• Nick Zacharias

Safe and compassionate ways to cope with summer pests


Rachel Zacharias looks on as this voracious little tunneller gets prepped for a free ride to a new home.

The warmer weather has arrived, and with it all manner of outdoor pursuits, from gardening to playing tennis to simply bringing a picnic to a choice spot and remembering how much better everything tastes outside. But alas spring also brings an influx of certain pests that most of us could do without.

Since that glorious four-day window between snowflakes and mosquitoes is already but a fond memory, and various rodents are making their increased activity levels abundantly clear, many are thinking of ways to rid themselves of unwanted summer pests. But how to do it without resorting to deadly measures and toxic chemicals? Luckily there are a lot of options these days.

One of the first pests to make an appearance, and one of the most confounding, is the mosquito.

Keeping screens in good repair and barking at the kids to close the front door will do a decent job of keeping them out of the house, but outside, in their territory, it is a whole different story. If slathering yourself with high concentrations of DEET is not for you (though it is inarguably effective at repelling bugs) you might consider experimenting with one of many repellents that can be cooked up at home with minimal effort and readily available ingredients. Lemon eucalyptus oil, lavender essential oil, citronella oil, even cinnamon and cloves all have mosquito repelling qualities (the latter few are even reputed to discourage ticks) when mixed with the right amount of carrier oil or water and rubbed or sprayed on the skin. In a pinch, even rubbing a scented dryer sheet on skin and clothes can do the trick.

For more area coverage, if you aren’t a fan of citronella torches and aren’t ready to shell out for a high tech electronic system, perhaps try a commercially available garlic oil spray that can be applied safely to plants and shrubs where mosquitoes like to congregate. They do have to be re-applied following a rainfall in order to be effective, but on the plus side they leave a pleasant scent of Italian cooking wafting on the breeze.

And what about pests of a larger variety? While most would not want to face a skunk, much less one holed up under a deck or a shed, there are ways to repel them too. Popular approaches include pepper sprays, lemon peels and rags soaked in ammonia (or dog urine, if you can get it) left around entrances to suspected dens. The same methods apply for raccoons, though with them simply ensuring that they can’t outsmart your garbage container is often enough.

As for smaller rodents that really don’t seem offensive other than in their garden munching or tunnelling pursuits, live traps are a compassionate and even kind of entertaining way to go. One tip from the experts when releasing such critters is to do so in a habitat that is suitable for them, preferably crossing a natural watercourse to discourage them from returning.

And finally, there is the infamous lawn grub that leaves brown patches in its wake. For these there are chemical attacks as well, but I for one say let the raccoons and skunks eat them – it keeps the rodents well fed enough to lose interest in my garbage can, and as a bonus the front yard gets a free aeration just when it’s needed.

War does, as the saying goes, make for strange bedfellows sometimes.