Decreasing bugs around your home is a common desire-just look at the
proliferation of products to permanently remove bugs from our surroundings.
Pesticides and electrocution-type bug "zappers" are a popular remedy, but
may not be the best solution. Pesticides can harm your family members or
pets, not to mention the environment, and bug zappers are often
"non-selective," that is, they will kill any insect that flies into the
electric field, eliminating the pests, but also the "good" bugs that
naturally rid your annoying insects. These zappers also use 100 to 200
watts of electricity. This means that using one only at night from spring
through fall can increase your electric costs significantly. Using extra
electricity also creates air pollution, contributing to global warming.
An easier, and more natural solution comes from eliciting the help of the
original outdoorswoman, herself, Mother Nature. Simply increase the number
of pest predators in your yard. This may mean inviting "good" insects to
the area around your home. Aphids and spider mites that enjoy eating your
vegetable leaves can be controlled with Green Lacewings, sometimes called
"Aphid Lions." Generally you can purchase 1,000 eggs for under $10 at
garden supply stores. The Spider Mite Predator bug will eat about ten adult
mites or 20 eggs daily, while fleas and grubs can be controlled by
Nematodes, at a cost of about $15 for one million.
Dragonflies are great insects for controlling mosquitoes, and, although they
look a little ominous, they pose no threat to people. Mosquitoes, on the
other hand, aren't so lucky. One dragonfly will eat 100 mosquitoes and
larvae in 30 minutes. Attract dragonflies to your yard with bamboo plants.
They love to live among long pieces of bamboo that grow in warm, sunny
Toads and bats also dine on insects and can help to regulate the pests in
your garden. Both of these animals eat thousands of mosquitoes in a night.
Attract toads to your yard by creating a "toad abode." Simply break a hole
in the side of clay flowerpots (near the top rim) and place them upside down
in shady areas of your yard. Toads can then easily hop in the cool, dark
home to escape the hot afternoon sun.
Also consider purchasing a bat home, or building one yourself. This will
bring those nocturnal pest-feasters to your yard. A bat home typically
houses 20 bats and has many narrow, vertical slots, with an open bottom.
Check garden supply stores or the Internet to find one of these homes. You
should be able purchase one for around $25.
Don't forget feathered friends in the war against pests. Birds are great
predators of insects. Place birdhouses around your yard to give birds
nesting spots-especially during spring and summer, when insects abound.
Many modern methods of controlling bugs exist, and they certainly serve a
purpose. Employing time-honored, natural methods are just as viable,
however, and the long-term effects of controlling bugs "Mother Nature's way"
will be gentler on the environment.
Sources: James Dulley, Joel Lerner, and The Washington Post.