Spiders and ants! Do-it-yourself pest control techniques
By Virginia Bruce, with information contributed by Lisa Fletcher and Toni Quenneville
As our weather warms up, insects get busy. Ants invade our kitchens. Spiders creep out of cracks. People are tempted to call in the troops, and the pest control businesses are happy to oblige. Our area has recently been targeted by a very aggressive door-to-door sales force promising to rid your home of pests, but those of us who have lived here for a while know that is neither possible, nor desirable.
Insects are a valuable part of the environment, and loading your home and yard with poison isn’t effective in the long run and has unwanted effects in the short term. Setting up a perimeter of protection around your home, with essential oils and limited application of insecticide, is a more effective way to keep your home calm and free of pesky bugs.
Lisa Fletcher, a second generation local resident, responded to a NextDoor post with the natural repellent techniques that she learned from her 93-year old mother, and has been using successfully for many years. Several other contributors chimed in with similar success stories, so we thought we’d share the techniques.
Ants are everywhere, says Lisa. Get rid of a few, and they will come back. It isn’t a once-and-done effort.
#1 Use sugar and Borax.
“Start with a half a cup of sugar and add water a little at a time. You want it to be thick like syrup. Then add a heaping tablespoon of Borax (available in the laundry section of most grocery stores). Bring the mixture to a boil and then take it off the heat and let it cool. Put drops of it the size of a penny on small pieces of cardboard throughout the house. Eventually the ants will stop eating this as well. But we use it off and on.
“If the ants don't seem to eat it, it means you have added too much Borax. It's bitter and they like the sweetness of the sugar. So you may have to keep adjusting the batch a few times to get it sweet enough. Then they eat it and take it to the queens.
#2 Go get a concentrated pest spray at a home improvement store.
Lisa says, “nothing made by Bayer, it doesn't work.” Mix it according to package directions, and use in a five-gallon sprayer. Spray all around perimeter of your house and up the side about a foot or two. If you can see your concrete foundation, spray all the way up to that, then a board or two up your siding. The spray also kills spiders and other bad pests. Once it dries, it's not going to harm any animals. Lisa says, “I have tree frogs, a pond, and cats, and they are fine. If you can get under your crawl space, you can spray in there as well. I wouldn't bother with the yard, but I sometimes spray under some of the flat rocks where the ants have large nests with eggs.”
“The spray lasts about three to six months and really works keeping them out of the house. Then use the Borax solution as needed. Guarantee this is the best option. I did it for six of my neighbors and all our ants are under control.”
Spiders that bite
Another NextDoor neighbor shared a story about being bitten by a poisonous spider. Toni Quenneville wrote, “A few years ago I was bitten by either a brown recluse or a hobo spider. It was a six-month recovery, and very scary so I understand why people want to get rid of spiders.”
“Most of the spiders in Oregon are harmless, but be careful of the ones that are under wood or rocks in the garden. Hobo spiders build their webs in a funnel shape usually around rocks on the ground. “
An Oregon Department of Agriculture web page has information about spiders in Oregon. “Oregon Spiders, Fact and Fiction” contends that the brown recluse doesn’t exist in Oregon, and that hobo spiders rarely bite people.
However, like Toni, I received a bite when I lived in Northeast Portland. The area surrounding the bite on my leg swelled to the size of a grapefruit and the center turned black. Apparently some people have stronger reactions to spider venom than others!
Toni continues, “I hate spiders in the house. I use lemon eucalyptus oil in my steamer mop and also in a spray bottle as an air freshener, and sometimes I add lavender. I use it to wipe around all the windowsills and doors. I have a spray bottle on my porch as well. No spiders or mosquitoes, they hate it. And no chemicals or poison. One of the other things I do now is put a few drops of the lemon eucalyptus in my boots and shoes. It makes them smell nice and keeps the spiders out. Hope you find this helpful.”
If this sounds like too much work, you may decide to hire a pest control company. Be sure to do some research, read reviews, and make sure they are using the least toxic methods, and especially those that are not toxic to bees and other pollinators.