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Sloan Barnett

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Bug Off!

Posted: 11/04/11 04:14 PM ET

You might find yourself keeping company with uninvited guests once the cool autumn weather sets in. And keeping creepy crawlers and furry creatures barred from your home as naturally as possible will prevent unnecessary exposure to toxic pesticides.

The first line of defense is to pull in the welcome mat by blocking entrance to your home. Once they've made it inside, the simplest way to put the kibosh on their party is to close the kitchen. Without access to food, they won't live long or have time to reproduce.

We recently discussed natural ways to fend off insects that plague Fido; now let's learn how to evict cockroaches, spiders and mice without hazardous chemicals. You know I'm a fan of grabbing ingredients from your kitchen to combat dirt, and the same principle can be applied to pests.

Roaches

It sounds disgusting, but roach infestations often occur when eggs are accidentally brought into our homes in shipping materials, groceries, beer and soft drink cases. They can also catch a ride on used appliances, rugs and furniture. Always begin by preventing infestations in the first place. When you do have a problem, you can take back your kitchen with natural tools you already have in your pantry:

• Be vigilant about cleaning up food crumbs on counters, tables and floors. Be sure you scout out and remove little snacks the kids have left behind in their bedrooms.

• Store food in airtight containers.

• Get rid of open containers and storage boxes that might make nice shelters for cockroaches.

• Scatter crushed bay leaves in problem areas.

• Mix baking soda and powdered sugar and spread it around the area where you see roaches.

• Boric acid is the most effective direct control method when used correctly. Add boric acid (a 99 percent formulation) to cracks and crevices where roaches hide -- inside and behind cabinets and appliances, wall cavities, under the sink, etc. Roaches should die within about ten days.

• Leave sachets of catnip in areas of cockroach activity as a natural repellent. The active ingredient, nepetalactone, is non-toxic to people and pets. Catnip should only be used in homes without cats though!

Mice

Mice may be sneaky little visitors, but they're only present if you're providing warm digs with great food. Again, prevention is key and is simple enough when you know what you're looking for. Then you can follow up with simple, safe methods if needed for removing mice once they've invaded your home:

• A full-grown mouse can enter your house through holes the size of a dime, so stuff all small openings in and around the house with steel wool or copper mesh.

• Seal gaps around doors and windows.

• Store food in airtight containers.

• Remove unused clutter around the house (inside and out).

• Use human Have-a-Heart or Smart Mouse traps to capture mice so that you can release them instead of killing them. You can find this type of trap at your local hardware store. Just be sure to release the mouse far enough away from your house so that they won't return.

• Give bait boxes a try. They are plastic or metal boxes with anticoagulant bait placed inside, so children and pets are protected from unintentional exposure.

Spiders

Most spiders don't pose a threat to people and are actually great at providing insect control. By trying to eliminate spiders, you may be inviting other creepy crawlers into play. So unless the spiders that have taken up residence in your house are dangerous, like the Brown Recluse, it's probably better to swallow your panic and let them do their thing. Here are a few natural ways to deal with those poisonous spiders:

• Spiders find hiding places in cardboard and clutter, so keep closets and underneath beds clean. And do not leave clothing, towels and other debris on the floor where spiders can find refuge.

• Once you've spotted spiders, vacuum well and make sure to get the egg sacs too.

• Turn off the porch lights whenever possible. Outdoor lights attract other insects, so spiders will hang out there to capture a meal.

• Remove extra plant growth around your house; it makes great hiding places for spiders.

• Track down entry points and seal little openings that allow spiders to make themselves at home indoors.

• Take advantage of nature's arsenal where you find spiders: orange oil, eucalyptus leaves, bits of hedge apple, pennyroyal on a scrap of cloth or baking soda.

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