RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Watching the leaves change is arguably the greatest pastime of fall. The worst? Dealing with unwanted houseguests—rodents, cockroaches, stinkbugs, spiders, and other insects that are looking for a warm, cozy place to curl up for the winter. Opting for the chemical pest-control sprays at your local hardware store will only pollute your air, and could put you at risk for various types of cancer and nervous system problems. Also, they’re unnecessary. Most pests can be controlled with some do-it-yourself pest-control tricks that take less than 15 minutes and could actually save you money in the long run.
Got a few minutes? Here's what to do:
#1: Set out some sticky traps. It can take all of five minutes to set out glue traps, such as the Victor Poison-Free Insect Magnet.
What you'll trap: Anything that crawls—spiders, stinkbugs, roaches, ants, crickets, and silverfish.
#2: Clean up your kitchen. Set aside 15 minutes of every day to wipe down your countertops with vinegar (vinegar removes odor trails left behind by foraging insects such as ants), put dirty dishes in your dishwasher, sweep your floors, mop up any spills, put away food, and empty your garbage, if needed. On grocery day, transfer any food that comes in a plastic bag from its original packaging to tightly sealed glass jars, particularly grains, rice, pet food, and nuts.
What you'll trap: Pests coming inside looking for a meal, from roaches and ants to rodents, as well as wasps and spiders, which feed on the insects coming indoors looking for food.
#3: Seal up their entry points. This project could take longer than 15 minutes, only because it involves a little bit of hunting. Insects and rodents will use even the tiniest hole to get inside your warm, cozy home, and a tube of low-VOC silicone caulk, which you can find at any hardware store, can be your best friend in sealing up those holes. Pay particular attention to window and door frames, the seal around your external dryer vent, anyplace where pipes enter or leave your home, and anywhere TV or cable wires come inside. Stuff some steel wool into larger holes, or cover them with wire mesh, before sealing them up. The good news? In sealing up all those pest entry points, you'll also be sealing up tiny air leaks that allow precious heat to escape your home during the winter.
What you’ll trap: Every pest that views your house as its new home.
#4: Install a door sweep. Another tool that keeps pests from entering your home and will save you energy this winter, a door sweep blocks the gap between the bottom of your door and the ground. You can buy one at any hardware store, and for a super-easy fix, buy the kind that simply sticks onto the door with an adhesive strip—no drilling needed.
What you’ll trap: As with caulk, every pest that views your house as its new home.
#5: Vacuum. It won’t be possible to seal up every hole or keep every critter from crawling indoors. That’s where a weekly vacuuming session comes in handy. You’ll suck up any crawling insects that make it indoors and trap them before they can get crushed and stink (stinkbugs) or leave stains (some varieties of ladybugs). Plus, if they’re gross—cockroaches—you can vacuum them up without having to squish anything.
What you’ll trap: All crawling insects.
#6: Clear the clutter. In addition to weekly vacuuming, spend 15 minutes a week clearing out piles of newspaper or junk mail and removing piles of clothing from your floors. All these things serve as nice, dark hiding places for insects.
What you’ll trap: Roaches, spiders, stinkbugs, and silverfish.
#7: Fix leaky faucets. Insects need water to survive, and the most common source for them is a drippy faucet. Fixing leaky faucets is a lot easier than you might think and, like sealing up cracks, it’s an insect-control measure that’s good for your wallet and for the planet.
What you’ll trap: Rodents, roaches, and spiders.