Pest Control for Keeping a Bug-Free Home – Part 2, by G.F.
(Continued from Part 1. This concludes the article.)
Flies of all types spread disease, something that will be very problematic if medical care is difficult to come by. Most store-bought solutions are inadequate. Zappers offer only partial control and explode the fly, spreading any disease it may have. Sticky traps offer little help, except in confined spaces (like a closet). Sanitation and exclusion are everything. The best value pesticide for controlling flies is the classic fly swatter. Fly swatters are very cheap. Keep one around for each room. Hand them out to your kids. There is no better way to decimate fly populations in your home.
Cloth-destroying insects, like silverfish, firebrats, and clothing moths can be difficult to control. Keeping clothes and books off the ground and away from contact with walls helps. Better yet, keep them in bags and totes when not in use. Cedar works well as a repellent, but only for a few years, though you can always replace or supplement with new wood, if you have a ready source. Pyrethrid dusts and oils work well, but are toxic and expensive and, therefore, should only be applied in cracks and joints to keep insects out. Diatomaceous earth is safer and cheaper and can be applied in large amounts, though it’s not quite as effective.
Spiders are best killed with a vacuum cleaner or a rolled-up newspaper. They can also be removed using the cup and piece of paper method. Do not use poisons for spiders. They do not provide long-term control and anything that will kill a spider is quite toxic.
As always, keep spiders out of the house with exclusionary methods and keep the house clean and dry, so as not to attract the insects that spiders like to eat. Remember that lights also attract insects. Terro makes a product it calls Cobweb Eliminator that contains sodium lauryl sulfate and essential oils. The oils work as a repellent, while the sodium lauryl sulfate makes surfaces slicker and difficult for spiders to attach their webs to. It works well for me in barns and on the outside of my house and could be easily replicated on a large scale with Dawn soap and essential oils. Avoid killing wasps, if not necessary, as they help keep down on spiders. In particular, blue mud daubers hunt black widows.
Lice could become a major problem after TEOTWAWKI. Wash or, if you can, vacuum household surfaces regularly to control them. Do the same with household objects or, if you can, freeze them. You can also use very hot water for washing or sanitizing objects.
The LiceMeister comb is designed to remove nits (lice eggs). Dimethicone is a non-toxic silicone that can be used with the comb to help catch all the nits. Of course, your best bet may be shaving someone who has lice.
Insecticidal shampoos are not 100% effective and are toxic (pyrethrids); flammable and possibly allergenic (benzyl alcohol); or less effective than dimethicone (enzyme-based.) Since lice are not an immediate threat to health, you should not apply toxins to treat them.
Those Dreaded Bedbugs
Bed bugs are another likely and serious pest in a TEOTWAWKI situation. Unfortunately, they are probably the worst candidate for DIY pest control. Learn how to find bed bugs so you can attack them early. In a TEOTWAWKI situation, you should inspect any bed and bedding you sleep in when outside the house, so you don’t bring bed bugs back home with you.
As soon as you get home, wash and dry your clothes with as much heat as you can. If you are in a limited-electricity situation, but have a working dryer and can run it, then this is the time to use it. Similarly, inspect any second-hand mattresses you bring into the house and try to disinfect them. Vacuuming mattress seams, under baseboards and in other places bed bugs live will help control them. If you have to throw out an infested mattress, take it far from home and mark it, so no one else uses it.
Wash bedding regularly in hot water. If you live somewhere hot and dry, take advantage of very hot, dry days to air bedding out in the sun. If you live somewhere very cold, take advantage of freezing, dry weather to air out bedding in the cold. In freezing weather, if you have an active infestation, think about whether you can move out of infested parts of the home and open those parts up to the freezing weather.
Chemical treatments for bed bugs are not always effective and it seems foolhardy to apply toxins to your beddings. One possible exception is hydroprene (Gentrol). I have not used it, but it is an insect growth regulator and should be of very low toxicity to humans. IGRs, however, take time to work. Therefore, if you’re treating a mattress, sofa or bedding with Gentrol, remove them from the home, taking care not to spread bed bugs to other rooms. If you’re treating baseboards or carpets, combine this treatment with vacuuming, if you have a working vacuum.
Mosquitoes, in addition to causing discomfort can spread dangerous diseases. Sanitation and exclusion are key. Keep screens in good repair – you should definitely keep materials on hand to repair and replace screens – and ruthlessly eliminate standing water. Even a bit of water pooled in a wrinkled tarp, bent gutter, treehole or pothole is enough water for mosquitoes to breed. Go on patrol for standing water 3 times each week during the breeding season (don’t forget to change your pets’ water bowl.)
Keep weeds down around natural water, like ponds, ditches and wetlands. Do not over-irrigate crops: mosquitoes need only four days of standing water to breed. If you have ponds, keep mosquito fish in them to eat the mosquitoes. I would strongly recommend keeping repellents and bacillus thurengensis israeliensis (bti) on hand.
Repellents include DEET and pyrethrin, though both have toxicity issues and I have found homemade and natural products that work, though I know little about them. They are applied to clothing or the skin. Balancing the toxicity and the risk from mosquitoes is something you’ll have to weigh for yourself. In tropical regions, many people find relief from mosquitoes at night, by hanging mosquito netting around their bed. The netting can be treated with pyrethrin for additional protection. This is much safer than applying it to one’s skin or clothing.
Bacillus thuringiensis subspecies israelensis (Bti) is a bacterial larvacide that kills mosquitoes and midges and is added to water. You need it for at least one body of water you can’t drain: your septic tank. Septic tanks are common breeding grounds for mosquitoes and should be treated with bti, if mosquitoes breed in them. Bti is not 100% effective (nothing is) but can help a great deal and is affordable.
Avoid treating water with toxic chemicals. In addition to the danger they pose to humans, they will also kill insects that prey on mosquitoes. Since mosquitoes breed more quickly than their predators, you’ll actually increase the mosquito population. You can use Golden Bear Oil or monomolecular films, but the former kills young birds and the latter kills beneficial insects. They can also be a costly method of control.
Bats and swallows eat mosquitoes, so try not to disturb them and, if you don’t have anywhere for bats to live near your home, consider building a batbox. Mosquito traps do not work well – they are not an effective use of your money. Spraying for mosquitoes means spending a lot of money on poisons that provide only short-term relief. Beyond DEET and natural oils, most repellent products are a waste of money. Better to wear clothes to cover your skin.
And Those Pesty Ticks
Ticks bite, suck blood, cause infected wounds, and spread Lyme disease, a serious disease that could ruin your life in a TEOTWAWKI situation. They can also spread rarer, but dangerous diseases.
Dress to keep ticks off and consider applying DEET or permethrin to your clothes when in a tick-infested area. Inspect yourself, your kids and your animals for ticks regularly. Consider removing your clothes before coming in the house and hanging them up to dry or washing them in hot water. If you have a working dryer, then run clothes through it on high heat. Showering within two hours of exposure to ticks can help to prevent Lyme disease.
Keep vegetation trimmed short and away from your home. Learn how to properly remove ticks and keep tweezers readily available. Common antibiotics can cure Lyme disease, if used early.
I hope that you find this article useful.