Do Your Own Pest Control

Control bugs and other pests in and around the house

The right bait is the key

Live Trapping Expert
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, 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.’

Brown Snake Expert
Lee Dashiell, Associate Editor,
Handyman Australia

Photo provided by Getty

The baby brown snake, found in Australia,
is one pest you should avoid trying to control
on your own.

Bleach gets rid of drain flies

Healthy turf fends off burrowing wasps

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.

Control crickets with DIY sticky traps

Mosquito repellent

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.

Holy mole-y!

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.

Mole Expert
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.”

The Mole Eliminator is available through our affiliation with

Mole Expert
Scott Craig,
Field Editor

“The Mole Chaser worked for me,” says Field Editor Scott Craig. “It’s a foot-long metal cylinder that vibrates underground intermittently and causes the moles to find a new home.”

Mole chaser stakes are available in several models for $12 and up at home centers and online.

Lights and sprinkler deter raccoons/foxes

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

Repel ants with mint

Banish bats with an exclusion door

Bat Expert
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.”

DIY critter trap

A better mousetrap

Gel ant bail targets tough areas

New expanding foam has pest barrier

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

How to get rid of woodpeckers

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.

Elisa Bernick,
Associate Editor

Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

  • Hammer
  • Stapler

You'll need a hose, a dehumidifier and a trash can

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

  • Live trap
  • Mole trap
  • Cantelope
  • Bleach
  • Lime
  • Fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Duct tape
  • Lemongrass
  • Motion-activated light and sprinkler
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Screen mesh
  • Soda bottle
  • Vegetable oil
  • Peanut butter
  • Gel ant bait
  • Expanding foam with pest barrier
  • Bay leaves

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