Insect Control


In the House

  • Keep counters, floors and pet feeding areas clean. Remove and clean up whatever the ants are after.
  • Follow the ant trail and find out how they're getting in. Wipe up ants and ant trails with soapy water.
  • Caulk openings where they enter the house. Petroleum jelly in the cracks or duct tape can be a quick, temporary fix.
  • Apply diatomaceous earth or silica gel into cracks. Apply a fine dusting to entry points that can't be caulked.
  • Or, apply boric acid dust into cracks where ants emerge. It is a poison, so be sure it is inaccessible to pets and children.
  • Apply a pyrethrin-based insecticide to entry points. Very effective as a repellent.

Indoor Plants

  • Note: Insects seem to always find stressed and weakened plants. Insects love fast, fragile new growth.
  • Plants become stressed:
    • If there is water in the saucer all the time.
    • If plants are over-fertilized

In the Yard

  • Ants are generally beneficial in the garden (e.g. they attack termites and eat flea eggs), so limit your control efforts to problem areas.
  • Ants will protect aphids from their natural enemies and carry aphids to other plants. To prevent ants from climbing, apply a sticky, adhesive material (like Tanglefoot) to a band of nursery tape, tin foil, or plastic wrap wrapped around the base of the plant (band should be 12 inches wide for trees; as wide as possible for bushes), several inches above the ground.
  • Place ant baits in problem areas. Look for boric acid ant baits or hydramethylnon baits. Less-toxic than arsenic.
  • If an ant nest is a problem because it is near your house, you can destroy it with boiling water, insecticidal soap, a pyrethrin solution or diatomaceous earth.


  • Hand pick, if possible. (It has been reported that tomato hornworms glow at night under a "black light.")
  • Apply products containing Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t.) an effective and popular product. Must be applied to the leaves when the caterpillars are eating. Safe to mammals and other insects, but will kill butterfly caterpillars, too, so be sure to target only the pest caterpillar-infested plants.

Garden Insects

  • Introduce frogs, toads and lizards into your yard.
  • For small infestations, handpick or spray with full-force spray of water.
  • To protect local beneficial insects like green lacewings and lady bugs, avoid using conventional pesticides. To attract and keep beneficial insects, grow a variety of flowering plants for year-round blooming. They need nectar, too.
  • You can buy beneficial insects.

Less Toxic Products to Consider

  • Dehydrating dusts (e.g. diatomaceous earth and silica gel)
  • Horticultural oil sprays (dormant oil in winter; and summer or supreme oils for the rest of the year)
  • Insecticidal soaps
  • Biological pesticides (e.g. Bacillus thuringiensis)
  • For severe infestations, use less-toxic insecticides (e.g. pyrethrin)
  • Generally gauge the toxicity of a pesticide by the signal words on the label.


  • Successful fly control requires eliminating fly breeding areas rather than trying to control adult flies after they emerge. Keep kitchen garbage containers tightly closed. Clean regularly. Sprinkle dry soap or kitty litter into bottom of container. Rinse out your recyclables.
  • Check your yard for:
    • Garbage cans with loose lids,
    • Fruit rotting under trees,
    • Pet waste not collected daily,
    • Compost piles that are not turned at least once a week and where decomposing food is not covered with dirt or black plastic.
  • Screen windows and doors.
  • Use fly swatters, flypaper (streamers), traps with pheromones (sex attractant) or meat-baited traps.


  • Screen windows and doors.
  • Remove all standing water near your house (tires, wading pools, bird baths, vases, barrels). Critical step!
  • Use Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis (a non-toxic, biological control) in ponds. Kills the larvae in the water.
  • Encourage mosquito predators such as:
    • Ants
    • Bats
    • Birds
    • Dragonflies
    • Frogs
    • Praying mantis
    • Spiders
    • Turtles


  • Use citronella oil insect repellents. Burn citronella candles or oil at outside gatherings. While not proven, some people find that mosquitoes find them less attractive if they take B vitamins.
  • Don't wear any strong smelling products like lotions, deodorants, hair spray, sun tan oils. They attract mosquitoes.
  • The more-toxic mosquito repellent should be applied to clothing, not to skin. (Test fabric first to see if it will stain.) Yellow porch lights don't attract flying insects.


  • Destroy all stages of clothes moths by cleaning garments before storing.
  • Hang clothes in the sunlight and beat them to dislodge moth larvae and eggs, before storing.
  • Store clothes in sealed bags.
  • Vacuum closets thoroughly.
  • Cedar repels moths.


  • Close openings into house (e.g. gaps around pipes and electrical work, door molding, cracks in walls, etc.) with caulking, screening, weather-stripping.
  • Seal all food containers.
  • Clean dishes nightly, or, if you don't, be sure they're sitting in a basin of soapy water.
  • Do not leave pet food out overnight.
  • Apply boric acid dust into cracks and places where roaches hide, like under the refrigerator. Apply only in out-of-the-way places where pets and children can't touch it. Roaches will avoid piles of boric acid, so use a fine dusting. This is a proven, less-toxic roach control product.
  • Apply fine dusting of diatomaceous earth or silica gel to roach walkways. These dusts dehydrate and repel roaches.
  • Place bay leaves in the pantry, cupboards and on shelves to repel cockroaches.
  • Use non-toxic roach traps (like Roach Motels¸) to monitor the change in the population.


  • Silverfish feed on paper, glue, starch and some fabrics. They like warm and damp areas. Their presence can be an early indication of wood rot.
  • Dry out damp areas.
  • Vacuum to eliminate any food source in carpets and cracks. Follow advice under Roaches above.

Snails & Slugs

  • Minimize breeding spots-shady, cool, moist spots in the garden like an ivy patch, agapanthus, lilies, ice plant, wood pile, empty flower pots, etc.
  • Hand pick-safest and surest method. Snails are active at night. With a flashlight, check traps (see below) 2 hours after sunset or in early morning. Kill snails by smashing or drowning in soapy water. (Dead snails will attract flies if not covered with dirt or collected in a bag). Use copper barriers (see below) to protect plants. If infestation is severe, judicious use of a metaldehyde snail bait may be needed. Be sure that pets can't get at it, e.g. place bait inside flattened tin cans (that snails can enter but your pet can't "nose" into) in the garden section with the most snail damage. The bait can attract and poison dogs. It is also toxic to birds, so place bait carefully.
  • Traps: Propped up, overturned clay pots, boards, or black plastic sheeting. Sink shallow pans, filled with stale beer, in the ground, with the rim even with ground level. Remove dead snails regularly. Yeast in the beer attracts snails.
  • Barrier: Copper stripping (2 or more inches) mounted around raised planting beds keeps snails and slugs out of the protected area. Snails won't cross copper. Be sure to capture all snails already in the area. Bend sharp edges under to protect children and pets.


  • If you suspect you have termites, have the type identified.


  • Subterranean termites need water, so keep water away from the perimeter of the house.
  • Keep area under and around the house free of decaying wood. Wood (house frame or firewood pile) should not be in direct contact with soil.
  • Build with borate-treated wood.
  • Watch for and destroy any termite-built earthen tubes (pencil width) in basement and foundation area. These are a sure sign you have subterranean termites.


  • Hire a professional who uses some of the following less-toxic techniques:
  • Sand barrier around the house.
  • Heat or cold treatment for drywood termites.
  • Silica gel (dust) applied in attic.
  • Use of less-toxic pesticides like pyrethroids, borax, and methoprene.


  • Use non-toxic wasp traps.
  • Trap wasps by suspending a piece of raw meat 1/2 inch over soapy water in a 5-gallon bucket.