Summertime brings a wealth of fun to the world, doesn’t it? The days are long and warm, flowers perfume the air with their luscious scents, and produce is fresh and abundant. Many people spend as much time as possible outdoors, basking in the sunshine or paddling around in pools or lakes, while others throw windows open to let in the breeze. But then there are the bugs… Supposedly, everything that exists does so for a reason, but it’s hard to care about that when you’re covered in mosquito bites or have horseflies dancing around your head. For those who have severe allergies to bee stings or spider bites, it’s also important to stay safe while enjoying summer activities. While there are no techniques that are 100% effective (other than sitting in a hermetically-sealed room), hopefully some of the homemade traps listed here can make your summer a more enjoyable one.
We all know how important pollinators are for food production, but many of us also know people who are deathly allergic to bee stings. Even if none of your friends or family members will go anaphylactic if stung, wasp stings hurt like hell. Unlike bumblebees, which are pretty docile and will only sting if seriously threatened, wasps are aggressive and territorial and can sting as many times as they possibly can. Be sure to caulk up any holes around your home that may be potential nesting sites, and if you find that your area is prone to wasps and hornets, hang some fake nests around the property: as they are very territorial, they’ll avoid creating nests if they see that there are others around already.
If you’re still seeing wasps despite these preventative measures, a trap is likely your next course of action. Just keep in mind that wasps are very beneficial insects, especially in the garden, so only create a trap if they really are a life-threatening nuisance.
What you’ll need:
- An empty, clear, 2-Liter soda pop bottle
- Duct tape or packing tape
- Cooking oil
- Sugary liquid (sugar water, soda pop, juice)
- Wire or twine to hang up the trap
Cut the top (spout area) off the plastic bottle, just below the area where the outward curve meets the main body of the bottle. Using either a spatula or your hands, slather cooking oil down the insides of the bottle’s walls—this will prevent the wasps from climbing back out.
Insert the spout end into the empty bottle so it creates a downward cone, and tape it in place with the tape. At this point, you can use a hole punch, awl, or other sharp implement to poke some holes around the top so you can draw twine or wire through for hanging purposes. Then, pour 2-3 inches of your sweet liquid of choice into the trap. As it’s certain to draw wasps and hornets, be sure to hang it well away from areas where children, pets, and vulnerable visitors will be spending time.
Not only are these whining little biters annoying, they can also carry a plethora of illnesses ranging from West Nile virus to malaria, depending on region. While those electric bug-zappers are quite effective, they’re also kind of gross, and will just add to your electric bill. Smoking out an outdoor area by burning green cedar boughs can work for short-term relief (like if you want to spend half an hour gardening without smacking them away every 5 seconds), and citronella candles can keep some of them at bay in patio areas.
For greater effect, you’ll make a plastic soda bottle trap like the wasp one mentioned earlier, only the stuff you’ll add into the bottle will be made of the following:
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup very warm water
- 1 cup room-temperature water
- 1 tsp. active dry yeast
Mix the sugar and hot water, and then stir in the yeast. Once it’s bubbly and frothy, pour it into the bottle along with the extra cup of water. Cover the top loosely with plastic wrap and store in a dark, warm, humid place for at least a week to allow the yeast to ferment, and then hang it in an area where mosquitoes like to congregate.
These little jerks just love warm, humid weather, and they’ll often make an appearance once summertime comes into full swing. They’ll feast on even the tiniest specks left around, and are terribly fond of dark corners and crevices, like the spaces beneath fridges and stoves, or hollow spots beneath cupboards.
You know that bottle trap that you used for the mosquitoes and wasps? Guess what? It works for roaches too. Cockroaches can live for over a month without eating, but will only survive a few days without water. They’re drawn to watery areas, as well as to sweet things, so the best way to use the bottle trap is to pour some fruit juice into the bottle (not citrus, though; stick to berry juices or stuff like mango, papaya, etc.) and then place the bottle in a dark area near a water source. Best places are under the sink in the kitchen and bathroom. Be sure to really grease the inside of the bottle before you tape the pieces together, as roaches can climb around like crazy and you don’t want them clamoring back up again.
You can also put down double-sided carpet tape along the back walls of cupboards, behind appliances, and in areas where you’ve found roach droppings.
All it seems to take is a single errant banana peel or lime rind left on the counter on a hot day, and suddenly the kitchen is swarming with fruit flies. These little guys aren’t going to attack anyone, but they multiply quickly and are often difficult to get rid of. Once they’ve appeared in your home, try to remove any food sources that may be sustaining them: wipe down your cabinets, countertops, and extractor fans with full-strength vinegar, and after you’ve emptied garbage cans/recycling bins, hose them down with vinegar as well. If they don’t have anything to eat, they can’t reproduce, and will eventually die off on their own.
For a more proactive approach to thin out their ranks, try a bait trap.
What you’ll need:
- A half-pint glass jar, or small bowl
- Plastic wrap
- Elastic band
- Something sweet (jam, fruit, honey, maple syrup)
- Something fermented (balsamic vinegar, beer, wine)
- Oil (olive, sunflower, vegetable)
Place a bit of fruit or jam at the bottom of the jar, and then add equal parts fermented liquid and water until the sweet stuff is partly submerged. Add about half a teaspoon of oil, and then stretch plastic wrap tightly across the top, ensuring that there are no folds or gathers. Secure the wrap in place with the elastic band, and then use the toothpick to poke a few little holes in the wrap itself. The flies will be attracted to the bubbly, sweet mess inside the jar, and will crawl in through the holes to get to it. Once in, they can’t crawl back out again, and they’ll soon perish in the oily swamp within.
Now, the vast majority of spiders are beneficial and non-harmful to humans, but there are a few of them out there that pack some serious venom. As with any other insect, sealing up holes and cracks can certainly help to prevent them from coming into your home, but there are also repellents you can use in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Spiders like to hang out in crevices and such, so patio furniture, railings, and even wood slat porches can be home to all kinds of crawling critters, but with a simple, non-toxic spray, you can fend off the majority of them and encourage them to find more hospitable play areas.
According to the Encyclopedia of Entomology, “…Open-ended hair-like setae at the ends of the legs and pedipalps serve as taste receptors. Spiders will avoid pungent or acidic substances upon contact.” Yes, that means that spiders have “taste buds” on their legs and feet, and they’re super-sensitive to scent and taste.
What you’ll need:
- A spray bottle that can hold 2 cups of water
- Liquid dish detergent
- Lemon, citronella, grapefruit, lavender, or tea tree essential oil
Since spiders loathe strong scents/tastes, you’ll want to expose them to a strong enough dose to send them scurrying. Add enough water to the spray bottle to fill it almost completely, and then add about 5 drops of liquid dish soap, and 10-15 drops of the essential oil of your choice. Many people don’t like the scent of tea tree or lavender, but lemon seems to be loved by all and is one of the more effective ones to use here.
Spray liberally around cobwebs, cracks, and any areas where you’ve seen spider activity. Open spaces beneath bookshelves, hutches, night tables, and dressers are popular spots for these guys, as are garden sheds, and the patio ephemera as mentioned earlier. Be sure to spray fairly often to keep the scents strong, and you should have a spider-free zone in no time.
If you’re dead-set on trapping spiders rather than just fending them off, try to catch them in glass jars and release them a fair distance from the house. Alternatively, sticky traps will certainly grab them and hold them in place until they starve to death.
Image via Shutterstock
Should you decide to use the bottle traps, be sure to empty them every week or two, or else the juice within will start to smell horrible. Also, please keep in mind that it really is best to try deterring these insects before resorting to killing them, as they each serve a purpose and have as much right to be here as we do. We can’t necessarily coexist in the same space, but at least we can try to treat them with compassion and respect.