live.

This short list of pest controls for your house, while very effective, is by no means complete. Some pests such as termites require additional measures - but we'll get to them further on.

Controlling Pests on Your Pets

You can improve your pets lives considerably by keeping them free of fleas and ticks. If you've got your bugs on the run with the pest controls you put in place for your house, you certainly don't want your pet to bring them in from outside. One of the things you can do to do to make your pet's life more comfortable is to keep your lawn and bushes neatly trimmed.

As noted above, bugs need moisture, and fleas and ticks are no exception. If you let your yard become overgrown, the sun and wind can't easily dry moisture build up from dew or rain. Fleas and ticks move up to position themselves to jump onto your pet, and move back down to the lower, moister part of the plant if they start to dry out while waiting. During the wet seasons (spring and fall), cut your grass a little shorter. During the hotter, dryer months of summer let it grow longer. Simply allowing your yard to dry out regularly will go a long way toward preventing fleas and ticks from infesting your pet and invading your home. The sun and wind are your biggest allies as pest controls!

Be sure to take your pet to your veterinarian regularly too! It's great to know you have your bugs on the run, but a good vet will keep other health issues at bay so your pet lives a longer, healthier, and happier life.

Pest Controls for your Lawn, Garden, and Landscape

There are a host of other bugs that lie in wait to attack your lawn, your garden, or your landscape bushes and trees. If you are like many homeowners, you don't want to take the time and effort to keep your yard well manicured, only to have bugs turn your lawn brown or snack on your flowers.

Nematodes - Mother Nature's pest controllers

Try to avoid using chemicals in your yard to kill bugs. Pets (and children) are closer to the ground, where the chemicals are applied. In addition, pets and children typically weigh less than you do - so the chemicals' effects will be that much stronger. Instead, consider using  nematodes. The nematodes are microscopic worms, smaller than the larvae of fleas, ticks, and other bugs. The nematodes feed on bug larvae in the soil. They are harmless to pets and children, but they are the bane of fleas, ticks, and many other bugs. By using them to kill the larvae of fleas, ticks and other bug larvae, you break their reproductive cycle - without the use of chemicals.

There are too many lawn, garden, and landscape bugs to address here on this page, but we will get into specifics for some of them in a bit. Having said that, one outdoor pest that can ruin the best planned yard party bears mention here - the mosquito.

Aerial assaults from mosquitoes

Mosquitoes are noteworthy for many reasons, and deserve their own set of pest controls. Certainly they are bothersome whenever they light or even fly around your head, but they can be outright bullies every evening about the time the sun sets. Clouds of mosquitoes abruptly appear and attack. Suddenly all you can think about is slapping yourself repeatedly to kill real or imagined mosquitoes!

Even worse, mosquitoes are known to carry pathogens such as West Nile virus, malaria, heartworm, Zika fever, and a host of other diseases. In some regions, mosquitoes are not to be taken lightly!

Dining on mosquitoes

Mosquito being drawn to black light

Once again, try to steer clear of chemicals. You can play a long game and try to entice hummingbirds. These little birds do not rely on just nectar from flowers to maintain their ultra-high metabolism. Hummingbirds routinely eat mosquitoes while in flight. They also eat aphids, beetles, flies, flying ants, gnats, leafhoppers, mites, spiders, wasps, and weevils.

You can also try your hand putting up a bird house for purple martins or barn swallows, both voracious bug eaters.

Bats also eat huge numbers of bugs every night. You may be able to entice them to live nearby in a specially built bat house, and count on them to scavenge your yard and those of your neighbors for bugs every night.

If you live near water, you may be able to entice dragonflies to patrol your yard. They enjoy eating both midges and mosquitoes. If you have a small water feature such as a fountain or pond in your yard, consider throwing a in few fish. Just one or two goldfish will eat any larvae, preventing the next generation of mosquitoes from targeting you and your guests.

You can also use certain species of nematodes which attack the larva of mosquitoes, and a host of other household pests.

The tried and true bug zapper

To get more immediate results, set up a bug zapper in your yard. Since insects see best in the blue and green part of the light spectrum, bug zappers use the blue light emitted by a black light to draw bugs to a quick death by electrocution.

You can add octenol cartridges to your bug zapper to attract more mosquitoes to their death. Mosquitoes are strongly attracted by the carbon dioxide you exhale and by the warmth of your body. A bug zapper will provide light and some warmth from its bulb to draw mosquitoes, and octenol cartridges will simulate the carbon dioxide you exhale to further attract mosquitoes to the bug zapper.

There you have them, a few scathingly brilliant pest control measures for your home and yard. In most cases, you can put the measures to use in just a few minutes, and they'll bring immediate relief. In some cases, taking a few minutes now will relieve you of bugs in your yard and home for months!

If you have any questions or suggestions about pest control, drop them in the comment box below. Others may need answers, and certainly many will appreciate ideas you bring to the table to control pests in their home or yard.

Photo Credits:

Butterfly on cat's nose: Karina Vorozheeva on Unsplash

Ant enjoying the rain: Clker-Free-Vector-Images on Pixabay

Adorable chocolate lab puppy: Photo by Jairo Alzate on Unsplash

Mosquito silhouette over black light: Taken from trade magazine article (unknown origin)

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