Are annoying bugs and outdoor critters invading your home? You can control most common pests on your own, without spending big bucks on an exterminator.
By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine
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The right bait is the key
Do Your Own Pest Control: Live trap
To live-trap a ground hog (aka a woodchuck), bait the trap with cantaloupe-the more rotten, the better.
Michael Finfrock, Field Editor
“In the past seven years, I have trapped well over 50 small animals.” Finfrock says his success at doing his own pest control comes down to researching appropriate baits and trapping methods for each particular animal. Local extension services, the “critter library” on havahart.com, and state DNRs provide detailed trapping and baiting information on their Web sites.
In many areas, it’s illegal to relocate nuisance animals, so check with local authorities. Also, according to wildlife experts, more than 50 percent of relocated animals don’t survive because they don’t have an established shelter, food source or territory.
You Think You Have Problems?
I dived into our pool and came face to face with a baby brown snake, the second most lethal snake in the world. Getting ready to strike, it hissed at me and I leapt out of the pool faster than I had dived in! We got it out of the pool, and my wife grabbed a spade and chopped the snake into three pieces with one swing! Three hours later, as she showed my son the snake pieces, it lifted its head and hissed at him. An old man explained this, saying, ‘Snakes only die once the sun goes down.’
Lee Dashiell, Associate Editor, Handyman Australia
Do Your Own Pest Control: Bleach gets rid of drain flies
Tiny drain flies are harmless but can gather in huge numbers in your house. They’re sometimes mistaken for fruit flies, but they actually live on the gunky slime in your drainpipes. Field Editor Lindsay McLeod told us about a recent plague of drain flies in her basement.
“An exterminator would have charged $65 to come investigate plus the cost of exterminating. Instead, I poured a teaspoon of bleach down the basement drain and the flies started pouring out! Gross! So I poured a little more bleach in, blocked the drain hole, waited an hour and presto! No more drain flies!”
If the bleach doesn’t work, experts suggest starving the flies by cleaning the gunky slime out of the drain with a long-handled brush.
Do Your Own Pest Control: Healthy turf fends off burrowing wasps
“I have one heck of a yard nightmare… huge mounds of dirt in our yard filled with huge—and I mean huge—Jurassic-size cicada killer wasps. Their tunnels have killed the grass, and they come back every year.”
Jill Bucolo, Field Editor
These large wasps live in all states east of the Rockies. Male cicada killer wasps are aggressive, but they don’t have stingers. The females do but will only sting if they feel threatened. These wasps, which feed cicadas to their young, typically nest in disturbed, sandy areas and rarely infest healthy turf.
Adequate lime, fertilizer and frequent watering promote a thick growth of turf and can usually eliminate a cicada killer wasp infestation in one or two seasons. Mulch heavily around flower beds and shrubs to cover sandy soil. For severe infestations, call in an exterminator.
Do Your Own Pest Control: Control crickets with DIY sticky traps
A lot of cricket-like bugs had taken up residence in my basement. I’m concerned about chemicals in bug sprays, so I came up with this simple trap—duct tape. I set out a long strip of duct tape sticky side up in my basement. When I returned a couple of days later, I found it had about 15 to 20 bugs attached. Since then, I have set tape out several times with the same results.
Editors’ Note: To permanently banish crickets, seal entrances by caulking around basement windows. Also dehumidify your basement—they like damp areas.
Do Your Own Pest Control: Mosquito repellent
Lemongrass will help keep mosquitos away.
Lemongrass contains citronella. Repel mosquitos by growing it in clumps around your deck and mash up the inner leaves and rub the juice on your skin.
Do Your Own Pest Control: Holy mole-y!
“Get rid of the grubs that are their food source,” suggests Field Editor Jerry Young. “Use a good grub insecticide in the spring and again in July and you’ll starve out the moles.”
Several Field Editors recommend the Victor Out O’ Sight Mole Trap (available through our affiliation with Amazon.com). Visit amazon.com and type in this product’s name and you’ll find tons of helpful advice, tips and tricks by customers who have used this trap successfully.
Even the “experts” don’t agree on what works for moles, so we can’t give you any magic bullets. But some of our readers have real-world success stories about controlling these pests.
Ed Stawicki, Field Editor
“I tried all of the typical mole products and remedies and finally the Wire Tek Easy-Set Mole Eliminator Trap did the trick,” says Field Editor Ed Stawicki. “It traps the moles with a ‘scissor-effect.’ Very effective.”
We have chickens in our backyard, so we have a problem with foxes and raccoons. I installed an electric fence, which helped, but the biggest success was a motion-activated light on the chicken coop along with a motion-activated sprinkler. It works quite well.
Hans Ocken, Field Editor
Do Your Own Pest Control: Repel ants with mint
Discourage ants from entering your home by planting a mint barrier around your foundation, says Field Editor Wayne Piaskowski.
“Over the past three years I’ve tried ant bombs, spraying their nests out in the yard. I even physically dug up a stubborn colony near the street that was three feet deep and wide. The mint that I’ve planted around the house seems to be helping a lot.”
Do Your Own Pest Control: Banish bats with an exclusion door
When Field Editor Chris Phelps counted 70 bats exiting his attic one evening, he knew he had a problem. He quickly discovered the solution—a bat exclusion door—which lets bats out but won’t let them back in. One type of “exclusion door” is a piece of netting that hangs a foot below the bats’ exit point. You tape the netting along the top and sides but leave the bottom free. The bats will slip out the open bottom, but won’t be able to fly back in.
Bat Exclusion door
Bat exclusion doors help you control these pests on your own: Bats can exit but can’t return.
Chris Phelps, Field Editor
“We installed the door,” says Phelps, “and within a week the bats were gone. I sealed the hole to keep them out permanently. We also built a couple of bat houses since bats eat mosquitos.”
Do Your Own Pest Control: DIY critter trap
Relocate problem animals
Craig Taylor, Field Editor
I’ve captured and relocated armadillos, a raccoon, water moccasins, pine snakes, rats, you name it. My trap of choice is a big, empty 32-gallon plastic trash can. Lay the can on its side and to the critter it looks like a dark tunnel to hide in. Force them in with a stick, flip the can upright, put the lid on and transfer. For the armadillos, I’ve placed the trash can over them and slid a flat board underneath and flipped the whole thing upright.
Craig Taylor, Field Editor
Do Your Own Pest Control: A better mousetrap
John Williams, Field Editor
I propped a soda bottle up at about a 20-degree angle and baited it with peanut butter. A day later I had a very scared mouse trapped in my bottle. He was relocated to a field more suited to his skill set.
A swipe of vegetable oil around the inside of the lip will prevent the mouse from “slipping” away.
Do Your Own Pest Control: Gel ant bail targets tough areas
Chemical ant baits are most effective for grease-eating and sweet-eating ant species. The key is to allow the ants to eat the bait and take it back to kill the entire colony, which may take several weeks. Gel ant baits let you apply bait in hard-to-reach areas such as behind appliances and in cracks and crevices (keep all chemical baits away from pets and kids).
Do Your Own Pest Control: New expanding foam has pest barrier
Bad taste repels pests
Great Stuff expanding foam seals small holes and cracks. The newest product—Great Stuff Pestblock (sold at home centers)—contains a bitter ingredient (but not a pesticide) that discourages insect pests and rodents from gnawing on the insulating foam to gain entry to your home. If you opt for this solution, make sure it is the pest barrier type.
Do Your Own Pest Control: Remove bird feeders to prevent nighttime visitors
We live on 20 acres in the mountains of northern New Mexico and have regular visits by elk, deer, coyotes and bear when I forget to take my bird feeders in at night.
Joe Stehling, Field Editor
Strong scent keeps ants away
To repel ants, set whole bay leaves around kitchen food canisters and sprinkle crushed bay leaves along windowsills.
How to get rid of woodpeckers
Fence them out
Drape plastic netting from the gutters and angle it toward the house. Staple it to the siding. Then angle it to the ground, about 3 in. away from the house. Staple it to 2x4s on the ground. Wrap the edges toward the house to seal the entire area.
Woodpeckers sometimes peck holes in a house to get to insects. But they also peck to attract mates and establish their territory. And once they find a good spot on your home, you’ll have to act fast or you’ll never get them to leave. However, it’s easy to do your own pest control.
Start by covering all woodpecker holes with metal flashing or tin can lids (fix the actual damage later). Then hang shiny deterrents like Mylar strips, magnifying mirrors or pinwheels all around the repairs. If that doesn’t work, cover the entire side of the house with plastic netting from a garden center. Once the woodpeckers leave, you can remove the netting.
Carpenter ants can wreak havoc
After college, I moved into my blind grandfather’s decrepit house to care for him. I kept seeing big ants in the kitchen, but ant bait did nothing and my grandfather insisted the ants were from the houseplants I’d brought with me. One afternoon, I walked into the kitchen and headed for the ancient refrigerator.
Suddenly, I noticed strange movements on the walls. I looked around and there were literally hundreds of winged carpenter ants covering the walls, counters and ceiling of the kitchen. It was a scene from a horror movie. Turns out carpenter ants had been nesting behind the refrigerator for years and had tunneled through nearly every bit of wood. The entire back of the house was being held together by lath and stucco.