(Family Features)--The battle between humans and pests has raged on for thousands of years, including cave dwellers who may have used camphor leaves as mosquito repellent 77,000 years ago, according to researchers at South Africa's University of the Witwatersrand.
The struggle isn't too different today, as homeowners still try home remedies with varying levels of success. Ron Harrison, Ph.D., Orkin entomologist, shares these tips for effective home treatments.
Fire ants have painful stingers, so it's no wonder people try to discourage them with cornmeal, grits, boric acid, garlic cloves or cayenne pepper.
Unfortunately, Harrison said these remedies rarely work because they seldom eliminate the colony. A pest control professional targets the whole colony, specifically the queens. Things you can do at home include:
- Take away attractive food and water sources. Clean up outdoor spills, open food containers, and pet food and water bowls.
- Make fire ants uncomfortable because they seldom return to the same spot - mowing over a colony can help.
Science backs up public perception of flies being dirty: they carry twice as many pathogens as a cockroach, breed rapidly and contaminate the surfaces and food they land on. Home remedies like suspending a clear bag of water outside don't usually deter them.
To cut down on flies, Harrison recommends:
- Regularly wiping countertops and cleaning food and drink spills.
- Emptying trash cans frequently.
- Installing screens on doors and windows.
- Turning on fans.
Mosquitoes are the uninvited guests of summer barbecues. Harrison said the insects are attracted to perspiration, some perfumes and some colognes, but are repelled by other scents, such as citronella. For citronella to be effective, Harrison said the amount of scent you would need would be almost overwhelming.
To effectively deter these biting bugs from your yard:
- Remove standing water from gutters, buckets and other areas where mosquitoes can breed.
- Change water in bird baths, fountains and potted plants frequently.
- Thin out vegetation where adult mosquitoes may live and feed.
Most people have developed a well-earned fear of wasps, which can sting repeatedly and are poisonous to some. Harrison said that while wasps may not like the scent of hanging rosemary bunches, unless you kill the queen, she'll continue to reproduce and you won't achieve much of an impact.
A better way to cut down on wasp encounters is to get rid of the proteins and sweets they like to feed on, so Harrison advises to:
- Keep your yard clean of ripe or rotting fruit.
- Clean up after barbecues to remove leftover meat.
- Dispose of sugary drinks before they can attract wasps.
- Install a misting system.
The sight of a roach scurrying across the kitchen floor is enough to send most people reaching for a shoe or jumping on a chair. Some people believe putting out cucumber slices will repel roaches, while others try catnip or even ammonia. Harrison said these remedies are a long shot.
Ammonia applied directly to a cockroach could kill it, but spraying baseboards with the household cleaner won't do much because it's a volatile compound that dissipates.
- Keeping your home clean and free of moisture and food spills.
- Sealing all cracks and crevices inside the home, as adult cockroaches can squeeze through a space as thin as a dime.
- Lowering the thermostat to discourage German cockroaches, which like hot and humid conditions.