Ah, springtime! April showers bring May flowers, May flowers bring June bugs...and May beetles and ants, and mosquitos. I adore warm weather. It's the creepy crawleys that I could do without. But, after reading the latest study on home pesticide use and subsequent increased risk for childhood cancers I'm compelled to speak up. Really! How many times do we need to be told that chemicals used to control pests in our home and garden leach into our bodies and make us sick? A study reported by the American Acedemy of Pediatrics in October 2015 found evidence once again that children are more susceptible than adults. Statistics suggest that a child exposed to pesticides in the home are 47% more likely to develop childhood leukemia and 43% more likely to develop lymphoma than those protected from these chemicals. This is not new information. Studies as early as 1970 have linked pesticide use to cellular mutations in adults. Multiple studies in the 90s concluded children are inherently more at risk due to dosage effects for their size, proximity to treated areas when playing on floors or backyards and the propensity to inadvertantly ingest contaminants from hand to mouth.
So, we can agree. Pesicides are bad. But, what do you do about bugs that ruin your food, bite, bother and spread their own litany of disease? First, remember prevention is always part of the plan. Keep kitchens and bathrooms clean. Keep them dry. Sticky spills and sources of water are bug bait...especially if it's dark too. So, be sure to fix leaks and wipe up spills completely. Certain herbs are also known to repel bugs and are excellent alternatives to chemical sprays. Here's my list to keep handy for natural bug repellent sachets:
Clothes moths: lavender
Flies: lavender, mint
Then, consider using a chemical free pesticide. There are many, many recipes online and in garden journals. Here's a few of my favorites:
For infestations in the house reach for diatomaceous earth. It's cheap. It's safe. And it works. Simply sprinkle diatomaceous earth where the bugs will crawl through it. It's high silica content, cuts into the exoskeleton of the creepy crawlers and causes them to dehydrate. Conversely, diatomaceous earth can be rubbed into human skin or even ingested without ill effect. It can also be rubbed into the fur of cats and dogs to rid them of fleas. Again, perfectly safe for pets but deadly to pests. A good tip for cockroaches, which are notoriously difficult to erradicate, is to place boric acid on top of cabinetry (out of reach of children). Roaches are attracted to boric acid but it is toxic to them. They will take it back to their nest and kill the entire colony.
For plant care, indoors or out, start with a mild soap solution. 2-3 teaspoons liquid soap in a gallon of water applied with a spray bottle is very effective. Castille soap is preferred to antibacterial varieties to prevent damage to tender foliage. To fully treat the infestation, repeat the application every 2-3 days for 2 weeks. To target eggs and immature hatchlings, add a few drops of cooking oil to the spray bottle before applying. Dried chrysanthemum petals can be used to create a pesticide tea by boiling 1/2 cup of dried chrysanthemum petals in 4 cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain the plant material and retain the liquid for use. The active ingredient, pyrethrum, is released in the water which paralyzes many garden insects. Another effective homemade pesticide is to steep the peel of 1 orange in 2 cups boiling water. Allow to sit 24 hours. Then strain the plant material, retaining the liquid. Add 2-3 drops castille soap and 1 drop peppermint essential oil.
I hope this has been helpful. I promise to get off my soapbox now. To learn more about the relationship between pesticides and childhood cancers or for more information about homemade, chemical free pesticides check out these links: