DIY pest control methods have probably been around as long as pests themselves. Thousands of years ago, Egyptians used to smear the fat of a cat on grain sacks to protect against rodents or spread loose ash around a grinding mill to eradicate flour eating insects. Ancient Greek farmers also practiced several folk remedies to eradicate pests around their crops. Hanging a mare’s skull in the garden would discourage caterpillar infestations, while a concoction made from the juices of hemlock, lupin, and squill could kill larvae, insects, and even small animals.
While some man-made pest control methods have proven their effectiveness time and again, there are also plenty of old wives’ tales being perpetuated by homeowners’ eagerness to escape pesky critters. Since telling fact from fiction can be challenging when battling home invasions, we thought we’d explore some of the most prevalent myths when it comes to DIY pest control.
This is probably one of the most well-known myths that is just that – a myth. While mice generally feed on anything they find in their environment, cheese is not as irresistible as popular cartoons will have you believe. Some mice even steer clear of it, discouraged by its rather pungent smell. Instead, they favor foods that are high in sugar, such as candy, peanut butter, cookies, and even pet food. Whatever you choose, make sure the bait sticks to the trap to prevent mice from running off with a free treat.
Seeing a bag of water with coins hanging over the door of a restaurant might seem more like a prank than a reliable pest control method, but many folks swear by this practice. The most common theory as to why such a practice might work is that flies base their sense of direction depending on where sunlight comes from, and their compound eyes may be confused by the multi-directional light refracted by the bags of water and coins.
Science, however, has yet to prove the effectiveness of this practice. A 2007 study found that the bags, rather than keeping flies at bay, actually attracted more of them, while a 2010 episode of Mythbusters found no difference between the numbers of flies attracted to a chamber holding both bags of water and rotten meat and the chamber containing only the meat.
The coarsely ground corn that is traditionally a tasty breakfast cereal is said to cause ants’ stomachs to expand, in contact with water, and eventually explode. This home remedy, most likely originated from ant baiting products that commonly use corn grits for chemical baiting, is not, however, effective.
Corn grits alone cannot exterminate a colony of ants for the simple reason that adult ants don’t eat solid food. Given their narrow and constricted waist, many species of ants have a specialized digestive system that prevents large particles of food from entering their alimentary canal. The solid food worker ants pick up is stored in a cavity called the infrabuccal chamber and fed to the larvae for processing, which use enzymes to break it down.
Claims according to which placing a pile of grits inside an ant colony will cause the ants to disappear are probably based on circumstantial evidence. Generally, ants do not like their mounds to be disturbed, and introducing new elements into their colony can cause them to move to another location. This doesn’t mean, however, that corn grits specifically are effective in eliminating ant colonies or that they have a direct impact on the ants’ digestive systems.
As we mentioned in a previous article, bug bombs, or over-the-counter aerosol foggers, are not effective at eradicating a bed bug infestation and might make matters worse. Since bed bugs spend their time hidden under mattresses or in deep cracks and crevices, the foggers’ mist is unlikely to cause them too much harm. Even if bed bugs do come into contact with the toxic substances contained in these bug bombs, their varying levels of resistance to the insecticide will leave them unscathed.
Another folksy remedy, fresh cucumber peels placed on an aluminum foil or inside an aluminum can is said to ward off cockroaches. The explanation is that the chemicals in cucumber will react with the aluminum to give off a smell undetectable to humans but toxic to cockroaches. Unfortunately, this remedy is not supported by any scientific evidence, and those who tried it found it completely useless.
While using do-it-yourself tricks may occasionally work to deter some home invaders, nothing beats having the expertise of a pest control professional – especially if you’re battling critters that are notoriously hard to eliminate, such as bed bugs or cockroaches. Remedies may work to keep pests out of sight, but only a pest management specialist can make sure your home is not accessible to them – now or in the future.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid gardener.