A variety of insect repellent products from Murphy's, a B-Corporation that gives one percent to the Planet. All photos courtesy of vendors.
Aug. 12, 2020
Insects are vital to healthy ecosystems.
Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, says the amount of insects needed to support your neighborhood wildlife would surprise most urban dwellers. For example, a pair of chickadees need 6,000 to 9,000 caterpillers to raise one brood. Meanwhile, insects that people often consider a nuisance, such as crickets, grasshoppers and spiders, are also highly valuable food sources for other critters.
However, very few of us want them in our homes or biting our ankles. So how do we keep creepy crawlies from crawling all over us - and not harm beneficial bugs (or ourselves) at the same time?
Check out our list of eco-friendly insect control products that can be purchased at most local hardware stores, home centers and nurseries. If you’d rather make your own, it’s not difficult as this recipe from Mother Earth News indicates. Scroll down for more homemade ideas too.
The latest product to sweep the mosquito-hating world is a super simple concept called the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator. It consists of a long tube filled with water and a bit of salt and yeast (yes, just like in bread). Mosquitoes are supposedly drawn to the carbon dioxide emitted by the yeast (as they are by our own CO2 coming off of our skin), they eat the yeast and then they die.
The manufacturer recommends that you hang the tubes away from your home and the pesky bugs will flock to them. Local gardener, Peter Schaar, posts that “The Spartan works like a champ,” but other online comments are not so sure. We’d love your feedback if you have used them.
Product comes in a 2-pack including tubular dispensers and yeast. Covers up to an acre of land. Around $25 per pair at most hardware stores and home centers. SpartanMosquito.com.
DIY Tip: You can make a similar trap to the Spartan Mosquito Eradicator by following these instructions from my buddy, Bob Vila. Lakewood homeowner, Carolyn Nicklas Johnson, is a devotee, ”The homemade mosquito traps with yeast and brown sugar have worked great for us and we don’t have to use them every year.”
Recommended by most municipalities for standing water mosquito control, Mosquito Dunks and Bits contain BTi (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis), a bacteria that kills mosquito larvae before they hatch. Safe around kids and pets. Natural and organic, the Dunks look like little donuts that float in ponds, bird baths, gutters and any standing water. Their tiny cousins, Mosquito Bits, are good for tight spaces such as the bottom edges of potted plant saucers.
My friend Samantha Jackson is a local landscape designer and she uses both products as a multi-pronged approach to mosquito control, “Mosquito Dunks and Bits are great. I combine them with incense sticks (see following item) and set up a perimeter around my whole yard.” Dallas resident Jessica Segal Sasfai notes that Dunks have made a big difference around her home as well. Visit SummitChemical.com to learn more.
Philip Freeman enjoyed taking his dog Murphy out for walks or to play in the yard but they would both be eaten alive by mosquitoes. So Freeman created a line of pest control products that could be safe for him and Murphy - and yet just as tough on flying insects.
Their best-selling Murphy’s Insect Control Sticks (around $10 per dozen) are a blend of rosemary, peppermint, citronella, lemongrass, cedarwood essential oils and bamboo in an incense-like stick that smells great to us but bugs stay away.
Simply poke one of the sticks into the ground or other stabilizer (I use a clay flower pot filled with sand), light it and enjoy about 2-3 hours of a bug-free zone. Be sure to place the sticks upwind of yourself and your guests so that the sweet-smelling smoke blows around you. Murphy's also makes personal sprays, bug balms and a variety of other bug-related products.
The company adheres to strict eco-friendly practices, contributes one percent to the Planet and is even a registered B-Corp.
Good job, Murphy! Visit Murphy’sNaturals.net to find a dealer near you.
People have known for thousands of years that the same oils that naturally protect plants from pests can also be used on people. Many folks even make their own from rosemary oil, lavender extract and other herbs and flowers.
In simple terms, the fumes from the oils upset an insect’s ability to breathe, much as something airborne will potentially choke you up and make you sneeze. So the bugs either die or leave the area.
Though the jury is still out about the potency of certain natural bug products, oil of lemon eucalyptus is proven to be an effective, natural insect repellent and is the only naturally derived ingredient sanctioned by the Center for Disease Control and recently evaluated by Consumer Reports.
Two brands that received highest marks are Repel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent and Natrapel Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent, both which can be found at local stores and online.
Many of you may remember the Scent Shop, a free-spirited hole-in-the-wall in Old Town Shopping Center in Dallas. Back in the 1970s, this unique store sold candles, essential oils and latter-day hippie goods.
My mother bought a turtle candle for me there when I was a kid and I had it for years.
Though the brick and morter Scent Shop store is long gone, the shop owners’ sons, now grown, have turned the brand into a worldwide scentsation. Based in Garland, their online store features their best-selling Patio Egg filled with essential oils from geraniums; a natural mosquito repellent. The product was even included in the goodie bags at the Golden Globes!
The Scent Shop also makes personal bug repellent sprays, pet bug repellent spray (one of the few that is safe to use around backyard chickens and other pet birds) and even candles that help to keep pests away. Check them out at ScentShop.com.
Ever wonder why cedar trees don’t seem to suffer from common insect problems? Cedar is a natural bug repellent - and a local company has created a line of cedar-based products to protect your family and your yard from mosquitoes and other pests.
Cedarcide captures the power of cedar essential oils in spray-on repellents for people, pets and yards plus their best-selling garden granules.
Warning: Be aware, it kills many different kinds of small critters. Contact the company for more information.
Found at stores all across the Metroplex or visit Cedarcide.com for some late summer specials.
Most wasps, if not all, are beneficial, according to Dallas-based organic gardening author and radio host Howard Garrett.
So leave them alone, if they’re not in places where kids or someone highly allergic could bump into them and get stung.
If you have to move them, he recommends citrus sprays or garlic-pepper tea.
In the attempt to keep stinging insects from settling into porches and eaves, people have come up with some low-impact strategies that the jury is still out on, such as using Haint paint.
According to folklore, painting the ceiling a pale blue color, makes flying insects think that they are seeing sky, making them less likely to nest. I have it on all of my porch ceilings and it has really cut down on stinging pests as well as spider webs.
Fake Wasp Nests
Fake wasp nests have mixed reviews but many people swear by them. The theory is that when a scout wasp sees one handing on your porch, they choose to build their nest elsewhere. For $10 on Amazon, they might be worth a try. DIY Tip:You can also make your own.
In the worst case scenario, if stinging insects are attacking you or your family, avoid poison sprays and instead choose a safer alternative made with essential oils such as EcoSmart Wasp & Hornet.
My editor peacefully co-exists with wasps but when forced to remove them in a high traffic area, such as over a doorway, she uses the low-tech method - a broom handle to knock them down (and run!) or a hose with a power nozzle from a safe distance. Also, she said putting up screen across the eaves seems to discourage wasps from building a nest over a doorway.
GNATS & FLIES
Is there anything more maddening than gnats buzzing around your kitchen? Warm weather seems to welcome them.
The Terro Fruit Fly Trap is a simple, refillable gadget that attracts little nuisances and traps them in a sweet liquid. As the trap fills up, you can wash it out and refill with more attractant. When the pests have been eliminated, simply store the apple-shaped trap under your sink, ready for next spring and summer.
Drop by Terro.com for more info and local dealer list.
DIY Tip: You can also make your own gnat trap by filling a shallow dish with sweet wine or vinegar and adding a drop of dish detergent to the top surface. The sweet liquid attracts the gnats and the surfactant in the detergent prevents them from flying away so they sink and die. Another method is to add a sweet liquid to the bottom inch or so of a long-necked bottle. Cover the opening of the bottle with clear plastic and then pierce the plastic with a pin hole or two. The gnats fly into the bottle, attracted by the sweet smell, but they cannot fly out.
Freeze or Heat Treat
If you have a pantry moth infestation, freezing dry goods (flour, rice, etc) and extreme heat (such as being left in a hot car) can kill most moths and larvae. We especially freeze or heat treat any dry goods that we buy at discount stores, just in case they have mothy passengers in tow.
Once the moths have been eliminated, cedar, lavender and rosemary in small cloth bags can help to prevent re-infestation.
Back when I was in the hardware business, EcoSmart was one of my favorite brands of pesticide. All of their products are EPA-approved, biodegradable and made from essential oils that are safe for you, your family and your pets but not bugs.
I have found these products to work well and I keep several around my home at all times.
A few favorites are the Mosquito Fogger (I use just before going out to enjoy the patio or work in the garage), Home Pest Control (great for keeping roaches out of the pantry), Insect Granules (for lawn flea and tick control) and the personal insect spray which we take on hikes in the park and trips to the beach.
Their spray-on pet products are also quite effective as are their pet shampoos and conditioners. Available at most Ace and True Value stores as well as Lowes, Home Depot and even Target. Visit EcoSmart.com for more info and to find a dealer near you.
Bottle Cap Bait
Another local product that literally flew out the door, when I owned a hardware store, is called Richter's Best Bug Bait Remedy.
These little pest-control wonders in a bottle cap were the brainchild of Dallas resident Crissy Fairweather, when she wanted to kill bugs in her house but not expose her family to dangerous chemicals.
It’s marketed as being people, pet and planet friendly.
Fairweather notes, “Roaches, ants, silverfish, fruit flies, crickets, water bugs and more will eat it and dehydrate.”
The self-adhesive caps contain a special attractant that the bugs eat and then the boric acid formula kills them.
The company’s slogan is “Bugs love it to death,” and I have sure found that to be true in my 1947 home that is on a pier and beam foundation (where the roaches hide in the crawlspace).
I stick the bait-filled bottle caps inside my kitchen cabinets, on baseboards, in closets and anywhere else that roaches like to visit.
For fruit flies and other flying pests, simply place on a countertop and sweeten with a few drops of fruit juice. EPA approved and locally-made.
Visit BestBugBait.com to find a dealer near you.
I was at a trade show not too long ago and met the family who owns First Saturday Lime, another very simple product that really works - as seen on Shark Tank.
For those of you who have used diatomaceous earth for pest control, the company asserts that their lime is stronger and safer.
This specially-processed lime is similar to what my farming grandfather used to keep away pests from his crops and landscaping flowers.
In addition to its pest-controlling properties, lime has the bonus effect of increasing soil Ph that leads to sweeter fruit and brighter coloring on flowers such as hydrangeas.
First Saturday Lime’s primary use is as a pesticide.
Warning: Be aware, it kills any kind of bug with an exoskeleton - that means beneficial bugs as well.
According to the company’s website, “First Saturday Lime is a super strong desiccant derived from 100 percent natural products. It has the ability to dry out insects, eggs and larvae. It is effective as a treatment for infestations, as well as a prevention.”
A 5 lb. bag is around 20 bucks. What a deal!
Available locally at Handley Feed in Fort Worth, Roach Feed and Seed in Garland and Rooster Home & Hardware in Lake Highlands in Dallas.
Find more info as well as dealers near you at FirstSaturdayLime.com
CALLING THE PROS
If you need help from the experts, call Eco Friends Pest Control. The DFW-based company was started by Lin Ellis and her husband Mick in 2009. They use a botanical line of products that is safe for people and pets.
Have you tried any eco-friendly pest control products? We’d love to hear about your experience! Contact us here.
Dallas woman’s love for animals inspired eco-friendly pest control business
Ecosystem's survival tied to prevalence of native plants, author says
Stay up to date on everything green in North Texas, including the latest news and events! Sign up for the weekly Green Source DFW Newsletter! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Also check out our new podcast The Texas Green Report, available on your favorite podcast app.