Home remedies
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Lady Bugs

Dear listers-
Awhile back I asked the readers of my column to share any home remedies they had for controlling pests and I got a very good response. I want to share some of them with you as even entomologists can have pest problems from time to time. All of these will be in a book I am doing on my column. I certainly don't know if they all work or not but I am going to try them next year. If anyone on the list has any additional home remedies for pest control I would like to hear about them.



I must write before I forget. Some years ago I learned a method of ridding cockroaches from premises. Our roaches did not get the sumptous (sic) tidbits offered, we used plain boric acid.

My mother had rented an apartment to the same tenants for years. To all outward appearances careful grooming, always cleaning car, immediately reporting anything amiss. The only thing they overlooked were the bugs. They finally moved.

We sprinkled boric acid inside refrigerator motor, inside stove, under linoleum, around the edges of room. They disappeared and have not been seen since.

I know if you make a solution of boric acid with water and apply to dogs it can relieve flea infestations as well as heal any bites.

Just to let you know boric acid is tried and true. Refer to column in Press of Atantic City. From a reader in Ventnor City, NJ

--------------- HI, first let me say that we (the Chapel Hill News) run your column every week. I always enjoy reading it because not only are you entertaining, but you're against pesticides. Here are my offerings for your book: If ants are coming in through doors or windows, put a cinnamon stick across the path. They will not cross it. And according to a Latino friend of mine, tile floors are too cold for cockroaches and mice. They don't like it. Therefore it's a natural repellant. From a reader in Chapel Hill, NC

----------------- Although the remedy I discovered is for gophers, not insects, I'd like to tell you what it is anyway.

I discovered that you can get rid of gophers by pouring garlic salt down the hole. I don't know what happens on the gophers end, but it works. No more activity at hole and no new holes.. From a reader in Santa Maria, CA

------------- This is in response to your question about home-made solutions to get rid of pests. I use a syrup made out of corn syrup, honey, white sugar and water, mix it on the stove until the sugars all melt and it's syrupy but pourable, then add a good amount of boric acid powder. Once you mix it all together, you can apply the syrup to the spots where ants congregate and on their trails. They love the sugars and run to get it, and then the boric acid gets them. I used this remedy this year a couple of times, and it totally wiped out the ant colony that was under my house and trying to get in. I had a bad infestation last year, and this year I had no problem because I used this stuff at the first sign of them. It's also a good solution because you can put it exactly where you want to without having to spread it around where it's not needed. The syrup formula isn't an eaxct one, either, just mix it all up until it looks good to you. The ants don't care what proportion ingredients are in it, they just like the sugar! From a reader in Richmond, VA --------------- I was pleased to read your column in today's Atlantic City Press regarding pesticides sprayed out of doors. My neighborhood has many folks who spray constantly and / or have a commercial service that I think overdoes it. When I tactfully mention chemicals go right through our sandy soil and into Delaware Bay (and in my windows if I don't catch on and close them soon enough) they smile and laugh good naturedly as if such a notion could only come from a wild woman! I guess I'm flaggergasted that they can't see it.

The reason I'm writing however is to give you a couple of great remedies for crickets and I think roaches too if applicable. Get a box of 20 Mule Team Borax and sprinkle generously around doorways and corners in or outside. For ants use boric acid especially when you detect their trails. This works well in garages and sheds. It can be swept away and reapplied. While you wouldn't want to inhale it etc., it is not dangerous if it comes in contact with the skin.

I read once that cucumber peelings repel ants but that doesn't seem to slow my little visitors.

I applaud your efforts to help people see the light. I hope you are more successful than I am. From a reader in North Cape May, NJ -------------- When I lived in New York City, I was able to wipe out roach colonies in two apartments with the following method. Not to be used where there are pets:

Mix a couple of tablespoons of boric acid with water, until the consistency of cake frosting, and spread it on a slice of bread. (Any bread...doesn't matter.) Place in the plastic lid from a coffee can, and trickle a little water over it until there's water visible all around the bread. Place one of these inside the (cold) oven or broiler, and another in a dark cabinet (under the sink is good). From a reader in St. Louis, MO -----------------

I mix one part sugar to 4 parts of borax (commonly used for laundry). I sprinkle this on ant hills. The ants eat both the sugar and the borax- I suppose they can't tell which is which. The ants disappear in a few days. Do it of course in dry weather. From Martha Boyce in Tucson, AZ

---------------- We have been coming to Tuscon for the winters (Sept. thru Apr-May). In leaving our place in the care of homecare businesses, we were told to leave fresh leaves of the herb Basil in the corners of the inside walls and behind furniture. In all the months and years (since 1990), we have been doing this and haven't had any problem with insect infestation ever. We live in Southwest area outside of Tuscon. From a reader in Tucson, AZ ------------------- Old South African trick to stop little black "sugar ants" from coming into the house:

Find out where they are coming in and put a "barrier" of ordinary talcum powder across the entrance route, e.g. on windowsills, door-frames etc. It doesn't have to be very thick or wide, but don't leave gaps.

Don't know why it works, but they won't cross the line. I taught this to my American step-daughter when her little girl was a baby and she didn't want to use poison around the house. She was a bit dubious when I told her on the telephone, but she soon phoned back to tell me it worked! (Of course it did!!!) From a reader in Tucson, AZ -----------------

I was reading your article and I would like to share my home remedy to controlling ants.

I put bayleaves and listerine mouthwash in the corners of my food pantry to control little ants coming in through and entering into my flour and powered sugar. This remedy helps alot and I will always use this since it works wonders!

I would like to mention a homemade remedy that I have used on hummingbird feeders to keep those nasty ants away; I wipe the string that holds the hummingbird feeder with vaseline petroleum jelly. I have been using this remedy for a long time and it really knocks those ants down.

Another remedy I would like to mention is; I also wipe my houseplant's leaves with olive oil and this destroys those little flying bugs that fly around with the moisture around the houseplant's leaves.

One remedy that I forgot to mention with roaches is to place bowls around the house filled with boric acid, it also works wonders for creepy crawlers!

Thank you very much for allowing me to share some home remedies with your articles and your book. You can write my name too with the articles and the book. From a reader in Albuquerque, NM ----------------

Since I'm an Avon rep, I'm not really supposed to reveal this cure for ants, but the company's Skin-So-Soft Bath Oil works better than anything I've ever tried. Just spray some where the ants are coming in and they leave - it's non-toxic and also smells good (to humans). From a reader in San Francisco, CA

------------------ I enjoy your column immensely. I usually clip it out and send it to my sister in West Virginia. She has reactions to most chemicals and never uses sprays or any chemicals around her house.

I am also very sensitive to chemicals and never spray around my home either. I clean with vinegar and water or baking soda and water. If I need a cleaner I use Bon Ami.

The best thing I've ever used for roaches is slices of raw cucumbers placed in the cupboards and kitchen drawers. Replace them when they dry out. From a reader in Tucson, AZ -----------------

We were so happy to read your article about the side effects that can be caused by flea remedies. The last two times we have given our dog his flea treatment, within five days he has had trembling and what we thought was a seizure, the second time. The vet told us that the treatment would not have any effect on the dog in that way.

We have since decided to stop administering the topical flea treatment, and are going to try sprinkling around our dog's bedding, on his body, and on areas around the outside and inside of the house 20 MULE TEAM BORAX LAUNDRY DETERGENT. This was a suggestion by our neighbor who has two dogs, two cats, and a horse -- with NO FLEAS!

Hopefully we will have great success, with a happier, healthier very important member of our family. From a reader in Oakland, CA -------------------

 Richard Fagerlund, BCE Environmental Services Home: 247 Mountain Shadows University of New Mexico P.O. Box 1173 Albuquerque, NM 87131 Corrales, NM 87048 E-mail: (505) 922-9705 (home) (505) 277-9904 (office) (505) 440-6384 (cellular)


Dear all: I found the contributions by Dr Fagerlund's readers most interesting. I am intrigued by the use of cucumbers. I think that I shall do a bit of quiet experimenting. After all, ¿have you tried a split raw potato as a 'fridge deodorant? Amazing. Talcum powder is also interesting. "Real" talcum powder is abrasive, one of the few things that do get under an insect´s defenses. Boric acid? A very old remedy for cockroaches. It fell into disrepute at Buenos Aires long ago, but maybe we have different species of roaches. The most abundant here is Periplaneta americana. Tiled floors are not uncommon here, very convenient to clean, and believe me, they do not deter roaches. This very morning a groggy one (poisoned) was crossing right down the middle. We do not appear to have domestic mice; perhaps the rats scare them away. Bay leaves were used by colleagues working on spiders to eliminate mites from their rearing cages for live food. Also, first quality dried Smyrna figs and fine dried mushrooms from Italy are packed with bay leaves. Basil is a sovereign remedy for myiasis, even the rather dreadful rhynomyases caused by the screw worm Cochliomyia hominivorax. Olive oil against whitefly- hm. White soap is not bad for a small valuable plant with whitefly, greenfly or scale insects. It also removes the honeydew from the lower leaves, which are usually attacked by smut if nothing is done. But I mean real soap in a bar. Washing powders are anything but soap, and they may harm some plants. Stick of cinammon? I must try that one too. But wait- what species of ants? I have "argentine" ants, which may make sense to you since I am mailing from Buenos Aires, but actually the little pests come from northern Brazil. As late as 1912, Angel Gallardo, a well-known zoologist, published a note about what the ant Linepithema humile (he uses the old name Iridomyrmex humilis) had done in his garden. It erradicated every single ant within a radius of 200 m, with the exception of a few Solenopsis species, too small for L. humile workers to get into their tunnels. Since the common species of Solenopsis ("red ants") are about the same size of L. humile, these small species must be very small indeed. Gallardo tried: Carbon sulphide, boiling water, petroleum (sic), sundry insecticidal powders and oils and- the flame of a soldering lamp passed along the paths. He did not get rid of them. In despair, he began to put out bones from the pot roast (then the staple diet of any red-blooded argentinian) and dropping them in boiling water when full of ants. This does not destroy the queens (they have many), but it does give a certain perverse satisfaction. I have trouble with L. humile myself, because I trap and rear blowflies in my backyard, and the ants not only attack baits, but they go absolutely crazy over maggots. I put my jars inside trays with water. Even then, in warm weather the ants may bridge the water with their own bodies over a space equivalent to 2-3 ant lengths! Whether this is accidental or not, I cannot tell. So now I squirt some detergent into the water. And as they have a sweet tooth, they pasture their greenfly cattle on my valuable fifty-cent-apiece Impatiens, and make little earthen sheepfolds for them, just like in text-books. Can you top that? Home remedy for mosquitoes, passed on by my usual chemist: when she was a kid, they had in their garden a camphor tree and an Eucalyptus saligna tree, and every day her Momma would take a couple of leaves of each and chop them into a saucer as a mosquito repellent. I have been told by country policemen that a leafy branch of E. saligna tied to a street light repells the swarms of insects which usually go to these u.v. sources. Of course, there is a nomenclatorial mess about E. saligna and E. grandis. Funny thing, when you ask for info about Eucalyptus you find very little onthese species; globulus and cinerea are the great thing for perfume industry, but of course saligna/grandis would smell less "sweet" if it contains something stronger than eucalyptol. A 1922 book on Argentine Flora (popular level) mentions a plant, a relative of the Chysanthemum (Asteraceae; then Compositae), called "espanta-mosquito", as it where mosquito-scare. The latin name is given as Conyza procera Desf. or Conyza chilensis Spreng. It is said to be very common; a sprig of it in a room keeps the mosquitoes away. I have been unable to track up this species; I did not find it in the Compositae volume of the Flora of the province of Buenos Aires. Perhaps a tall tale, perhaps something good passed over. Any suggestions? Serious work has been done on the use of essential oils as repellents for insects or acari. Extracts of thyme and sage, oil of cloves and the therpenes D-limonene, alpha-pinene and alpha- terpinene have been mentioned as acaricides. In Italy, a repellent made up of timol (thyme), eucalyptol (Eucalyptus), menthol (mint) and camphor has been used for the Varroa bee-louse (of course, one cannot spray insecticides into a hive), and I believe that it is commercially available. One could make a cartoon for real bug fans: some people get rid of domestic pests with alpha-pinene, then find themselves pursued by a swarm of amorous pine shoot-borer beetles! Better to stop here. Best regards, Adriana Adriana OLIVA Laboratorio de Entomología forense Museo argentino de Ciencias naturales Av.A.Gallardo 470 (C1405DJR) Buenos Aires ARGENTINA


Yes, I think the rule of thumb with oils is 2% max, with soaps (and the cheapest, like $1 a half gallon non-degreaser dishwashing soap may be the best insecticide ever discovered) is a tad below 5% to avoid problems.
Others spray much higher soap combinations, wait a short time (half an hour) then wash it off the plants. I teach a six week, open to the public course in "Pest Insect Control Without Pesticides" at New Mexico State Univ. that covers everything ever considered that I could find including natural control, biological control, and non-chemical alternatives for large and small producers, urban and garden pests, even pet pests. It's getting good responses.
RG Breene III Ph.D.

But be careful:
Are you talking about soaps or detergents? There's a lot of difference in how the plants react. Want to see a hibiscus drop all its leaves? Detergent. There's not a lot of point killing the bugs if you damage the plant yourself. If you're using cooking oil and organic soap, you can pretend to yourself that you are non-"chemical", if not non-violent. You may or may not convince that hibiscus. Anne Kilmer south florida


S.Raghu wrote:
>>> I think a lot of the home remedy courses may raise awareness of alternative methods of control. At the end of the day, if such home remedy courses raise awareness of potential harmful effects of indiscriminate use, they have more than half served their purpose.<<<

I disagree. Home study courses and even college courses are biased in that they routinely focus on the theoretical potential harmful effects of broadcast pesticide use without also telling students the reasons why such use may not be harmful. Thus students walk away with a distorted view of the real world hazards involved. Case in point: Consider the issue of broadcast use of mosquito adulticides. Below is the information the Norfolk County Massachusettes Mosquito Control Project supplies to the public about the high degree of safety of the resmethrin insecticide it uses to people, pets and non-target species. Under this a medical school professor explains why resemethrin, sumithrin and malathion are dangerous to people and non-target animals. Which of the two, the County or the Professor is providing the public with a balanced appraisal the real world hazards involved in the broadcast use of mosquito adulticides? _________________________________________________________ Norfolk County Massachusettes Mosquito Control Project: The product name of the mosquito adulticide used by the Project is called Scourge. It is a combination of two ingredients, resmethrin and piperonyl butoxide. Resmethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid, and piperonyl butoxide is a synergist (a chemical that enhances the ability of another), allowing resmethrin to control the adult mosquitoes at a lower concentration. Scourge is mixed with a soybean oil, which is used as a carrier. The ratio of soybean oil to Scourge is 4.5:1. It is sprayed from the truck at 3 ounces per minute, at a vehicle speed of 10 miles per hour. This works out to 0.5 ounces of Scourge and oil per acre. The actual amount of resmethrin sprayed over a one acre plot is approximately equal to one fifth of a thimble, or about 10 to 15 drops from an eyedropper. This presents a minimal risk to humans, pets and non-target species. The active ingredient in Scourge photo-degrades (breaks down in sunlight) in less than four hours. ___________________________________________________________ by Michael Gochfeld, Professor of Environmental and Community Medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and School of Public Health The reason that my colleagues and I argued against broadcast spraying [of Malathion, Sumithrin and Resmethrin] for mosquito control over New York City are as follows: 1) in broadcast application most of the spray falls on areas where the likelihood of mosquito-human contact is low. Thus areas with few mosquitoes but many other non-target species are sprayed, as are densely populated residential areas where mosquito populations are low to begin with. 2) It is not made clear to the public that these broad-spectrum insecticides kill many other insects besides mosquitoes. These include economically valuable insects such as honeybees, praying mantids and ladybird beetles as well as conspicuous and attractive species such as butterflies. Such insecticides also destroy innumerable less conspicuous insects that are important components of biodiversity and are the food for birds and small mammals. This, after all, was the message of Rachel Carson's "Silent Spring" published in 1962, that even her detractors recognize as one of the most influential books of the 20th century. 3) Although malathion (an organophosphate) and the synthetic pyrethroids sumithrin (Anvil) and resmithrin (Scourge) have relatively low toxicity to humans and other mammals and birds, they are not innocuous or harmless. People can become sick from exposure to these pesticides as well as from the so-called "inert ingredients" in which they are applied Organophosphates such as malathion and pyrethroids reduce the activity of the enzyme acetylcholinesterase which is essential for normal nervous system function. This is the mode of action by which these pesticides kill insects and harm humans. For example, malathion is in the same class of chemicals as the nerve gases such as sarin, and workers who produce malathion or blend it into final products as well as those who apply it, if not well-protected, can suffer agitation, sleepy difficulty and weakness, as well as anxiety, forgetfulness and depression.

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