The best eco-friendly ways to get rid of pests this summer

Almost everyone wants to be outside this summer to enjoy the warm weather, sun, beach, barbecue, and company — including pests. Leaving windows, patio or balcony doors open might bring these pests indoors, or they could even be bothering your summer gardening, too. You can use pesticides or bug sprays to get rid of mosquitoes, ants, and other pests, but they could put the Earth and your own health at risk. Have no fear, you can still enjoy the summer without hurting your health or the planet.

Backyard summer party with friends

Peppermint oil/Mint plants

Exercise your green thumb and rid your home and outdoor space of pesky mosquitoes, mice, ants, and even spiders just by placing bags of dried mint leaves throughout your space. The sweet scent of mint, and more specifically peppermint oil, is in contrast to most harsh smelling insecticides, and you can live with it while pests can’t. 

You can also mix approximately 15 drops of peppermint oil with about 8 ounces of water in a spray bottle. Pest-control experts suggest using the spray on balcony and patio doors, window sills, vents, and any cracks in floorboards or screens to deter these critters. 

If you go the way of having a mint plant in your outdoor space, you have the added bonus of a lovely garnish or fragrant tea, too. 

Citronella/lemongrass 

Cintronella candle burning
KajaNi/Shutterstock

Citronella is the oil found in lemongrass and has long been an ingredient in candles and diffusers to use outdoors in order to get rid of mosquitoes. Sit by a burning citronella candle, and your evening outdoors should go smoothly. 

Another option is to plant lemongrass or get a citronella plant to place in your outdoor space that will not constantly evaporate the oil like a candle does. 

Unfortunately, like chemical mosquito repellents and bug spray you might use on yourself, the effectiveness of the oil can dissipate after a few hours when using candles or other citronella-based repellents because the oil evaporates quickly. 

You should note that while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control does not say citronella is harmful, it doesn’t include it in its list of recommended mosquito repellents, but it does indicate lemon eucalyptus oil is an alternative that operates on the same concept. 

Neem 

Neem, also known as the Indian lilac from the neem tree native to India, has a number of uses including skin, hair, dental, and soap products, but it’s also known for its insecticidal properties. This isn’t a bug spray you would use on your skin, however. But if you have a summer garden and are worried about pests ruining it during peak growing season, neem oil might just be able to come to the rescue. 

While other chemical-based pesticides might be quick-acting, they have to be reapplied to areas of your home repeatedly and may not help get to the root of the problem — pest proliferation. 

Using neem oil can help do that by sterilizing insects or slowing growth cycles depending on the type of insect or bug. Plants can be sprayed with a diluted solution of neem oil, which pests absorb through leaves and roots. 

It breaks down quickly, and as bugs come to attack plants, they ingest the neem because it has similar properties to their hormones. The oil then wreaks havoc on insects’ hormones, and over a longer term, it stops feeding, mating, and laying eggs. Spraying it on possibly infested plants can help reduce the number of pests over time. 

The great thing about neem oil is that it’s not harmful to any mammals, so it’s perfect if you have pets or small children around. 

Beer

You can enjoy summertime with a lounge chair outside, a barbecue sizzling, and the first sips of a crisp, cold one as you relax. It doesn’t have to be ruined by the unsightly presence of pests if you make that beer do double duty. 

To get rid of cockroaches, soak a piece of bread in some beer and place it into a jar, then line the lip of the jar with petroleum jelly. Make sure to only coat the inner lip of the jar. Cockroaches will drink any kind of beer so they’ll show up in the jar fairly soon, but the inner rim will make it too slippery for them to escape the jar. The same method works for slugs as well if they are plaguing your garden. 

Fruit flies love fermentation. You can simply leave a can or bottle of beer open and cover the opening with a small piece of paper that has a tiny hole in it. Flies go in but don’t come out. 

Vinegar

Vinegar is a miracle for its number of uses, and cleaning with it is a great one because it not only gets rid of a mess but also helps keep away pests and isn’t toxic for children, animals, or the Earth. 

Vinegar works because it destroys a bug or insect’s scent trail, which it uses to always find its way to your food or plants. Spray it all over an area and these bugs won’t be able to find their way back into your space.

Just put 1/2 cup vinegar, two cups of water, and about 10-15 drops of an essential oil like peppermint, eucalyptus, or clove in a spray bottle to make yourself a cleaner and pesticide in one. 

But say you don’t like the smell of peppermint or can’t find eucalyptus, vinegar is still your friend. Just put some peels from lemons, limes, oranges, and any citrus fruit into a jar and pour enough vinegar to submerge them. Allow it to sit closed in a cool, dry place for a few weeks, and you’ll have a concentrated cleaning/pesticide solution once you drain out the peels and dilute it with some water. 

You can use it to wipe down sinks, windowsills, door jambs, tables, and countertops. 

Cucumbers 

Cockroaches are terrifying to most of us, so it stands to reason there are a number of ways on this list to get rid of them, and your perfect summer salad can be one of them. 

To protect your pantry or anywhere you’ve seen them crawling, save the ends or a few extra slices of cucumbers and place them strategically to keep these nasty critters away. 

This healthy vegetable stops the growth of microbes to create a barrier. However, the peels can be used to ward away these creepy creatures, but fair warning — the process does attract them before thinning out the herd. 

First, let cucumbers peels rot in your fridge for some time and then place them in areas where you have noticed the bugs. They love the rotten smell so this will attract them to come check out the peels, but you’re more stealthy than they are. You’ve spread diatomaceous earth on the peels, which is like soil full of sharp objects. 

One the roaches ingest the spiked peels, their exoskeletons shrivel and dehydrate. It’s a gruesome process and given the danger diatomaceous earth poses to children and pets, it may not be suitable for everyone. 

Basil

Caprese salad on plate
Markus Spiske

Some of the most annoying pests for the summer are tiny flies. While you’re preparing a delicious caprese salad full of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and balsamic vinaigrette for dinner al fresca, save a few of those basil leaves. 

Put a few dried basil leaves in a bowl or sachet made of breathable cloth around windows or on tables, wherever you think flies may like to come hang out. They abhor the smell of the tasty herb and will stay far away so you can enjoy your meal in peace. 

Backyard summer party with pool
Eric Nopanen/Unsplash

Whichever of these nature-inspired methods you use, you can be assured you’ll not only get rid of pests in your home, outdoor space, or on yourself but your health and the environment won’t be put at risk either. Chemical bug sprays often come in plastic packaging or require special equipment to use like gloves or face masks, so there’s an added bonus of not adding non-biodegradable items to landfills and saving some money while you soak up the sun.

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