Skip the Pesticides: Spring Into Pest Season Safely

Skip the Pesticides: Spring Into Pest Season Safely

January 6, 2023

By Meghan  Garvey, Development Director

Spring marks the return of oh so many good things. Hello daffodils, melodious tree frogs, and raised bed gardening with the kids. But there’s one sign of warmer weather we could all do without: the myriad insects that ride its first waves right into our homes to set up shop for summer.

Whether minor or major, these pest problems tend to illicit a similar response. Parents reach all too quickly for pesticides to provide the cure. Hang on! Many of the poisons that are toxic to insects are, of course, also toxic to children and others.

A recent decision by the EPA to take the flea repellent propoxur out of pet flea collars offers a look at just how dangerous many of these substances can be. The EPA said that the collars leave residues of this potent neurotoxin on pet fur that can be absorbed by children playing with the pet the first day the collar is used. And a Natural Resources Defense Council study on the issue found that after three days, 100% of pets wearing propoxur collars had residues on their fur that posed neurological risks to toddlers. After 14 days, 75% of pets were still dangerously contaminated. The collars were even polluting indoor air.

Chances are your kids like to hug the family dog. So this is more than a little alarming. Fortunately, nature provides safer pest-repelling alternatives. The next time you have a problem—from fleas to cockroaches—seal up entry points and try solutions like these:

  • For fleas, make a flea powder of 1/2 tsp. each of ground dried eucalyptus, rosemary, and pennyroyal in 1/4 cup of cornstarch. Shake to blend, sprinkle on your pet and work into their fur.
  • Uninvite ants to your kitchen by sprinkling ground cloves or diatomaceous earth (fossilized sea algae) along “edge zones” like baseboards, cabinet rears, and countertop backsplashes. Or wipe down surfaces with peppermint oil.
  • Discourage cockroaches with a spray made from two teaspoons of tea tree or peppermint oil in two cups of water.
  • Flies and fruit flies are said to dislike basil, so mix a spray of two teaspoons basil oil in two cups of water. Or infuse one pint of basil leaves in enough gain alcohol or water to cover.You can also make non-toxic fly strips from Kraft paper coated with 1/4 cup of corn syrup mixed with 1/2 cup of sugar.
  • Banish moths by doing lots of laundry in hot water and carefully vacuuming shelves and closets. Then use sachets stuffed with a mixture of bay leaves, dried basil leaves, some spearmint, thyme, tansy, rosemary, and wormwood. Replace every six months.
  • Repel ticks with a solution of two teaspoons rose geranium or palmerosa essential oil. Getting in the habit of nightly tick checks is a must.

There are many more DIY insect-repelling recipes like these to be found online. A great addition to any family reference library is Better Basics for the Home by Annie B. Bond. Happy spring!

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