Monday, March 7, 2016

Springtime in the desert awakens bugs and critters, but there won't be no bugs on me I hope

By: Ron Valderrama/Tragically Hip Living

Photo: Ronatringside.com
Without a doubt, one of the most beautiful places to spend winter is Phoenix, Arizona. The mild winters allow for plenty of outdoor activities while a short 2-hour drive or less north and you're in the high country and snow. But as the season changes to spring, it awakens many of the pest that are common to the Phoenix area. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, ants, roaches and many other pest seem to come alive as the temp hits 80 degrees. At my home, rattlesnakes and scorpions are not really a problem unless out hiking, a little caution and education will bring you home safely.

As I have grown older and somewhat wiser, being kind to the environment and making less of a footprint has become a priority for me. I hate bugs, but I know they play a part and are important in the balance of nature, I just don't want them to do it at my house. I have been researching ways to control pest by using safe and environmentally friendly methods. 

At my home, I have 3 type's of pest who love to hang out and try to make my patio their home, thankfully they are outside for the most part. Ants, mosquitos, ants and the dreaded sewer roach. As the  temperature rises and the monsoon season hits is when they are most active. In the past and before becoming environmentally conscious, I used toxic pest control sprays. They would help for a short period, but soon after the pest would be back.

Photo: Google Free Images
One product I have used for many years is Borax 20 Mule Team laundry booster, a natural product from the earth itself. To control sewer roaches, I spread it outside and along the border of the house. I also have screens covering all the drains in the house and pour a few tablespoons down each drain as well. This keeps them away and keeps the drain clean too. Sewer roaches are my biggest fear, I'm terrified of them. Anyone who knows me can attest to that, if I see one, it's not unusual for me to have nightmares about them. As a matter of fact, should I run across one, I would not hesitate to sacrifice my own children to escape the peril. From what I understand through research, spread a light dusting around the outside of your house, about 2-4 inches wide. The roaches will walk on it and the powder sticks to their legs and body. They will clean themselves and ingest the borax and eventually die. I tried it for ants, but it didn't seem to work for me, I highly recommend Borax 20 Mule Team for roaches though.

Photo: Google Free Images
Last summer I discovered diatomaceous earth, another natural product that comes from the earth in a chalky form. It's actually naturally fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. I purchased a 10-pound bag (non food grade) of it at Walmart for less than $10. This stuff worked great for ants, it even works for roaches too, I spread it the same as borax and did see results with the pesky ants within 2 weeks. The way it works for roaches is the tiny particles in diatomaceous earth cut the waxy exoskeleton, dehydrating  and killing the roach within 48 hours. Do not be surprised if you see more roaches after a week or so as they are searching for water. I noticed a big difference after about 3 weeks and did not see any around the house for the rest of the summer. A spray bottle with soapy water also works well for the live one's too. Diatomaceous earth not only works well for roaches and ants, it also works well keeping many types of bugs away. Another method I have heard of for controlling ants is using ground popcorn kernels, basically corn meal. The ant apparently can't resist it and view it as a food source, but they can't digest the cornmeal and it kills them. There are many species of ants, but for me, my patio area had a problem with "Crazy Ants," they move fast and in all different directions. What I did notice is they follow a trail and move all directions when in the open. They seem to be most active when the weather is hot and humidity is high, monsoon season for Arizona. I plan on trying the ground popcorn method too and see if this will net any results.

Photo: Google Free Images
Despite the arid climate of Phoenix, surprisingly mosquitos can be an issue. Such is the case for me, I spend a lot of time on my patio and mosquitos are lovers of my patio for some reason. I have no source of standing water, and other than a few plants on my patio, it has been a mystery. This year I am planning on littering my patio with mosquito repelling plants. Where I live, basil, lavender, peppermint, sage and rosemary seem to be effective according to some nurseries in my area. What I plan on doing is strategically placing each plant in separate pots and place them next to each other, repeating the process so that the series of plants are within a few feet of each throughout the entire patio. It will not only look nice but smell good and keep them skeeter's away. One nursery said to also clip a small piece of any of the plants and rub it on your skin as added protection, but to test a small area on the skin to make sure it does not become irritated.

Please note, caution should be used when using any of these methods even though Borax 20 Mule Team and diatomaceous earth are natural products. 


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