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Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 5.7.2009



Outdoors 2009

Dropping Down River: Living and hiking the Illinois

Wheels Up: Pedaling Revolution: How Cyclists Are Changing American Cities

River Talk: Barry Lopez and community on the McKenzie River

Canopy Climbers: Climbing trees isn’t just for kids anymore

Reading and Rambling: Take a hike, read a book

Bugs Attack! Insects indoors and out

Bugs Attack!

Insects indoors and out

By Sam Marx 

Eek! Every person who has spent enough time outside knows that bugs are everywhere. Either you’ve been on a picnic and the ants are there to sample your feast, or you’re on a hike and the mosquitoes thirst for you just as much as you thirst for your Camelback. Even spending a relaxing afternoon in the backyard can turn for the worse when a spider crawls up your pant leg. When enjoying the great outdoors, it comes with the territory that creepy crawlers are afoot, but what about bugs who long for a more substantial relationship? 

In a town as green as Eugene, there are bound to be a variety of insects that make their way into your home, your life, but probably not your heart. Sure, there are many different methods of getting rid of them, but most include pesticides and chemicals people don’t want in their houses, let alone in their kitchens. What are some easy ways to prevent the outdoors from invading your indoors? You don't have to be cold-blooded killer to get rid of them.

When your local ants decide it’s high time you go outside and enjoy the great weather, they may take it upon themselves to come in and make the indoors a little less comfortable for you. A bit of common sense applies for this situation: Clean the kitchen. 

In honor of Mother’s Day, I consulted an expert on getting rid of all things creepy-crawly: Mom. “You have to keep up with the things that really draw them,” she said.  This includes cleaning counter tops, stovetops, and floors regularly and keeping garbage in a sealed container. 

Thoroughly rinsing recyclables can’t hurt either. The crumb catcher at the bottom of the toaster can also be a huge attraction, so it would be wise to clean that often as well.  

“The most important thing,” said Joseph Lamm of Mr. Bug Pest Control in Eugene, “is to keep vegetation more than two feet from the structure.” Ants and spiders can easily use plants surrounding the house as a ladder to get up into higher places.

Knowing the bugs’ point of entry is the most vital information in combat against them. BeyondPesticides.org writes that ants follow distinct chemical trails left behind by other ants in order to find their point of entry to the food source. “If you don’t have a clear ant trail, place small pieces of cardboard or wax paper with syrup or a high-protein treat out at night. In the morning, there should be a nice, thick ant trail leading to their doorway(s) into your home.” 

Once you know how they're coming in, caulking up the hole will be going to be the most permanent and effective way to keep them out. If it’s a doorway or window that can’t be caulked, vinegar, clove oil, hot sauce, and even a combination of Mountain Dew and soapy water have all been suggested. Unfortunately, while “Drawing a solid line with regular chalkboard chalk, putting down lines of cayenne and black pepper as repellants, or using toothpaste, petroleum jelly or duct tape as sealants will work temporarily,” they’re not seen as permanent solutions, according to BeyondPesticides. 

These homemade solutions may be nice, but Rene Kesecker of the Good Earth Pest Company in Eugene says, “We do not recommend mixing your own ant baits, especially when there is a perfectly good product that has been proven to control ants,” and instead recommending using Terro Liquid Ant Bait. “Just because something is natural doesn't mean that is non-toxic.”

What if spiders are dropping by to tell you you’re watching too much TV? Essential oils such as rose, citronella, citrus, tea tree, peppermint and cinnamon oil have all been known to repel spiders, and chestnuts are also considered useful in combating them. If you do find yourself with a spider buddy, my dear mother told me she sometimes leaves the spider webs up for a short time, because, “The webs actually catch gnats and flies.”

Regardless of how much you get outside and see bugs in their natural habitat, it’s always unpleasant when they want to share your space. When living in Manhattan in the 1970s, my mother reflected, “I had so many cockroaches I started smashing them with my bare hands. They have a satisfying crunch when you smack them that made me feel good.” This may be motivation enough to step outside this weekend and enjoy some hunting! Your weapon of choice? “Depends on where your bugs are and what type. Short answer: rolled up newspaper.” A thwack with a good newspaper may be the perfect solution!