Safe, Non-Toxic, and Organic Pesticides
and Natural Pest Control
Organic pesticides and natural pest control are among the first priorities in making sustainable choices. It can seem daunting but it's really rather simple.
Our household has been free of chemical pesticides since 2006. We haven't seen an insurgence of roaches. We haven't been overtaken by spiders. We've dealt with our fair share of ants, but they are pretty easy to deal with. I promise, you can do this. You'll save a ton of money by not spraying for bugs all the time, and you will probably see an improvement in your immune system health too. Keep reading...
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. - Chief Seattle, 1855
The Dangers of Chemical Pesticides
Do I really need to tell you why you shouldn't be using pesticides? I have a whole article on it if you you want! How are these for just a few examples:
- Pesticide has been linked to brain damage, hormone imbalances, weakened immune system, several types of cancer, lymphoma, Parkinson's, infertility, miscarriage and birth defects just to name a few.
- Pesticides are rarely discriminatory and also kill beneficial insects, such as bumblebees and butterflies which are crucial to the eco-system's pollination process and without which we would struggle to grow much of our food.
- Pesticides kill the primary food source for many birds and amphibians.
- An average of over 200 chemicals is found in a newborns blood stream. A brand new baby!
Preventing Pests in the Home
The first and most important part of natural pest control is prevention. Keeping insects out of or away from our homes may eliminate the need for further intervention.
- Start by removing all attractants such as dripping or standing water, dirty dishes, sticky counters, or pet food sitting on the floor. Clean up places where insects may lurk, such as piles of building materials, yard waste, or junk. Keep trash cans (indoor and outdoor) clean. Be sure to wipe up spills in your cupboards, as well.
- Check your windows and doors for cracks or openings where insects can get through and seal all drafts. Don't forget to check places such as electrical outlets, pet doors, baseboards, etc to avoid creepy crawlers crawling into your home. You can seal these up in a million different ways.
- Beneficial bugs, such as ladybugs, praying mantis, or lacewings all feast on small insects that may invade your space. Many spiders, such as "daddy long legs", are beneficial also and can be placed outside if they happen to wander in.
- Insect traps capture insects with sticky glue, similar to fly paper, and allow you to pick them up and throw them out. But bait traps actually lure the insects to the trap and should be set on the perimeter of your property, away from your home. Many bait traps can be used over again, as well.
- Birds! Set up a birdbath and feeder to lure your little feathered friends into your yard and let them feast on the outdoor insects. You'll be rewarded with less insects and a beautiful song! (I'd say you'd "kill two birds with one stone" but that wouldn't seem right.)
- Backyard chickens are also a great way to rid your yard of insects and they supply you with a local source of food with their eggs.
- Try insect-repelling plants such as Marigolds and Thai Lemongrass which are said to repel many types of insects including mosquitoes. They can be planted around the outside of the house as a barrier to keep bugs out. Lemongrass oil can also help.
For more ideas on organic pesticides, natural pest control and prevention, check out the articles in Organic Gardening 101.
Organic Pesticides for the Home
It is important to realize, as pesky as bugs can be, they are a crucial link in our eco-system. We may not like them, but we do need them and it is important whenever possible to avoid eliminating them.
The following products are considered organic pesticides and are non-toxic and safe to use around children and pets.
- Diatomaceous Earth, or DE, is a sedimentary rock consisting of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. In it's finely ground form it is an effective organic pesticide by dehydrating the insect. It works well with roaches, ants, slugs, spiders and nearly all other insects. The powder can be sprinkled around wherever insects frequent, or you can mix it in water and use it as a spray (it doesn't completely dissolve; this method just allows it to be applied more effectively. DE can also hurt beneficial insects, so use with caution!
- Neem Oil, from the seed of a Neem tree, has been used for centuries in organic farming practices, as well as by cultures worldwide as an organic pesticide. It can be sprayed in and around the home, near doors, or along baseboards and works as a repellent. Neem can also disrupt an insect's ability to eat, breed or grow.
- Garlic Oil or spray can be made at home with fresh minced garlic soaked for 2-3 weeks or boiled in water and strained. This can be sprayed in and around the home, near doors and along baseboards to repel most insects.
- Insect repelling essential oil blends work wonders on all manner of biting, flying, or crawling insects. They are generally safe to diffuse through a room or apply to the skin, and can be used around the house on cotton balls or ribbons to prevent insects from invading. Arborvitae is one such potent insect repellant.
- CedarCide is made from cedar, and has an aroma which effectively repels insects. You can use it like you would a traditional pesticide, except this organic pesticide won't make you sick as you spray your home or garden.
There are many homemade natural pest control concoctions out there; some people swear by them and others swear at them! Be sure when trying anything - from a commercial product to a homemade experiment - to read all directions and research the safety of any ingredients. Just because it's organic, doesn't mean it's always safe for use around kids or pets.
A Safer (but not the safest) Alternative to Chemical Pesticides
It doesn't quit earn a place on the organic pesticides list but if you are still struggling with persistent insects (like roaches!), there is a safer alternative to spraying a chemical pesticide. Try my mom's old recipe:
- 100% Boric acid (found at hardware stores)
- Enough sugar and shortening to make golf-ball size, doughy balls
The sugar will appeal to small black "sugar" ants and the shortening will appeal to cockroaches and "grease" ants. These boric acid balls can be hidden behind the fridge, in the walls, or stuck under cupboards. They can also be hidden outside anywhere dark, moist conditions make breeding grounds for insects.
The benefit of these "roach balls" is that the chemical is contained and not being sprayed throughout the entire house or seeping into the ground, affecting our nervous systems and the health of our children, pets or garden. And often the insects take it back to their nest, which can eliminate the entire problem. (I haven't yet tried it but I've heard you can make this recipe into an organic pesticide by substituting the boric acid for Diatomaceous Earth, listed above.)
However contained this may be, please keep in mind that it can still dangerous to pets and children. Hide them well...or better yet, do everything in your power to avoid their use as you continue going green at home.