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                                 HOME REMEDIES
We have all heard the many home remedies for whatever ails us, whether it's bugs or anything else. We can only speak for those in our field, but the answer is short. They (generally) don't work. Some have a basis in fact, but the implementation is wrong. Others have no basis in fact at all, and are a myth. Everyone has heard one or two. No one has heard them all, so this missive will get into only the ones that WE run into most often. One by one, here they are. I'll add more as I remember....

Go direct to:  [boric acid]  [herbs, spices]  [bleach]  [sonic devices]  [bug lights]   [termite bait sticks]

I think, when I retire, I'm going to start a moth ball factory.  Those guys must make LOADS of money!  We see moth balls used for more things than probably anything else. You'd be surprised to see how many people use moth balls because "they like the smell." And scatter them liberally, throughout all of their closets.  Maybe you wouldn't be surprised - if you're one of the ones doing it.  Don't do it.  Read on....

Several, nay, many years ago, we did work in a older couple's home and found they had scattered hundreds of moth balls on top of the sill plates, in the basement.  It was hard to miss.  The smell was overpowering!  We actually didn't have too much trouble talking them into removing it, but they had been told, by a helpful neighbor, that it would cure their termite problem.  (It didn't)  We could still smell it, for years, when we returned for our annual inspections.

We routinely see moth balls used by well-meaning homeowners for the control of squirrels and raccoons.  Doesn't work there, either.  What it DOES do, is to pose a danger to anyone downwind of the fumes.  Long term exposure is chronically toxic to warm-blooded animals.  That's you and me.  The worst part is that after awhile, your nose is desensitized and you no longer detect the distinctive odor.

Funny thing is, that the moth crystals don't affect the small animals as much as it does us. Since we have a longer lifetime than these small animals, they die of natural (or unnatural) causes long before the moth balls really affect them.  So unless you're using this for moths, don't use it at all.  I don't have ANY moth balls in my house, not even for moths.

Point is, the chemical used in moth balls (naphthalene) has serious health effects. It can be worse than some of the chemicals we use on a daily basis.  The danger is real, and the effect on the squirrels (or even moths) is negligible.   Save your money, skip the moth balls.

To use moth balls correctly, (that is, for moths) you will need to enclose your clothing items in a garment bag, with the moth crystals ON TOP, as the vapors are heavier than air.  This is why you don't want to use this material in your attic.
I gotta go now....

This material IS toxic to insects.  It also happens to be toxic to us too.  Actually, used on insects, it is a desiccant, and dries out insect bodies, preventing them from retaining moisture and eventually killing them.  Besides the toxicity, there is a downside:  It doesn't work that well - they learn to avoid it.  Not only that, but to really make it work, you'd have to scatter the stuff all over.  Not a very safe way of using chemicals this toxic.

Boric acid is toxic to most insects on the OUTSIDE of their body.  It is really only toxic to humans INTERNALLY!  All it takes is a couple of teaspoons....

Every few years there is another round of TV advertisements touting the benefits of this "miracle powder."  Most of the time it is never divulged that their product is almost 100% pure boric acid, U.S.P.  Pretty cheap stuff, actually, so be aware that you're getting ripped off.  And make sure you keep any kind of boric acid away from small children.

Boric acid is also being promoted heavily for use in structural work.  Inserted during construction, for control of pests after the structure is completed.  Bad idea - I don't care what ANYONE says.  Things you put in now might not be such a good idea later on. Who knows, when that pest rears its ugly head in the future (if it does at all) then maybe we will have something better - and less toxic - to solve the problem.  Just use common sense here. Remember the foam insulation awhile back?  People don't like that in their houses now, so now we're seeing a lot of "foam remediation procedures" in these houses. Stay away from the "preventive" boric acid treatments.

Here's what Mr. Michael R. Cartwright, a third generation licensed professional in the field of structural pest control has to say about boric acid.  More chemical info is here.

Exterminators do use this product occasionally.   But it is always used where it is not available to anything except the target pests.  Applied inside walls and other inaccessible areas, it can help to eliminate certain pests.  Really smart exterminators will think long and hard, before they use it.  It remains active as long as it is in situ, and one day may be exposed, and pose a danger at that time, before it is recognized.  It is most definitely a product best used by professionals.  We have many other choices and use very little boric acid.

These chemicals are dangerous if not used properly.  Read the label on these products before you apply them to anything.  In combination with the other common chemicals that most people have under their sink, a wrong combination can produce enough poisonous gas to kill you on the spot.  Others can be corrosive to skin and hard to wash off. Repeat, Read The Label!

Diatoma- Whaaa....?  

Sometimes it's called Fuller's earth, and it's made up of millions of tiny diatoms.  Diatoms are small, almost microscopic animals that die and leave behind their skeletons as diatomaceous earth.  These tiny skeletons act as a desiccant, drying out the exoskeletons of insects.

Diatomaceous earth can be a fairly effective insecticide, if it is used correctly, and if the proper diatoms are used.  It is not so simple, however, as dropping by the store that sells swimming pool supplies and buying the diatomaceous earth they sell to filter the water in your swimming pool.  There is a difference.  For use as an insecticide, you need diatoms from fresh water.  The stuff you get from the pool supply store are from salt water diatoms.  They don't work like the fresh-water kind.  Besides, the diatomaceous earth (for insect control) is usually mixed with other insecticides for a more efficient result.


Lately, there has been some research on the supposed repellent effect of catnip on roaches.  While it appears that there may be something to this, it might not be advisable (yet) to scatter catnip throughout your house - unless you want your resident cat on a permanent high.  Besides, scientific research is carried out on the chemical components of catnip, the actual material that you and I know as catnip, is not used.

Some plants are, however, used for, and in the manufacture of insecticides.  The chemical ingredient of most openly-available retail insecticides is a chemical called pyrethrum, which is extracted from the common chrysanthemum flower.  It is a very powerful insecticide with little or no residual.  Lately, this same chemical has been reproduced synthetically, designed to be chiral and thus even more powerful.

All pyroids have a direct noticeable effect on any mammal's respiratory system, causing the throat and lung passages to be irritated and shrink, a condition called paresthesis. While the effects in humans aren't generally known to be permanent, and you're usually back to "normal" in a few hours, it is not at all a pleasant experience.

Yup.  Bay leaves.  And spearmint.  For roaches.  And we've heard it mentioned (by at least several old wives) for silverfish and ants too.  If you believe it, you scatter them about where you expect these critters to be.

Save the bay leaves for pasta and the spearmint for dessert.  There are no unprocessed or unrefined herbs or spices that have ever been scientifically proven to help for insect control.


Don't you believe it!
The advertisements are attractive. A full-time exterminator, plugged into your wall, at the cost of only a few dollars, as opposed to a real exterminator. There's even a couple out now that portends to offer coverage to the  "whole house" by extending itself through the wiring, or just by making the device BIGGER.  Of course the price is bigger too....  Some devices say they will cover any pest, and all claim they won't bother YOUR pets.... Now, does that sound silly just to me or what?

Fact of the matter is, your pets can hear the devices even if we can't and the reason it doesn't bother them is because they get used to it.  Just as humans do, in any noisy environment.

There is NO device, that is sonic, electric or magnetic, or any combination of these, that has ever been scientifically proven to keep any animal or insect at bay.

So.  If your pets get used to it, don't you think the "pests" would too?  Sure they do.  And don't think the ones for fleas or mosquitoes work either - they don't.  They don't work for ANY animal. We never sell them, use them or recommend them. Don't you either.

Even the FTC has gotten into the act.  They are warning the manufacturers and dealers that they can be prosecuted for making false claims about these devices.  Don't get sucked into these outrageous claims, if they worked, I would use nothing else.
Federal Trade Commission

Sonic devices have been used in bird control, but mostly at airports where the "sonic devices" are very loud carbide or natural gas cannons set off randomly to scare away birds.  Most people would be upset at the sound one of these cannons makes.  This is not for pikers, you'll need a real pro with an artillery background.  The cannons do a fair job at the airport, but the birds do come back.  Dogs, combined with the cannons are two of the best non-lethal methods used by airports, at least at the present.


So how good are those bug lights, the ones that attract bugs to the light and then zap, trap or drown them?  The answer depends on what you mean "good."  If good means how well does it attract insects, it depends.  Depends on how much you paid and where you got it.  If you paid any less than, say, $200 for that bug light, and bought it at your local hardware store or maybe Home Depot, the answer is rather easy and simple, - it's no good.

Let me clarify the whole situation. Some bug lights are adept at attracting nighttime (flying) insects.  That is, they are for a finite period of time, until the light bulb ages and no longer retains the same efficiency.  And they lose efficiency pretty quickly, even though they still "light up."  So if you're using it every night, you might figure on changing bulbs every six months.  That might be expensive if they are special bulbs.  The most effective units are both expensive and special - and they are very effective.
The bug lights you buy in the aforementioned stores are usually cheap imitations of the real thing.  You generally won't find the "real thing" in these stores.  If you really want the best, you contact your local exterminator and enlist his help.  You do not need a license to buy this equipment, but you will need advice and instructions as to how to use this device.

Unless you have to protect, say, the walk-up entrance of a food establishment, don't waste your money.  And if you do have an outside food establishment to protect, and don't mind spending as much as $800 per unit, they can help.

More importantly, exactly what kinds of insects do you want to kill?  Mosquitoes are not attracted to bug lights, they're attracted to PEOPLE!  Actually, they are mainly attracted to the carbon dioxide that all animals exhale.  Bug lights don't work that well on mosquitoes.

The most important target for these devices are flies.  Flies are attracted to these lights because the special bulbs create an enhanced light spike in the spectrum to which the insects are naturally attracted.

So usually food establishments need some kind of control for flies.  Multiple installations in central or problem areas will work effectively to capture flies quickly after entering.

The best recommended use would be inside as opposed to outside.  If you can catch every fly that comes in the house, you can stop the most common vectors of the worst diseases.  The only type that should be used indoors, is a capture-type, using sticky boards or some other device, to capture all parts of the insect.


Other than flies, there really isn't any other nighttime (flying) insect that you even need to kill.  Not only that, but give some thought to this:  Do you really want to attract all those night flying moths from your neighbor's yard too?  And, since you have the light, your neighbor's yard would probably be more bug-free than yours!  In fact, you might be better off buying one for the neighbor on each side!  Naturally, you DON'T buy one for yourself, and the neighbors get all the bugs.

Proper placement, inside or outside, is extremely important.  On the outside, you are supposed to place these lights HIGH - and away from the area you are trying to cover or protect.  This means, that sitting on the corner of the deck is not the proper place. Up on a pole, 20 feet in the air, AWAY from the corner of the deck would be more appropriate. Makes it real easy to change bulbs, eh?  When used inside, the capture-type units should be strategically placed.

If you really want to do it anyway - you just like the "zap" sound when they go in - then go ahead.  But understand that this is more for your mental enjoyment rather than any actual benefit.  Not only that, but the zap could be bad for you!  Read on......

This might actually be a big problem.  A team of researchers at Kansas State University has reported that when the bugs are "zapped," there may also be a shower of microbes (and certainly insect fragments) raining down on whatever is near to the zapper.  Since the electricity makes the insects actually explode, and depending on where the insects have been, that shower of insect parts and debris could cause the contamination anything nearby.  There is never enough electrical heat in each "zap" to kill all the microbes, so what this means, is that you should definitely not place these devices over or near food handling areas.  It also means that the devices that employ glueboards instead of electricity might be better in the long run.  Something else to think about.

Termite Bait Sticks

What do we think of those "termite bait sticks" you see at Home Depot?  Not much. After all, you could also buy a scalpel, but you wouldn't want to try an appendectomy yourself.  Just plugging these puppies into the ground is definitely not the answer.

Oh, I know, you can fertilize the lawn, so you ought to be able to stick these things into the ground and get rid of the termites.  Well, you can certainly stick those things in the ground.  But....  Are they going to work?  And, even more importantly, are they worth it?

The Answer...
First of all, termite baits haven't been tested in this area.  All of the tests, so far, have been conducted in the south, and mostly in the deep south where the termites are active all year around.  In this great Northeast, it is obvious that it will take termites a lot longer to find that bait (REMEMBER: they are NOT attracted to it) and be affected by it.  By our own informal and decidedly unscientific observations, we are not impressed.  Failures, or rather, upset customers are enough for us.  Until the termite baits are proven more successful, we'll stay with what is proven, thank you very much.

The reason this discussion about termite bait sticks takes place on a "spoofs" page is because this product is being heavily promoted by Madison Avenue and many termite companies.  While there is always merit to trying new procedures, to promote this product as something it isn't, is unethical.  We feel that an exterminator should use all efficacious methods he has available.  As of now, the very few times we have used this type of product was in a situation where other methods could not be used, or in Termite Renewal Contract situations.  We have not charged extra for the use of this method, especially since it appears, as of now, to be of limited use to us.  Additionally, the actual results that WE have observed so far, have been dismal.

We posted our opinion regarding termite baiting in 1995 - it has not changed.  It is here.

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