Insects are beneficial to the environment in a multitude of ways—especially when they’re outside where they belong. Ants, flies, moths and other creepy crawly things aren’t so welcome when they’re in your house. Your first impulse might be to dash out and buy a can of bug spray. But so many of those store-bought insect eradicators contain ingredients that are harmful to people and pets as well as insects. There are better ways to keep the pests outside without turning your home into a chemical-soaked zone.
Aromatic herbs smell sweeter to you than to the insects you don’t want in your house. Photo credit: Shutterstock
One of the best is to become an herb gardener. There are a multitude of herbs that are known insect repellents, and herbs are one of the easiest plants to grow. Most need little maintenance, and many of them don’t mind a little shade. And there are other things in your kitchen that act as bug repellents as well.
Ants are one of the most frequent home invaders and one of the easiest to deal with in a sweet-smelling, natural way. Spraying lemon juice or vinegar along the path where they’re entering the house works as well as poisons. Mint and tansy are two herbs that are especially effective in keeping ants away. Crumble some leaves around trouble spots, place a few plants on a windowsill or even plant some just outside your door. Both are care-free hardy perennials that will come back year after year, and mint’s purple flowers and tansy’s yellow buttons will add color to your doorway. Hot pepper flakes are a bit messier and less aromatic but can get the job done as well.
If you’re craving a mosquito-free evening on your porch or patio, think lemon. Lemon grass, lemon-scented Pelargoniums (commonly sold as scented geraniums) and lemon balm are some of the ones you can keep in pots or in the garden. Lemon balm is a mint and like all mints, you’ll never have to think about it again after planting—except maybe to cut it back to keep it under control. Speaking of mint, rubbing it on your skin is also an effective way to repel biting bugs. Another plant with outstanding mosquito-repellent properties that’s effective against (ugh) cockroaches too is catnip. It’s also great for keeping your cat entertained, as you probably know.
Mint pretty much repels anything, and that includes flies. A number of the above-mentioned herbs are unappealing to these flying critters as well. Lavender, tansy, basil, rosemary and even cloves will keep them at bay.
So many of these herbs do double, triple and even quadruple duty. Mothballs have that weird smell you might associate with your grandmother’s closet. You don’t have to have it in yours. You can make your own simple sachets to protect your sweaters from moths with lavender, mint, rosemary, cloves and cinnamon, as well as those cedar chunks you can buy in stores. And you can choose your own favorite aroma to cling to your clothes.
There are other things you can do before your home becomes overrun by tiny invaders. In the kitchen, seal all your food in containers— especially attractive nuisances like sugar and flour. Clean up crumbs from your counter and floor as soon as you drop them, and don’t leave dishes in the sink. In both kitchen and bathroom keep the drains clean and free of debris. And make sure your garbage cans and compost bin lids are fit securely not only to keep insects away but four-legged pests as well.