Sinclaire Sparkman: Putting the pests out

Sinclaire Sparkman • Updated Jul 21, 2017 at 1:00 PM

Editor’s note: This is a slightly revised version of a column published last year in The Lebanon Democrat.  

As the summer heats up, the bugs come in. Creepy crawlies often seek refuge from extreme heat by invading our homes, and while a bit of bug spray may seem to do the trick for keeping them out, it could be hurting not only the humans in your home but the pets as well. 

When using a natural method, keep in mind that some of these things do not actually kill pests, but instead repel them. It takes repeated treatments and a bit of creative ingenuity in placement, but they can be just as effective and don’t come with the harmful side effects. 

One tried and true method of organic, safe pest control that actually kills most pests is diatomaceous earth. It’s a powdery substance that actually cuts through a bug’s exoskeleton and kills them in a physical way, not a chemical way. The food grade powder will not harm humans or pets and is effective for almost all types of pests. Diatomaceous earth will kill ants, bed bugs, cockroaches, dust mites, basically anything with an exoskeleton. 

Be sure to get the food grade powder instead of the pool grade powder. The pool grade diatomaceous earth contains more crystalline silica and can be harmful if ingested or breathed in by pets or humans. 

Depending on the particular pest, there are different methods for safe pest control. 


These eight-legged creeps are the toughest pests to control. Their long legs keep their bodies away from treatments like diatomaceous earth and sprays around entryways, so traditional treatments are less effective. Spiders don’t like to set up webs in places with a strong smell or a lot of light. They are particularly put off by the smell of cloves and citronella. There are natural products at home improvement stores that keep spiders away by scent alone, plus they make your house smell nice. 

Ants and roaches: 

Lemon grass and peppermint are two things these pests hate. Fill an empty spray bottle with water and add about ten drops of peppermint or lemon grass essential oil to the bottle. Shake well and apply around windows, cracks and doors. 

Cucumber, cayenne pepper, cinnamon and coffee grounds can also work to repel ants. Place these around entry points. 

A spray bottle full of soapy water will kill ants and cockroaches. 

Fleas and ticks: 

Some non-toxic substances for flea removal are pennyroyal, eucalyptus, cedar and citronella. For prevention, try sprinkling nutritional yeast or sulfur in your pet’s food once a day. This will cause fleas and ticks to look elsewhere for a bite since these things are unappetizing to these pests, and if they come in scratching, a bath with dish soap and a fine tooth comb does the trick nicely. 


Eucalyptus, lemon juice and citronella are natural mosquito repellants. Products that contain DEET are effective and relatively safe, but could cause irritation or a rash with prolonged use. For indoor mosquito control try lemon grass and remove any standing water from around the home. 

Try these methods for a safer form of pest control. These things not only smell better than harsh chemicals, they are not harmful to humans or pets and can help the home remain bug free throughout the season. 

Natural treatments are often more work than setting off a bug bomb or calling in pest control, so if you can’t handle the bit of extra work, just be sure to take precautions before calling in the heavy artillery. 

Fish are particularly susceptible to pesticide sprays and bug bombs. Bowls and aquariums need to be covered before those methods are applied. Always allow time for the extreme products to dissipate before allowing pets or people back in your home, and do check for natural alternatives first.   

Sinclaire Sparkman is The Democrat’s news editor. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @wilsoncoreports.

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