Sustainability Blog

Press Enter to show all options, press Tab go to next option

The Ants Come Marching In!

AntsAs the weather warms up, you may notice the ants come marching in. Proven home remedies are an effective, low-cost, and environmentally sensitive approach to managing these pests.

A University of Stanford study found it’s futile to use bug spray and household pesticides to prevent ant invasions. “People spend a lot of money on year-round pesticides,” says Deborah Gordon, a biology professor and lead author of the study, “but it’s not the pesticide that keeps ants out of your home, it’s the weather.” Ants enter homes to escape extremely dry or damp weather conditions.

The City of Thousand Oaks has conducted its own study to understand pest problems faced by local residents. Dozens of residents and pest management professionals were surveyed. Findings showed that ants are the most common pest, and that there is indeed a spike during the dry summer months. If weather is to blame and pesticides aren’t effective in deterring them, what can be done?

If you’re unsure, don’t worry. Most residents surveyed didn’t know either. People reported everything from trying pesticides, to home remedies, to hiring professionals. Their reasons differed widely too: some were concerned about a solution’s effectiveness; others were more concerned for their children’s and pets’ health. Fortunately, whatever the concern, the right solution is the same.

The easiest, most effective, AND safest method is to use a proven home remedy. Here is a short list of what has been scientifically proven to work: plug holes in walls where ants might enter, use glass cleaner to clean ant trails, and place pet food bowls on a plate in soapy water that forms a barrier. Simply removing food sources is NOT proven to work because the cause of the ants is the weather! The food just attracts the ants once they find it. These steps fit squarely within the IPM approach.

IPM stands for Integrated Pest Management, and it’s an effective and environmentally sensitive approach that has been used by the City for years.

IPM has four common-sense steps:

  1. Observe what’s happening before taking action.
  2. Identify the pest before deciding what to do.
  3. Try a low-risk and low-cost prevention method.
  4. Turn to pest control only if needed, starting with the least risky methods.

What about spiders?

The best way to control spiders is naturally:

  1. Prevent their Entrance. Preventing spiders from entering your home in the first place is easier said than done as there are so many tiny crevices from the outside into your home, basement, and garage. Make sure doors are well sealed, check for openings and cracks around windows, under sinks, and where pipes and conduits enter your home from the outside. By putting tight mesh screens behind the vents, you will close entry to all but the tiniest of insects.
  2. Trim or cut back vegetation around your house.
  3. Vacuum cobwebs as soon as possible, keep floors and counters clear of crumbs and food residue, and avoid leaving food on counters for extended periods of time. Don’t stockpile materials around your home where spiders can take up residency. Opt for plastic storage bins over cardboard boxes. They’re much harder for spiders to get into, making it less likely that your stored stuff will become a spider haven.
  4. Use Natural Substances to Repel them. Create a natural spider repellent spray. One recipe you can try is below. You can also use borax powder, baking soda or diatomaceous earth to create a barrier in certain areas of your home. Just sprinkle in areas where spiders are coming in and building webs, such as windowsills and door thresholds.

Spider Repellent

  • 1 Tbsp dish soap
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 10 drops peppermint essential oil
  • 5 drops lavender essential oil

Directions: Pour the water, vinegar, dish soap, and essential oils into a 16-ounce spray bottle and replace the spray top. Shake the bottle a few times to mix the ingredients. To use, spray around doorways, windows, and other places where spiders may be getting in. You can also spray it directly on spiders to kill them.

This versatile spray works three different ways to help deter and kill spiders. First, spiders are overwhelmed by the smell of essential oils, making them an effective repellent! Second, white vinegar contains acetic acid, which acts as a spider killer on contact. And third, dish soap helps break up the oil so it mixes more readily with water.

Of all residents surveyed, 8 of 10 who tried a home remedy reported that they would do so again, and that they’d recommend it to others. If you’re already using IPM, keep it up and tell others to as well. If not, give it a try.

Click here to read more about Integrated Pest Management on our website.

Click here for the source for the spider repellent recepie.
Return to full list >>