What you need to know to tackle creepy crawlies
Lured by warmth and food, brought in on the back of pets, or just flying indoors because they can, cockroaches, spiders and other insect pests are all too common uninvited guests in our homes. Take comfort in the knowledge that there is a veritable armoury of products and ideas you can apply to keep the bugs at bay.
The natural touch
While we might end up resorting to chemicals, it’s worth giving these natural alternatives a try first. For a natural cobweb cleaner and spider repellent, fill a spray bottle with half white vinegar, half water and spray it directly onto cobwebs, then mop them up with a cobweb brush. For those that are hard to reach, use a cobweb broom to get right into corners. You can also try soaking cotton balls with a few drops of eucalyptus oil and leaving them in problem areas. Eucalyptus oil is also said to be a repellent to cockroaches – dilute a few drops in water and spray where you suspect they are congregating, and put a drop or two of eucalyptus oil in the bin every time you change the liner.
Peppermint oil is another one cockroaches hate and a good alternative if you find the smell of eucalyptus too strong. For flying insects, try hanging flypaper and putting out static traps for flies. “The Hovex pantry moth trap is a safe and effective way of dealing with these pests in the kitchen,” says Martin Sher, national field manager for Hovex. “It works as a lure and does not contain any poison,” he says. Pests are attracted to the lure and, as soon as they land on the adhesive, they’re stuck fast.
Outdoors, citronella is the go-to repellent for any mosquitoes threatening your evening entertaining. The citronella candle is a barbecue classic. Alternatively go for a tabletop oil burner or try burning citronella lamp oil in a torch for a tiki party vibe. An idea for bug-bothered gardeners is to experiment with insect-repelling plants. Catnip is said to repel mosquitoes (plus your furry friends will love it), while some herbs such as rosemary and basil may also deter flying insects.
A targeted approach
If you’re dealing with an outright infestation, it’s time to call in the big guns. Chemical insect control products come in varied forms from powder and sprays to plug-ins. A generic insect spray is great to have on hand, but if you’ve got a specific problem – marauding ants or an intrusion of cockroaches – then a targeted product is the way to go.
Ants and Spiders
Ants are almost impossible to keep out, but if you can see where they’re entering, puff some low-toxicity insecticide dust onto ant tracks or crevices that the pests are using as access points into your home. If eight-legged fiends are invading your space, there are purpose-designed products you can rely on to fix the problem. “The PestXpert spider blast eliminator spray can be used to treat your spider problem directly or it can also be used to create a barrier where you don’t want spiders to take up residence,” says Lachlan Brodie, sales manager, environmental health division, at PestXpert.
Only a few of the 400 or so cockroach species that live in Australia are household pests. American cockroaches (the big ones) and German roaches (the small ones) are the main troublemakers. A direct-action spray can deal with American cockroaches, and some are also suitable for use as a barrier spray to deter them from coming indoors in the first place – check the label and use only as directed. Cockroach bait stations can be placed under cabinets and behind large appliances to get rid of the roaches you don’t see. Take extra care if you have young children or pets in your home when using pest control treatments – if you’re unsure seek advice from an expert.
Zappers and trappers
When it comes to electronic methods of insect control, there are basically two types: zappers and trappers. Both use a UV lamp to lure flying pests, with zappers eliminating them with an electrical grid and trappers sticking them to a glue board. While most electronic insect controls work by luring and eliminating, the Thermacell ‘Halo’ unit repels instead. This butane-fuelled device uses a heat-activated, insecticide-infused repellent mat to drive away mosquitoes from your outdoor area without the fire risk or citronella reek of candles or coils.
An ounce of prevention
Adopt a few strategies to deter unwelcome, many-legged guests.
Check for bug havens around the home, places where they love to live or breed, like standing water (ponds, but also blocked drains or full pot saucers) or an unaerated compost heap.
Make it harder for bugs to get in by installing flyscreens on windows and doors, and being conscious of keeping doors shut when flies or mosquitoes are active. Keeping surfaces clean and free of food will also help make your home less appealing to creepy crawlies.
Administering a long-lasting surface spray is a task worth adding to your spring cleaning to-do list. “Applying a barrier treatment around the home will significantly reduce the insect pests seen inside,” says Lachlan. Spray it at the start of spring, before peak insect season.
If ants are your main concern, check out our step-by-step guide to getting rid of ants.
Photo credit: Getty Images & Tim Williams