Tag Archives: pest control

Simple and effective pest control: Fruit flies

I have to admit, in the world of creepy crawlies, fruit flies rank pretty low on my list.  They’re harmless, they’re small, and aside from being incredibly annoying, they don’t give me the heebie-jeebies the way that other insects do.  I was at a friend’s house the other day, and he apologized for the fruit flies, which got me thinking about ways to conquer the little buggers.  I offered the solution that had worked well for me the last time I had an infestation- put a banana peel in a jar, cover the jar with plastic wrap, secure the wrap with a rubber band, and poke a few holes in the top with something small, like a push pin.  The fruit flies, attracted by the banana, will get in and not be able to get back out- for a while.  “Then you kill them?” he asked, and I realized that my solution once the jar was full was to let them go outside.  Here are some other methods for dealing with the little jerks.

As with any insect infestation, the trick to decreasing fruit fly problems is cleaning.  If you have fruit on your counter, consider putting it in the cupboard or in the refrigerator once it starts to age.  Make sure you compost your fruit scraps and peels, or, if you don’t compost, keep them well covered in the trash can.  You’ll probably notice that fruit fly issues exist when you leave the garbage or your fruit for a while, and as they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

As if it didn’t do everything already, basil is a great fruit fly deterrent.  The pungent spice repels them, so breaking a leaf or sprinkling dried basil over your fruit or in the bottom of the bowl can really make a difference.  This also works with lavender.  And who wouldn’t want a lovely fresh bunch of lavender hanging in their kitchen?

Make sure you wash your fruits and vegetables to get rid of any residual eggs.  You can do this with a simple peroxide solution (see this post.)  Keep in mind that most fruit fly issues start with fruit flies from outdoors, so if you still find you have a problem after washing your fruit, look for places where they might be getting in.

If you want to spray the fruit flies, you can make a solution with lemongrass oil or even rubbing alcohol and spray where the flies are at.  Another simple solution is getting them drunk.  Put some white wine with dish soap in a small dish and leave it near where they congregate.  The flies drink the wine, and the combination literally rots their guts.

Make sure that your kitchen is well-ventilated.  I find that in the south this can become difficult, especially in the summer months where the house stays closed up.  If you can’t open a window, see if you can turn on fans; the flies don’t like the air being disturbed or the temperatures changing, and it can dissuade them from hanging around your goodies.

Once I get around to canning fruits I’ll write a nice long article about how to make use of all that fruit sitting around.  In the meantime, why not take those old bananas and make some Bisquick banana bread?


I used Jiffy Mix with this recipe, which worked spectacularly.  I baked the bread in small loaf pans with tinfoil over the bread and left it in for 40 minutes instead of the recipe’s recommended 55.  The bread turned out flavorful, sweet and spongy.  It’s delicious.


  • 2 1/3 c Bisquick or Jiffy mix
  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/3 c vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 large very ripe bananas
  • 1 t vanilla

Mix together bisquick, sugar, oil, and eggs.  Beat well.  Stir in bananas and vanilla.  Bake at 350 degrees for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean.


Simple and effective pest control: Cockroaches

I was once told that Mark Twain professed that the reason he was an atheist was because of the mosquito; how could a loving God create such an awful creature?  After searching at length for these words I can decide he was misquoted, but the expression about sums up my feelings about the cockroach.  I am not an atheist, but sometimes I teeter; most often it is when I have just smashed one under a shoe and am wiping the explosion off whatever surface it had the ill luck to fall upon.

Cockroaches are the one insect that most find impossible to get rid of.  They are remarkable in their durability and propagation; once they get into your house, they are said to be impossible to remove.  In Chicago, we kept them at bay for several months, and then woke one morning to find that they had taken over the kitchen.  I spent a lot of money on organic sprays that were completely ineffective at prevention; to kill the roaches you had to spray them directly for three to five seconds, which also inevitably doused the dishes and utensils in the area as well.  I solved the problem by moving to Montana, where the cold makes it difficult for them to live, but this seemed a rather extreme measure to recommend to others.

Due to their gross-out factor, cockroaches are highly misunderstood; a little education can go a long way when dealing with them.  For example, most of us see them on our counters and floors, but cockroaches love to climb.  Boric acid (which is TOXIC when eaten, and should be kept away from children) sprinkled on TOP of your cupboards can work wonders- the roaches come into contact with it and bring it back home, which subsequently kills the others living with them.  I would recommend this only in extreme cases, and don’t apply it repeatedly; boric acid, when inhaled, can really harm you.

Thankfully, nature has provided a swell and harmless alternative: diatomaceous earth.  This swell powder is a type of rock made from the fossilized shells of diatoms, and can be purchased in a lot of places where regular insecticides are sold.  If you sprinkle it on your counters, in and on top of your cupboards, and places where roaches like to hide (behind appliances or the refrigerator, under the garbage can, behind the toilet), they get coated in it, and the crystals break down their exoskeletons.  You will see more roaches when using this method because, as they die, their dehydration will force them out of hiding to look for water.  Within two weeks, your roach population will decrease dramatically.

Roaches hate cucumber and garlic, and if you find they hang out in a certain place, slices of these will keep them away.  But the best solution to roach problems is prevention- clean your kitchen and bathroom thoroughly, and vacuum every nook and cranny.  If your vacuum has a bag, make sure you get rid of it in a trash outside your house; if it has a plastic container for dust, make sure you’re dumping it in an outside trash or dumpster as well.

Roaches, like all animals, are attracted to water, so fix any water leaks you have around the house and make sure your faucet areas are clean and dry.  Don’t free-feed your pets; rinse and dry their dishes after each use.  If you’re not using a faucet, plug it up.  Caulk cracks and holes where you notice roaches hanging out.  Put screens over your air vents.  Cockroaches want in because they need food and water and can’t find it outside.

Make sure you don’t have extra stores of paper bags or cardboard hanging around; roaches love the glue on paper bags, and cardboard boxes serve as excellent nesting grounds.

As a little bit of humor:


Simple and effective pest control: Ants

Growing up on the Washington coast, we didn’t deal much with ants.  We scratched at fleas, we were grossed out by spiders, we got bit by mosquitoes.  But my only experience with the insatiable little buggers growing up was a traumatic one: I leaned for a minute against my grandmother’s laundry-line pole while talking to my parents in the back yard, and suddenly they were crawling all over me.  I screamed bloody murder as my parents stripped off my clothes and batted them away.  I was frightened to death of them until I became a teenager; their anthills gave me the heebie-jeebies.

I’ve met many families that don’t want to use harsh chemicals to kill bugs, because they’re afraid of .  It’s a valid concern; some pesticides can kill you.  But an abundance of commercially available pesticides doesn’t mean you have to buy and use them.  With many pests, knowing their natural predators and biological deterrents can go a long way in the fight against invasion.  I’ll be writing a series of articles about pest deterrents, one at a time.

Ants are the bane of many houses; they seem innumerable and impossible to get rid of.  But they aren’t as crafty as you think.  Ants, like all insects, are motivated by food.  The first thing to do, when you have an ant problem, is to clean up; if you have honey or syrup in the cupboard, put it in a bag you can seal (this also helps save your shelves.)  Get rid of crumbs and sweep your floors.  Encourage your children to help you (chances are, if you have small children, that they are a main source of crumbs around the house!)  Make sure you vacuum your children’s rooms, too, or your room and floor if you like to eat in bed.  The point is: keep food contained!

Then figure out where the ants are coming from.  If you just see a random one once in a while, chances are you don’t have enough of a problem to worry about.  An abundance, however, has a source.  If you can’t find it, figure out where the ants like to hang out (I found that in the south, the daddy long-legs would set up shop close to ant sources; they are one of its natural predators.)  Put cucumber slices, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, old coffee grounds, or mint leaves (cloves work too) around the area.  You can also leave a night light in areas that don’t have them; doing this for a few days confuses the ants, who get used to looking for food in the darkness.  Discouraging them this way can change their habits and get them to look elsewhere for sustenance.

Cinnamon and garlic also work well.  If you have ants on a deck or porch, you can shove garlic cloves between slats in boards to keep them away.  You can put cinnamon sticks on your windowsills or in the edges of your doorways, on shelves and in drawers.  Cut off water sources- dry your sinks and surfaces.

Need a stronger ant attack?  Apple cider vinegar makes a great spray for floors and counters where ants hang out.  Apple cider vinegar will require its own blog post someday, because it’s just that great, but it is a natural insecticide that, considering the toxicity of others, is well worth the pungent smell.

Pay attention to where the ants go.  If you put cloves or black pepper near them, they may beeline in a certain direction- this can provide helpful clues to how, exactly, they’re getting in your house.

If you’re a gardening type, add mint or rosemary to your garden, or keep the plants near your doorways or windowsills.  Mint makes ants unable to detect certain smells.  If you don’t have mint or rosemary, experiment with other pungent-smelling herbs, like tea tree or eucalyptus or thyme.  Many herbs are natural pest deterrents; this is why we love them in our flower and vegetable patch!

The most important things to remember about pests is that they don’t merit your anger.  They’re there because they’re looking to do what we all want to do: eat and sleep comfortably.  It seems a little silly to me for a family to bug bomb their house when they don’t even want to sweep or clean the counters.  Use your natural remedies as a lesson for your children and others about the interconnectedness of life, and most of all, be persistent!  Bugs don’t show up overnight and they might not go away overnight either.

Peace and love.

Good references for natural ant control: