Effective Ways to Protect Yourself
from Disgusting, Disease-Carrying Pests
By Lee Bellinger
It didn’t make much news, but in the recent heatwave that broiled the country, power outages occurred all over. Including in my hometown of Charlotte.
Which brings me to the potential problem of pests. Especially when the modern conveniences of life are disrupted.
In normal times, pests like roaches, rats, mice, lice, fleas, mosquitoes, and flies are generally no more than a disgusting nuisance. Do-it-yourself traps, repellants, and pesticides as well as professional pest control services can usually defeat these creepy crawlers quickly and at minimal cost before they become a threat to you, your loved ones, and your pets.
Give Some Thought to Insect and Pest Issues
But in a crisis, these same pests can put a wrench in your prepping plans if you’re not ready to deal with them. If they decide they want to share your food and your home, and you don’t have a way to exterminate them, they could expose you to potentially life-threatening diseases. So let’s talk about how to keep this horror story from springing to life.
In a “system down” situation, the dangers of pestilence and disease multiply rapidly. Even in a short-lived emergency, municipal services such as garbage collection, sewer maintenance, and street cleaning come to a quick halt, undermining the first line of defense against these vectors of sickness, i.e. cleanliness.
What’s more, pests can also attack your food supplies. They may consume only a small portion, but contaminate the rest. In other cases, it’s not so much these actual critters but the microorganisms they carry that are the real threat. Ticks carry Lyme disease, mosquitoes spread malaria, and flies can transmit e coli, a truly frightening prospect should municipal wastewater treatment facilities shut down for any extended period of time.
Even if you never experience an emergency where you’re forced into live with compromised public sanitation, pests are a nuisance and will destroy property such as your home, furniture, and clothing.
A Word on Pesticides, Insecticides,
and other Toxins
Pesticides are a fast and efficient method for eliminating many bugs and critters. The problem is pests replicate fast! For some, generations are measured in weeks. This awesome reproductive efficiency helps them build resistance to chemical-based pest controls. According to experts, there are no known insect species that have gone extinct, no matter how hard we try.
“Among the species that readily bounce back from the chemicals are those most dangerous to us – flies, fleas, mosquitoes, ticks, and lice.” – Pest control author Bernice Lifton
The result is many of yesterday’s insecticides don’t work well now, so today’s pesticides are more toxic and often more expensive than ever before.
Using toxins may not be the best idea. You should be careful with cross-contamination, accidental poisoning, and causing illness, sickness, and severe allergic reactions from the chemicals (rather than through the pests).
Fortunately, a little common sense and ingenuity provide many natural, poison-free, and effective pest control methods. Natural pest control methods are generally less expensive, and pests are unlikely to develop immunity to them.
Two Free and Effective Tools
to Keeping Creepy Crawlies Away
Insects, bugs, rodents, and the rest of them are part of nature. Our concern is keeping them off your body and away from your home.
The most effective weapon is cleanliness.
Bugs like to be left alone, too. A yearly Spring Cleaning (or more often) by moving things around in the closets, pantries, and drawers, wiping things down, dusting, laundering heavy fabrics and linens, removing clutter, moving furniture to sweep and vacuum underneath helps get rid of unwanted guests and clear out their hiding spaces; it also helps disrupt their reproductive cycle.
Cleanliness also eliminates the things that attract them to you and your home: food and water. Wipe up spills. Repair leaky faucets. Rinse containers before putting them out for recycling. Just generally stay clean and neat.
Another overlooked weapon is sunlight.
Taking out rugs, curtains, and cushions to beat and brush them outdoors, and exposing rooms to bright sunlight, helps freshen things up. At the same time, critters don’t like hot sunshine and some insect larvae even shrivel in direct sun.
More Do-It-Yourself Poison-Free
Pest Control Strategies:
Structural Integrity: Don’t let them into your home. Install and maintain screens over openings to your home like vents and chimneys. Make your home an unwelcome site to unwanted invaders. Clean out as many nooks, crannies, cracks, gaps, corners, pipes, gutters, etc., as possible, both inside and outside your home.
Don’t Give Them a Drink: Get rid of puddles, dampness, and leaks. Pests are attracted to moisture, and a little bit of water is enough satisfy a family of roaches. What’s more, many pests feed on mold. If you’ve ever hired a professional pest control company, you know that the first place they look is under kitchen and bathroom sinks. You should check these spots, too. Also be sure to install and maintain rain gutters and make sure they direct water away from the foundation of your home.
Don’t Feed The Bugs: Keeping your home clean goes a long way here. In addition, you want to practice proper food storage. Keep food tightly stored in metal, plastic, or glass containers.
Healthy Pets: Pests like mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks can even turn your beloved household pets into disease carriers. Keep them up-to-date with products like pest control collars.
Pest-Proof Your Shed: If you close the door on your garden shed in November and don’t open it again until April, you may have created an ideal winter resort for rodents and bugs. In summertime, outbuildings become great habits for wasps and hornets. Don’t overlook the need to practice good maintenance and cleanliness in these areas, too.
Trap Them; Then Kill Them:
Roaches – Use a glass jar. Fill it halfway with beer. Place the trap on the corners of the room where they like to crawl. Roaches climb in, drink, get drunk, and drown. This same technique works on voracious garden slugs; with slugs, just use the lid of the jar.
Rats and Mice – Old-fashioned snap traps work well. Buy strong ones that are the right size. If it’s too big, a small mouse can walk right through it. Too small and a big rat won’t even feel it. The trick is to buy enough traps to shock and awe the area you want to protect. You want to take out all the rats or mice you think you have as fast as possible. If you buy too few, the survivors will “learn” to avoid the traps. Be sure to wear gloves when disposing of the victims.
Flies – Take a plastic jar, bait the inside with a sugar water and vinegar mixture, place a funnel or cone shaped paper (with an opening just big enough for the fly to crawl through), make sure the big end is wide enough to cover the jar’s mouth, then place it point down into the jar. The fly smells the bait, crawls down the cone, through the opening and into the jar, it gets stuck in the liquid, or can’t figure out how to crawl or fly back out. Old-fashioned fly paper strips work well, too; get them at any home center or farm supply store.
Mosquitoes – There are many products for sale to deal with mosquitoes, but the most effective method is prevention. Eliminate their breeding ground: water, both seen and unseen. Standing water in puddles, around plants, forgotten pet dishes, bird baths, rain gutters, water lodged inside old tires, etc., will attract mosquitoes and allow them to breed like mad. If you live near natural mosquito breeding grounds such as swamps – excuse me, wetlands – you’ll need to use prevention methods designed to keep them away from you. Use screens over doors and windows and make sure they fit correctly. Wear long sleeves and pants outdoors, and use certain smells said to repel them: citronella, basil, and garlic.
Keeping pests under control and away from where they shouldn’t be is an important step to keep yourself healthy and protect your food and property from damage. Learn and practice these habits now so pests won’t establish colonies in or near your home. It’s a lot easier than trying to play catch-up later, especially in times of crisis.