Spring Project: Keeping the Bugs Out

Although not everybody is worried about being kind to insects almost everyone is worried about the dangerous poisons in the insecticides they use to get rid of the things. Either way, whether it’s compassion or fear, most of us have an interest in a safer, kinder, less toxic method of ridding ourselves of pests. I, for one, have had problems with how to handle bugs for a very long time. In some cases, I feel horrible about the insect (such as bees, wasps and other flying winged creatures like moths as well as some crawling insects that aren’t too ugly) and just can’t bring myself to kill it. Other, uglier and nastier, bugs like cockroaches and beetles make a big splat mess when killed and I despise the smell as well as I am allergic to their debris. So I hate stomping on them. I end up chasing most bugs around with a towel trying to trap them and toss them outside.

But I have had infestations in some of the rentals I have moved into. And these are nice places. They are just infested with bugs. Our previous unit had an explosion in roaches, German Cockroaches, which were nigh impossible to rid of. I spent tons of cash on special poisons like MaxForce and Raid Pro just to watch them step over the gel and continue raiding my kitchen. I ended up killing as many as twenty at a time with a fly swatter. And then push came to shove, we moved. I was successful at leaving the monsters behind after many hours of careful packing and unpacking only to have a flea infestation outbreak in the new digs. OMG, I spent endless hours trying to kill those things! I now have it under control but only after a litany of poisons, fogs and sprays where I can to empty my room, ban the pets, leave it on for hours and hours and then vacuum repeatedly and move everything back in. After exhausting rows with many a poison I still had fleas all over me. The only thing that finally worked was a natural miracle, Diatomaceous Earth. I have left the stuff in my carpets to this day and nary a flea!

Anyways, as you can see I have some experience with bugs. I think we all have. You don’t have to live in the slums to have roaches walking on your table. And once they arrive and move in, they are hard to evict. What has always amazed me is that the final solution, the one that really worked in most cases, was a natural, safe, non toxic one. So don’t believe the hype of the chemical manufacturers that you have to use deadly poisons. It just isn’t true. In the case of fleas, I highly recommend Diatomaceous Earth. Sprinkle it on and leave it. It takes a few days but they will be gone… I can promise you. I had a million and now there are none. And the same is true of other pest control. You can do it with natural and non toxic elements such as the Fossil Shell Flour I used. But the very best way is to ward them off to begin with which should be done all the time even if you do not see a bug yet. By practicing good, safe and non toxic repellent methods you can be sure you will not have bugs to begin with.

So what are the methods you should employ to ward off unwanted bugs? How do you keep them out of your home? Well, there are a lot of ways to do this but I am going to present a few of them here today.

General Repellents

These are old fashioned, tried and true methods of just keeping all bugs from entering your home. They do work, although not on every bug. But they will keep the numbers down.

17th Century Herb Sachets

(This recipe was made famous by Queen Isabella of Spain)


4 oz dried, crushed Rose petals
3 oz dried Clove Carnation petals
2 oz powdered Orris Root
2 oz powdered Coriander Seed
1 oz powdered Sweet Flag
1 oz powdered Gum Benzoin

Mix these together and then use in these ways: strew on floors near doors, dust on carpeting, linens or bedding, strew under dishes or among spices in cabinets, put on small plates and slide onto the shelves in pantries. Another idea is to make up tiny cloth drawstring bags or to cut up old nylons, stuff them full of the mix and then put them in drawers with clothing, dangle from hangers in your closets or dressing rooms, placed under your mattress or inside your pillows or between cushions or pillows on couches and chairs.

I have made this mix and used it in cabinets and in pantries. All I can say is I did not have bugs at that time. Try it. At the least, it makes everything smell great.

Here is another commonly used method from the 17th century. Most of these recipes are old, from a time before insecticides and when bugs tended to take over castles and barns.


24 tsp powdered Orris Root
8 tsp powdered Sweet Flag
6 tsp powdered Rosewood
5 tsp powdered Gum Benzoin
1 tsp powdered Cinnamon
1/2 tsp powdered Cloves

This recipes was taken from a guidebook written in 1775, called “The Toilet of Flora”.

Once you make up the mix, you can use it in these ways: strew under bathroom carpets or toilets; make up into sachets and tuck away in bathroom cabinets or closets; strew on the floor behind fixtures in the bath. It is mainly made for use in the bathing areas of the house although it can be useful under the kitchen sink. It smells so luscious I would recommend it for Potpourri and can be used for this dual purpose. It is especially noted for repelling insects like water bugs, cockroaches and spiders. It is mostly for use in dark, damp places because it will not rot or bloat from exposure to water. It can be very effective if left in place for long periods. It can also be brought out on occasion and used to deter ants and flies when people are congregated around a pool or other water source.


This first mixture and technique will not kill off the ants but it will deter them. You have to leave it out and refresh it frequently to be effective against a steady stream of invaders or a large infestation. But, in general, it will keep them out. However, it is most effective at keeping them out before they have taken over your home.


Handful of fresh or dried Pennyroyal
Handful of fresh or dried Rue
Handful of fresh or dried Tansy leaves & flowers

Crush these herbs and flowers and mix them well together. If they are fresh, crush and bruise them to release their scent. If they are dried, shake them all together.

Strew this mixture, fresh or dried, along the edges of counter tops and in corners along the floor. Strew it just as it is. Do not place in containers or on plates. The ants must cross it to be effective. If there is a line of ants entering the home, place it where they cannot miss it and must cross over it to continue inside. Place it in an area where people will not step on it or disturb it. It is difficult, I know, but it must stay in place so the ants will encounter it over and over. Once they encounter it more than once, they will stop trying to enter. Every few months you will have to refresh the mix, especially if you have determined ants who continue to attempt to make inroads.

Another method that worked for me that I have to tell you about because it surprised me it worked so well. It was Terro Ant Killer in a gel form. A neighbor and friend gave it to me and said she had bought it at Ace Hardware. It was a squeeze tube with liquid. But I put this stuff along the counter tops, the edges around the sink and under the sink, along the areas where I saw ant trails. They stopped crossing it almost immediately and my ant colony, which was substantial, just disappeared! I mean, that was impressive. I am not sure if this stuff is eaten or just avoided; I don’t know if it kills them or just deters them but nothing else on the planet had worked. But this simple sweet gel that I ran along the cracks and crevices did the trick. It did not seem to affect my pets (I am not sure about kids) but there is no smell and no fuss… and it works!

But if you are not that desperate and still want something more natural, I have a few more ideas. Try these first if you have small children or pets. Pour a line of cream tartar, red chili powder, paprika, or dried peppermint at the place where ants enter the house. It is said that they won’t cross this. I am thinking the chili powder or dried peppermint would be most effective but I have not tried any of them so experiment. You can also try washing counter tops, cabinets, and floors with equal parts of vinegar and water, which is said to work because ants dislike acidic liquids like Vinegar and are attracted to sweets like sugar and syrups. When you are finished washing the areas with vinegar, try sprinkling the edges with the chili powder, paprika or peppermint. This may very well do the trick.

Other people swear by cinnamon oil, peppermint oil, mint oil, lavender oil, a mixture of olive oil and cayenne pepper, or catnip. There are many different mixes you can try to see what works for you. I would start with a mix of the oils and run it along the line like you would the liquid gels. See if they cross it. If they don’t, you have found the solution. It’s a little work and expense to keep these oils in fresh supply but it would be well worth it if you can get rid of the ants for good and not have to use poison to do it.


Here are some totally natural but strongly smelling moth bags you can make yourself. First of all, you must obtain or make several small bags out of muslin, cotton or nylon and fashion them with drawstrings or ties. These must be suitable for hanging. If you are handy with sewing or crafting you can make your own; otherwise, you can find these in department stores or big box stores like Walmart or Target. You can also order them on the internet.

You will need:

4 oz dried, crushed Mints (any kind)
4 oz dried, crushed Rue
4 oz dried, crushed Southernwood
2 oz dried, crushed Rosemary
1 oz powdered Cloves

Mix this stuff up really good so that it is evenly distributed. Then stuff the mix into the bags until you have several of them full. Shake the bags and squeeze them a few times to mix and crush the herbs even more and distribute their oils into the mix. This mix will smell strongly even inside the bags. Draw each bag shut tightly. Hang them from a hanger in the closet to be most effective against moths. Hang them near your wool items. These bags can also be closed up inside of drawers and inside trunks. The trick is to close them in tightly with the clothing they are to protect and maintain the area as dark, dry and closed up. They WILL keep the moths off even if you tend to leave doors or windows open in the home.

Another, simpler, humane and great smelling alternative to moth balls is to place cedar chips around clothes in closets or trunks, strewing along the floor. This is good if you can tolerate a strong Cedar scent in your home. Personally, Cedar chokes me up so I don’t use it but it is safe and effective. You can also make simpler sachets out of dried lavender or equal parts of dried rosemary and mint without all the other ingredients and store in drawers and closets. This is also effective but not for as long as the original recipe or the Cedar chips idea. You will have to make up new from time to time to refresh.


Tansy Fly Deterrent

This mix is most effective at deterring flying insects in general, so you can use it to not only chase off flies but also wasps or mosquitoes. It is especially useful in the kitchen to keep the flies out or around an outside table when dining and bothered by flying bugs.


3 oz dried, crushed Tansy
3 oz dried, crushed Wormwood
3 oz dried, crushed Costmary

This is a pleasant scented mixture that can also be used on the body. You can make a body spray out of it by mixing the herbs with equal parts witch hazel and glycerin and putting it into a bottle and then leaving it in a warm window for a week to allow it to infuse. After the bottle has warmed for a week, you can shake it up and squirt it, pour it or spray it onto your body to deter mosquitoes and biting flies. It has a medicinal smell so it’s not super pleasant but it will keep the bugs off.

As a dry deterrent in the kitchen, you can strew it as is under rugs, cushions or in cabinets or on counter tops. You can also make up sachets and hang them around windows and doors.

An idea that I have used and loved is a homemade sticky hanger. It is really hit and miss to make these out of unscented tape or other sticky stuff because it does not attract them and they just fly by, with the occasional clumsy one falling into it. And often they lose their stickiness with exposure to damp, humid air and then the flies just bounce off. But I have used fresh Elecampane with great success. Elecampane stems and roots are super smelly and sticky. The dried won’t work; you will need to pull it out of the ground fresh to use it and not everybody grows this stuff so the idea is limited only to those that do. But it works. Pull up the stem and roots and hang them upside down in fly infested areas. And watch the flies zoom over and stick! When full, just toss it out. It does work for those of you who can make it happen.

Another, simpler method, is to simply collect clusters of Cloves and bundle them together. You can hang these in a room by doors or windows. If this isn’t feasible, then simply leave fresh Orange peels around. These you will have to refresh often, as they dry out and lose their scent. And remember, to support these efforts, to empty garbage cans promptly, to seal up food and other attractants and keep debris off floors and carpets.


Spiders are hard to locate, trap and kill. They avoid just about everything; they are just too smart to crawl into traps and it’s hard to get the jet from the poison spray on them as they flee. If you swat them with a broom, they often just run off. They are really hard to kill.

The best methods of getting rid of spiders is to repel them. The simple use of Bay leaves will get rid of just about everything, from Roaches to Bedbugs. Strewing Bay leaves in areas where you know the Spider lives is a way of chasing them out. Destroying their webs forces them to move along and often they will just leave if this happens often enough. Try the Bay leaves first and foremost before considering other methods.

I must say this. If it is a Housekeeping Spider you are chasing around, then I suggest you think twice. These critters will eat Roaches, Water bugs, Ants and all the other uglies. They are really gold in pest control. If you are so lucky to have one of these inhabit your home, feed it! Don’t kill it! It will take care of all the others at no expense to you.

The very best way to get rid of Spiders, since they don’t come in droves and are usually solitary creatures, is to simply trap them and disperse them outside. If you happen to have a family, which is super rare but not impossible, in, let’s say, an attic or a cellar, then try the Bay leaves. Leave an escape route available by opening a window or not repairing holes in the walls or cracks along baseboards and keep up the pressure with lots of fresh and dried Basil. I am pretty sure they will leave. But for a solitary Spider, who is not a Housekeeping variety, that you wish to get rid of, try the trapping method. A glass jar with a lid, a bowl and a towel, a small hand towel… anything you can grip and toss over them and then grab them up in gently. Then cast them outside where they belong. They just don’t invade your home the way other bugs do and the simple removal this way of the occasional Spider will do the trick.


Roaches are very hard to get rid of once they take over your home. They multiply like crazy and have super survival skills. Many strains today are completely immune to commercial poisons. They have simply evolved in order to survive. The best method of handling Roaches is to keep them out to begin with. Seal cracks, insulate well and fix any holes in the walls. And try some of these ideas:

Roach Away Lemon Sachet

This mix is super smelly. You will smell it constantly where ever you put it, so it will up to you where you use it. It is a lemon peppermint type of smell so it is not offensive; but, be warned! It is strong. However, a pungent type of mix is needed for Roaches. They resist almost everything, even poisons, and, as I already said, have become immune to most commercial offerings. But this mix is very strong and highly offensive to them so they will resist it by staying away. Try it.


4 oz dried, crushed Lemon Verbena
4 oz dried Lavender
4 oz dried, crushed Scented Geranium leaves
1 oz dried, crushed Peppermint

Mix the herbs together really well. The crushed leaves will be extremely pungent at first and I recommend wearing gloves to keep your hands from smelling this way for a long time. Carefully place on trays, coasters, pieces of cardboard or paper plates and put the mix under sinks, behind toilets, inside cabinets, near the stove or under it and along baseboards in hidden spots like behind desks or beds. One of the best locations is under appliances that are positioned near entrances, such as a refrigerator in a kitchen that has an outside entrance. Other good areas include pantries or cabinets where food may be spilled or accessible. But make sure to put in way in the back, behind everything, so that reaching hands won’t disturb it or scatter it. And make sure you really pile it on; lots of the stuff on each tray or plate.

Place the trays and plates way in the back of dark areas. Roaches hide along the baseboards and walls in the very back of dark places. Also, placing these this way reduces your families exposure to the pungent aroma.

Another idea is to place whole Bay leaves in several places in already infested areas. Bay leaves are offensive to Roaches and will drive them out. This, of course, makes your house smell like Chicken Soup but it’s worth it in the long run. Especially if you already have an infestation and need to get it under control. Bay leaves are simple and inexpensive and safe to strew in the children’s closets or under their beds.

As a final resort, if you just can’t get rid of them, then I suggest you use the new IGRs. Insect Growth Regulators do not kill the roaches but they do cause infertility. Call it birth control for Roaches. It will not make anyone in the family sick and exposure to the stuff is short term if you place it correctly around the home. Buy them and use them according to the label. Once the current generation dies off, there will be no eggs. And then you can stop using IGRs and just keep the other mixes in safe places to deter new critters from entering and setting up shop.


Mosquito Repellent for the Skin

This is meant to be made up and applied to the skin. It will keep them from lighting and biting. This mix is really strong smelling but it works. And it won’t make you sick. However, if you are allergic to any of the herbs or flowers in the mix, either leave that item out or do not use this at all.


1 tsp essential oil of Pennyroyal
1 tsp essential oil of Citronella
1 tsp essential oil of Eucalyptus
1 tsp essential oil of Rosemary
1 tsp essential oil of Tansy
1 cup vegetable, almond, coconut or avocado oil


Put these ingredients together into a bottle with a stopper or cork. Preferably a blue or brown bottle. Shake really well. Store it in a dark, cool place for a while. Do not expose to sunlight as the bright light and heat will destroy the mix.

To keep the bugs off, rub a small amount between the palms of your hands and apply lightly (not too much!) to the skin. It is very strong smelling so just a dab will do. DO NOT apply around the eyes; be very careful not to get it into your eyes, nose or mouth. And if a rash develops, stop using this immediately.

Another use of this mix is to put it into a kerosene lantern or tiki torch and burn it. The scent will drive away mosquitoes, moths and flies.

There are other methods of keeping the bugs off and one great idea is to take Brewers Yeast daily during the summer months. This stuff is so good for you and the smell of it on your skin as it is absorbed by the body is repugnant to bugs. Feeding this to dogs and cats will often keep fleas, ticks, moquitoes and biting flies off of them as well.

Oil of Citronella or Pennyroyal Mint Oil alone are effective repellents and you can add equal amounts to a base of Vodka or vegetable oil and just simply rub it on this way. It is less effective than the first recipe but it is also less intense and can be used more liberally.

Remember that mosquitoes dislike the smell of fresh Basil or Pennyroyal so any way you wish to use these will help. Scatter, rub on, burn or hang in bags. They have some degree of effectiveness no matter how they are used.

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1 Response so far

  1. 1

    carolyn s. said,

    Hi – I work in public relations for Terro and was happy to hear (though not surprised, ha!) that the Terro Ant Bait got rid of your ant problem. The ants eat the bait (a non-toxic borax ingredient that is safe for kids and pets) and take the bait back to the queen, thus killing off the colony. Check out this short video on how to get rid of ants with Terro’s 2-step process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bjny72XXenE

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