Bugs and Slugs Q&A

Q: Ants! Ants! Ants! Their hills are everywhere! How can I evict them from my property without resorting to toxic chemicals?

A: You can try either of the following controls:

  • Make your own ant bait by mixing 1 tbsp. of bakers' yeast and 2 tbsp. of sugar in 1 pint of water; spread this mixture on pieces of cardboard, and place them around your yard.
  • Pile up instant grits or corn meal in and around their hills; once eaten, the grits expand inside them, and they soon go to that big anthill in the sky!

For more quick and easy insect controls like these, check out my Bug Off! book.

Q: I have box elder bugs all over the side of my house. What do I do?

A: These critters especially seem to like to hang out in the fall on the warm side (south or west) of light colored houses, especially when there are female box elder trees nearby. Outdoors, it's a good idea to spray and cool off the sides of the house daily with water. You can spray the bugs with 1/4 cup of laundry detergent per gallon of water to kill them, just be careful 'cause the detergent mixture can harm or kill any plants that may be growing below. You can also get some temporary protection around windows and doors by using an insecticide containing pyrethrin around these areas. Be sure to follow label directions.

If the critters are indoors, the best way to take care of them is to vacuum them up. Then check to see that the seals around your doors and windows are good and tight. This'll make it tougher for the pests to get in.

Q: Do you have a remedy to keep fleas off dogs? I have a terrier, and he is a house dog, but every time he goes outside, he gets loaded with fleas. Please help!

A: There are a number of things you can do to get rid of fleas. First off, outside, you can get rid of them by spraying your yard with 1 cup of dishwashing liquid in your 20 gallon hose-end sprayer, followed by an insecticide containing pyrethrin at the recommended rate. Or for an all-natural control, check local garden supply centers or online for beneficial nematodes. They'll go after the flea larvae in the soil.

Q: I live in the southwest, and the grasshoppers are out of control here. What do I do?

A: A great way to control 'em long term is to use a product called “Nolo Bait”. This is a bait made with a biological, natural-occurring spore that infects the 'hoppers with a disease once it's eaten. The spores are not harmful to people, pets, birds, or the environment, but cause havoc to the 'hoppers. Infected 'hoppers don't immediately go “belly up” but they will become slow, lethargic and begin to eat less and less, reducing vegetation loss. Those that don't die in 3-4 weeks become food for the healthy 'hoppers that continue to migrate in. These then become infected, and so on. Egg laying is affected, too, which helps reduce populations for future years. When quick, immediate “belly up” control is needed, apply an insecticide containing pyrethrin at the recommended rate. Then create a buffer zone around the perimeter of the treated area with Nolo Bait™ for long-term control.

Q: There are ladybugs all over the inside of my house. How do I get rid of them?

A: What you have are probably the Asian Lady Beetles. Generally, ladybugs are good guys, and Asian Lady Beetles were actually imported to gobble up bad bugs like aphids. Unfortunately, unlike our native ladybugs, these swarm in the fall looking for niches and crooks to hibernate in for the winter, and all too many of them find their way indoors. To keep them out, before they start to swarm, seal and caulk any cracks or other areas where they might enter.

For some temporary control in the fall when they are swarming, you can try spraying an insecticide containing pyrethrin outdoors around the perimeter of windows, doors, and other areas where they may enter the house. This will give some short residual, although not long lasting, control. Once they come in the house, you'll have to vacuum 'em up. And remember to change the vacuum bag after each use. There has been some research that shows that the smell of camphor and menthol repels them. If you can find where they're entering the house, you might find a way of using these smells to discourage them. Good luck!

Q: Slugs are ripping my plants and vegetables to shreds. How can I get rid of these pests?

A: There are many effective ways to get rid of them. A few of my favorites are:

  • Handpick them and dump them in saltwater or kerosene.
  • Set out pie tins filled with beer or grape juice. The slugs climb in, and drown.
  • Apply a barrier of diatomaceous earth, ashes, or gravel around your plants. These items lacerate the slugs’ bodies, causing them to dehydrate.
  • Wrap aluminum foil loosely around the plant stems. Slugs can't climb it.

Q: Creepy, crawly spiders have invaded my flower garden. What can I use to get rid of them?

A: Don't forget that spiders are generally good guys, gobbling up bad bugs like nobody's business. But if they're really taking over your flower garden, you can spray the beds with insecticide containing pyrethrin according to label directions. Overspray the area with 1 cup of dishwashing liquid in your 20 gallon hose-end sprayer first for better adhesion and more effective control.

Q: My yard is swarming with mosquitoes. How can I get rid of them so I can enjoy my backyard again?

A. Remember that any standing water in your yard or garden can turn into a mosquito breeding ground, so get rid of any puddles around your yard. Then, overspray your yard with my Buzz Buster Lemonade: 1 cup of lemon-scented ammonia and 1 cup of lemon-scented dishwashing liquid in a 20 gallon hose-end sprayer, filling the balance of the sprayer jar with warm water. Repeat this treatment 3 times a week in the evening, and the little buggers will be history..

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