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Parents vs. Pests: Kid- and Pet-Friendly Solutions for Banishing Bugs

Keep the chemicals (at least somewhat) at bay with these tips.

Keeping pests at bay in your home and yard while also keeping your kids and pets safe is a real challenge! If your babies (human and furry) are making you think twice about calling the exterminator, try some of these natural, safe ways to fight our most common pests.


Ticks: Lyme disease is rampant in our area, but don’t let the threat of ticks keep you and your littles inside. For kids, try Ten Air Studios Bug Be Gone, a curiously powerful blend of essential oils that repels ticks and smells good to human noses, too. For pets, the Bayer Seresto Flea and Tick Collar is all natural, effective and affordable.


Nothing on the market, though, is more effective against Lyme than careful tick checks. Check your kids and pets — and have someone check you — every day. Also, choose showers over baths during tick season, as the running water may dislodge a tick you miss during your check.


Mosquitoes: Nothing can ruin a lovely night in your yard quicker than aggressive, hungry mosquitoes. First, be sure there is no standing water in your yard. Check for water in swings, buckets, water tables, bird baths, even dips in the garden or lawn. Clean these out every few days to prevent them from becoming breeding grounds for mosquito larvae.


Next, try treating your yard with Mosquito Barrier spray. Sarah Young, a local mom, said, “We usually have a huge mosquito problem, but using this routinely last summer made a huge impact. It’s just mega-concentrated garlic, so you can feel good about spraying it without worrying about kids or pets or other good things happening in your yard.”  And it works on ticks, too.


Also consider planting basil, citronella, garlic, and thyme in your garden or putting pots on the deck or porch. These plants naturally deter mosquitoes and other bugs. A citronella candle provides nice ambiance and repels mosquitoes and other bugs.


For an elegant party centerpiece that also keeps the bugs away, fill mason jars with water and several drops of citronella oil, add rosemary or mint and lemon slices to the water, and light floating candles on top.


If you’re out and about, try these bug repellents recommended by parents in our Main Line Parent and Philly Family Facebook communities: Honest Bug SprayCalifornia Baby Bug Repellent, and Bug Bands.


Ants: Ants outside on your picnic blanket are one thing; inside, quite another. When you see ants starting to invade inside, sprinkle the corners and near the doors with cinnamon! It will encourage those ants to stay outside. Lemon juice and coffee grounds also work. Planting mint near your doors can also help keep ants away from entering. If ants are bothering you on your outdoor deck, slip slices of garlic between the boards.


Bees & Wasps: Bees are pollinators, so they should be welcome in your garden. If you have a family member with an allergy, though, plant evergreen plants (no flowers) throughout your garden and especially in the areas where you will congregate most. Since bees are attracted to bright blooms, they won’t be as eager to be among greenery. Mint, eucalyptus, and citronella may also deter bees and wasps.


Garden Pests: Slugs, caterpillars, aphids, Japanese beetles, grubs, and more can wreak havoc in your vegetable or flower garden. There are natural solutions for each, recommended by Penn State Extension. For instance, create traps for slugs using boards or newspaper, or douse plants being eaten by aphids with insecticidal soap.


But remember: unless you see insects eating your plants, don’t assume that insects in your garden are pests. Most are pollinators or eat garden pests, so welcome them to your garden!


Flies: Flies are annoying, and some species bite. Several herbs are natural fly repellents: make sachets of mint, bay leaves, cloves, and/or eucalyptus and hang in areas that you see flies. Deterring flies can be a science and art project: try making your own fly paper! Fly paper is powerful inside, but if your fly problem is outside, try this outdoor fly catcher.


Gnats: Gnats can make you run from your yard, and many people say that the swarms not only drive you crazy but also smell! Get rid of them by planting lavender or lemon balm in your yard or in pots on your deck or patio.


Check any potted plants near where the gnats seem to originate. Gnat often lay eggs in moist dirt. If you suspect this is happening in your yard, use a rake or shovel to turn over the dirt and disturb the nest or re-pot your plants. If you’re not sure, start by creating a sticky trap: cover an index card with honey and attach it to a wooden stake. Stick the stake in a potted plant or garden bed and see if gnats get stuck. If so, continue to replace the trap, or consider re-potting the plant or agitating the soil.


Fruit Flies: If fruit flies are hovering, try this easy homemade trap: pour a little apple cider vinegar in a jar, and then create a cone out of paper and put that in the jar. Be sure the paper does not touch the vinegar. The fruit flies will fly down the cone toward the vinegar and be trapped.


Pantry and closet moths: Pantry moths are especially gross and destructive, and they’re probably coming home from the store with you. Fight them with food-grade diatomaceous earth, which kills the bugs without poison. Be sure to wear a dust mask as you’re sprinkling it around your pantry and cabinets, especially if you’re sensitive to fine particles and dust.


Need a professional? Local mom Kelly Miller recommends Green Pest Solutions. She said they’re “wonderful, affordable, friendly, informative and green.” Green Pest Solutions is an integrated pest management system, and their goal is to target invasive pests while leaving beneficial insects to do their job. Or ask your favorite pest control or lawn maintenance company to come up with solutions that use fewer chemicals or are well out of reach of kids and pets.






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