Wednesday, July 24, 2019 - by Kim Bass, president, Greater Chattanooga Realtors
Summer brings out the creepy-crawlies. Ants march one-by-one toward your kitchen, fruit flies swarm your ripe farmers’ market peaches, and wasps send you and your guests scrambling from the barbecue.
Don’t panic. You can kill bugs in your house naturally — without expending too much effort, as long as you follow these expert-approved do’s and don’ts from the National Association of REALTORS.
Keep ants out by sealing up their entrance.
These pesky crawlers seek out any “sugary, sweet substances, crumbs on your countertop, and food spillage on the floors,” says Nancy Troyano, Ph.D., a board-certified entomologist and director of technical education and training at Rentokil North America Pest Control.
Ants lay a trail of pheromones to food their family can follow. Cut off their food supply by keeping your space spotless — wipe up spills and clear the crumbs from the bottom of your trash bin. If you spot their tiny parade, Troyano says to grab a tube of sealant and follow the ants until you find their itty-bitty entrance. Combining sugar and borax is another DIY method that hurts more than helps. While borax will kill the ants, it’s also an irritant that can be toxic to pets. Plus, the sugar “may end up attracting ants that wouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Troyano says.
Ban roaches by super cleaning or calling a pro. These nasty crawlers are “nocturnal and secretive in nature,” says Troyano. What’s worse is that they travel in groups. “If you spot one, it’s searching for food because the other roaches are eating all the rest,” she says. “Roaches hide so well in such tiny cracks and crevices and niches,” Troyano says. “Unless you’re trained to think like the roach, it’s very difficult to be able to get them all.” While store-bought roach traps and bait can help, to truly kill an infestation, you must remove any food sources, and hire an exterminator.
Stop wasps by killing them and removing their home. Wasps can be the worst warm weather pests, and they’re difficult to prevent and a pain to kill, literally, as you might suffer a sting or two in the process. Our backyards are most commonly home to either yellow jackets or paper wasps. During winter, the queens tuck away in the yard, wood piles, or other small holes, and they emerge when the weather warms in search of a home for their next colony.
To kill a single wasp or an entire nest, Troyano recommends aerosol insecticide. If you’re concerned about toxicity — these sprays typically include pyrethrins, which can cause respiratory problems if used incorrectly — hire an exterminator. If you’re brave enough to tackle a nest yourself, only do it at night when all wasps are back and sleeping. Stand as far away as the spray allows (most work from 20-plus feet) and wear thick, full-coverage clothing. Plan your escape route before spraying.
Of course, hiring an exterminator is safer — and necessary in some cases. Yellow jacket wasps like to build nests underneath siding. Some homeowners might be tempted to starve them out by plugging the entrance, which is a terrible mistake. “Yellow jackets are chewers,” she says. They’ll chew through the other side of their nest to get inside your house. “Every year, we get calls from frantic people because they see a soft, wet hole in their drywall, and they’ll poke it, and yellow jackets come spilling out,” Troyano says.
Control mosquitoes by removing their breeding grounds. Check birdbaths, storm drains, potted plants, any place water can collect, then dump any you find. Mosquitoes only need one or two weeks to breed, so hurry! Can’t dump it out? Treat standing water with larvicides that kill bugs before they start biting. But look out for products containing Bti, not methoprene, which is toxic to fish, causes vomiting in some dogs, and can irritate your skin. To keep them from attacking you when you’re relaxing on your back porch, simply blow them away, literally. A simple fan will do the trick (but a ceiling fan would be way cooler!).
Trap fruit flies with vinegar. Summer brings these frequent fliers in droves, and nothing seems to keep them away. The best way to keep your home fly-free is by cleaning up your garbage disposal or trash can and putting all of your food in the refrigerator immediately. Cleaning the produce bowl daily and removing any food with broken skin can stave off flies, but Troyano says putting everything away is the only fail-safe. Even after a thorough scrubbing, you still might find a few little guys hovering in your kitchen. A homemade trap, created by placing a small amount of cider vinegar in a jar and covering it with plastic wrap punched with a few holes, can help eliminate the flies’ last stand.
If these tips don’t help control your pest problem, ask your realtor. Realtors build relationships with exterminators and other service providers who can help homeowners enjoy their investment.