No matter how careful we are, most of us will experience pests at some point in our lives. Whether it’s something as minuscule as bedbugs or something as big as mice or rats, pests are extremely common across North America. You may find earwigs, cockroaches, or fleas invading your home, or you may even bump into the elusive roof rat hiding out in your attic; whatever it is, it can be a bit of a nuisance.
Why Get Rid of Pests?
Regardless of whether you’re an animal lover or not, rodents, vermin, and other pests are not the sorts of things you really want camping out in and around your home. Why? For starters, pests can nibble through furniture, bite through cables and wires, steal food, and even cause structural damage to your property. But it’s about more than just your home and belongings; it’s about your family’s health, too.
Did you know that there are some types of pests that are carriers of viruses? The deer mouse, for example, can carry the hantavirus which is a very serious and sometimes deadly condition. We need to ensure we’re looking out for ourselves and for our families, which means getting rid of these pests.
Best Way to Get Rid of Pests
If the ‘best’ way to get rid of pests means the most aggressive way, then chemical pesticides win every time. These chemically-laden solutions are hugely effective, with ingredients such as pyrethroids, organochlorines, and organophosphates all affecting the nervous system, resulting in paralysis and, ultimately, death. Pesticides are remarkably good at what they do… but are they really a good choice?
Perhaps not. Consider this:
- Pesticides are a poison, and they can have a similar effect on humans as they do on pests. Health risks of pesticides vary from something as mild as a headache or itching skin to symptoms as extreme as breathing difficulties, burns, or unconsciousness. Pesticides can even cause death.
- Pesticides can contaminate water, soil, and the air, with poison spreading rapidly to animals and plants species. Not only can non-target wildlife be killed by pesticides, but toxic solutions can also affect seed quality, resulting in a dramatic decline in the availability of fresh produce.
- Pesticides are not particularly ethical. Research by the RSPCA charity in Australia has found that, due to how they work by causing nerve damage and paralysis, pesticides cause a very slow and painful death for rodents and vermin, making them a massively inhumane pest control option.
These are all very important reasons why eco-friendly pest control is the way to go.
What is Eco-Friendly Pest Control?
Eco-friendly pest control is all about finding ways to get rid of rodents, vermin, and other pests, while thinking about the environment and ensuring that the methods and techniques used, do not harm other wildlife, the planet, or our health and wellbeing. Some pest control companies are beginning to incorporate non-chemical, non-toxic solutions into their standard processes, and many homeowners are also finding ways to get rid of common household and garden pests without the use of harmful products.
However, there is one big concern with using eco-friendly pesticides, and that is that these safe, non-toxic solutions won’t be as effective as deadly chemicals. While it can’t be denied that chemicals are certainly more aggressive, the truth is that the right non-toxic solutions can actually do a great job at keeping pests out of your home. So what eco-friendly pest control solutions really work… and how?
Eco-Friendly Pest Control Methods & Pesticides
It is now possible to buy eco-friendly pest control solutions from stores, such as sprays and aerosols that do a similar job to the more traditional chemical options. However, these are not the only choices. In fact, homeowners looking to take more control over how they deal with unwanted pests may prefer to look into some alternative methods and products that are easy to find locally, and easy to use, too:
1. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Diatomaceous earth is an entirely natural product made from fossilized organisms. This means it’s completely safe to use (the FDA has categorized DE as ‘Generally Recognized as Safe’), and food grade DE can even be eaten! So how does it work? As DE is made from fossilized organisms, it is naturally very rough and abrasive, which means it’s great at breaking down the tough and sometimes waxy shells of common household pests such as cockroaches. Once this shell is broken down, it is very easy for the pests to rapidly lose water, causing it to dry out and die. While this may sound painful, the process is actually very quick, making it a much more human choice that slow-acting pesticides and chemicals.
There is one downside to using diatomaceous earth: it’s messy! As a fine powder that needs to be sprinkled in areas where pests are (it only works upon direct contact with pests), using DE at home can sometimes be a very messy job. But fortunately, the positives outweigh the negatives. DE is 100% chemical-free, pests cannot build up a tolerance to it like they can to chemicals, and DE remains working for as long as it’s in place, not losing its effectiveness over time and making it a budget-friendly option.
Nepetalactone may sound like a chemical — and it is! — but it’s actually a non-toxic chemical that’s found in the Nepeta cataria plant: the catnip plant! As many of us know, this herbal plant is completely safe. So safe, in fact, that we’re happy to give it to our cats to play with, fight with, rub up against, and even eat! Cats love it. Pets? Not so much. Research shows that the Z,E-nepetalactone and E,Z-nepetalactone isomers in nepetalactone are more effective at getting rid of pests that DEET; a commonly used pesticide that can be harmful to human health. In fact, Health Canada advises not to use DEET at concentrations of more than 30% (and not more than 10% if being used around children).
For homeowners looking for ways to get rid of common pests without killing them, this is a great option as nepetalactone is a repellent only; it won’t do any damage to pests but it will make them think twice about coming into your home. There are a number of ways that you can use the catnip plant to keep pests away. Some people like to sprinkle dried catnip around the house in areas where pests are likely, while others prefer to grow the plant either in the garden or in pots placed on sunny windowsills.
3. Strong Smells
If you’ve got pets at home, you may notice that they’re not too fond of some smells. This is especially true for stronger smells that can be quite overpowering on little noses. It’s no different when it comes to pests. Strong-smelling foods and naturally-derived products, such as some essential oils, can be great at getting rid of pests. Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and limes, cucumber, bay leaf, and peppermint are some of the most common options. However, remember that effectiveness does vary; some people enjoy excellent success when using these types of products, while others don’t. However, at the very least you will be introducing some beautiful aromas to your home so it’s definitely worth a try!
As with nepetalactone, strong smells are a repellent only, so they won’t kill pests, but they will deter them from coming into your home. There are many ways to encourage these aromas in your home, you could grow plants indoors or outdoors, scatter leftover citrus peels in the garden, or diffuse oils. However, if you have cats or dogs, don’t diffuse oils as this can be bad for their health Instead, look at diffusing hydrolats which are floral waters. They’re slightly milder but much safer for use around animals.
These 3 eco-friendly pest control options can all be very effective. However, it’s important not to overlook perhaps the most important, most effective, and most eco-friendly choice of all: prevention.
We can all greatly minimize the need to use pesticides and chemicals by working to ensure that pests not only cannot get into the home but also that pests don’t want to get into the home! Here are some tips:
- Eliminate access points: Try to reduce the number of ways that pests can get into your home. Bug nets are a good choice, and you may wish to think about sealing cracks in windows or doors.
- Eliminate hiding places: If pests do get inside, ensure they have nowhere to hide. Focus on sealing cracks in walls and floors, as well as vacuuming and rotating mattresses regularly.
- Reduce attractiveness: Make it so that pests aren’t interested in invading your home. Keep counters clean of crumbs and ensure food is always put away rather than being left in the open.
Do Your Part
With rapidly growing awareness of pest prevention methods, and with an increasing number of eco-friendly pest control options available to homeowners, there really is no need to rely on toxic, harmful, and chemically-laden solutions that could damage our health and the environment.
These eco-friendly pesticides provide us with a great opportunity to do our part for the environment, ensuring we’re doing what we can to protect the landscape, the wildlife, and our own future. So, the next time you find that you’ve got a pest problem, don’t simply reach for the DEET. Instead, look into alternative solutions which are not only safer but which also be more effective at getting the job done.
Luqman has been a pest control technician for over 20 years. He is passionate about solving peoples pest and wildlife control problems through innovative, eco-friendly and humane methods. Luqman currently works for Pestend. He believes that pest control is a science and feels that his function in his community is very important since he helps people live in peace without causing unnecessary harm to animals.