Insects. Bugs. Creepy crawlies. At best, they’re a gross, unsightly nuisance. At worst they’re dangerous pests that can ruin your food supply, damage your home, and impact your family’s health.
Cockroaches and termites, for example, are well-known for triggering allergies and even causing asthma, while ticks, fleas and all manner of other bugs carry with them a plethora of diseases capable of making you and your loved ones seriously ill.
Not that it ever has to come to that.
Today, we’ll take a look at the 13 most common house bugs and how to get rid of them without using toxic chemicals.
We’ll also share our top tips on how to prevent bugs from getting into your house in the first place, and discuss why it’s better to use natural insect repellents over store-bought chemical varieties. Some bugs are harmless but annoying, others cause allergies and even fatal diseases, but all bugs can be eliminated from your home using non-toxic solutions.
Why Are Bug Sprays Dangerous?
Chemical-based bug sprays can be harmful to humans, pets, and the environment, making non-toxic bug removal solutions a safer option
While insect repellent sprays can be very effective in eliminating bugs altogether, they’re not without their drawbacks.
For one thing, pesticides, poisons and other chemical-based repellents can be toxic, if not entirely fatal, if accidentally touched or ingested.
Skin and eye irritations are among the milder side effects of exposure to the chemicals in bug sprays, though damage to the respiratory system is not unheard of. In some extreme cases, there have also been links between household pesticides and forms of cancer.
Though you may be confident that you can handle bug sprays safely, it only takes a small mistake for them to cause some serious harm. That’s not to mention what could happen should a child or vulnerable adult get their hands on your bug spray while your back is turned.
Then, of course, there’s the environmental damage.
The kind of chemicals found in most store-bought insect repellants has a way of getting into rivers, lakes, and reservoirs where they contaminate the local water supply and make it unsafe for humans, plants, and animals.
So far, so scary, right?
The good news is that getting those uninvited guests out of your home doesn’t have to be so dangerous.
Below, we’ll look at thirteen humane, healthy, and environmentally-safe alternatives to getting rid of common house bugs.
1: Fruit Flies
Fruit flies are attracted to fermenting fruits and vegetables and can ruin your food supply
Easily identifiable by their large, red eyes, fruit flies about a third the size of your typical house fly but cause much more damage, especially to your food supply.
These bothersome creatures are attracted to decaying foods and other moist, organic matter. They lay their eggs near the surface of these foods so that the larvae can feed off them. Those larvae then grow and lay eggs of their own, creating a never-ending cycle which creates a big problem if not properly addressed.
All told, fruit flies can lay around 500 eggs in a single week, so it’s important to get rid of them as quickly as possible.
If you’ve been growing vegetables in your garden and brought them indoors or picked up fresh fruit from your local market, you’ll need to keep an eye on them and use them up before they start to go bad.
If you haven’t had the chance to use up your supply of fresh produce, it’s better to throw them on your compost heap before the fruit flies have a chance to get at them.
Too late for that? Don’t worry, here’s a quick, simple and effective method for getting rid of fruit flies:
How to Get Rid of Fruit Flies
First, give the whole infected area a thorough clean using your usual cleaning agent. Ripened food that hasn’t yet been infected should be refrigerated and any damp areas around the sink or kitchen counters should be properly dried as fruit flies are attracted to damp and moisture.
Next, boil some white vinegar and pour it down your drains to flush out any flies that may be living there.
With that done, you may also want to create a natural fruit fly trap to take care of any lingering pests.
How to Create a Natural Fruit Fly Trap
For this, you’ll need the following essentials:
- A hollow dish, bowl, or mason jar
- Apple cider vinegar
- Saran wrap or similar plastic wrap
- Toothpick or fork.
First, take your dish or jar and fill with the apple cider vinegar.
Then, completely cover the mouth of that jar with your saran wrap.
Finally, take your fork, toothpick or similar instrument and poke three or four small holes in the top of that saran wrap that are just big enough for the fruit flies to fit into.
Your unwanted guests will be attracted by the smell of the apple cider vinegar and will push through the tiny holes to get to it. However, they won’t be able to get back out again.
If you need to, do this every day until your confident the problem is gone for good.
Eco-Friendly Fruit Fly Products
Though the DIY approach is easy and affordable, if you don’t have time to start making your own fruit fly traps, you can always buy natural alternatives that work right out of the box.
The GreenWay Fruit Fly Trap, for example, comes with two bottles of safe, non-toxic liquid which works in much the same way as the apple cider vinegar. All you have to do is place the bottles near the fly infestation, unscrew the caps, and let the built-in trap do the rest.
2: Pill Bugs
Also known as a woodlice or roly-poly, the pill loves moist areas like rotting wood and compost heaps
Unlike other pests, the pill bug doesn’t carry diseases and is harmless to humans and animals. However, it loves plants and can do some sizable damage to your garden.
If you have indoor plants, pill bugs will happily feast on those, often harming the sprouts beyond salvation.
Armadillilium Vulgare loves moist places, especially damp wood (hence the name woodlice). So, if you have wood piles or compost heaps, keep them as far away from your house as possible. That way, even if pill bugs do take up residence in your garden, they’re unlikely to make it all the way into your home.
As with most bugs, it also pays to examine the foundations, doors, and windows of your property and seal up any gaps or cracks to prevent them from getting inside.
How to Get Rid of Pill Bugs
Already dealing with a pill bug infestation?
The good news is that they can’t survive without plenty of food and moisture, so use a dehumidifier or air conditioner to control humidity levels.
You should also clean up your outdoor space of any kind of debris such as fallen fruit, leaves, and dying plants as pill bugs are attracted to these areas.
Ant colonies can quickly contaminate food and spread diseases if not taken care of
Although an ant infestation might seem like a minor nuisance, they can soon turn into a more serious problem if not adequately taken care of.
The most common type of ant found in your home is the Tapinoma sessile, better known as the odorous house ant, stink ant, or sugar ant.
These creatures are well known for contaminating food and spreading harmful bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and streptococcus.
While they’re busy raiding your pantry, their relatives the carpenter ants can get to work on destroying your property.
They’re typically attracted to areas where there’s moisture or mold, such as in kitchens and bathrooms, and can cause some serious damage when they start tunneling into the woodwork in these areas.
If sugar ants enter your home, they’re there for one reason only:
To find food.
Even a small scrap on a leftover dinner dish or a little spilled sugar on your kitchen counter after making your morning coffee is enough to attract hordes of them, so it pays to keep clean.
Make sure dishes are cleaned, leftover food is discarded appropriately, and that surfaces are regularly wiped down.
If you think you might be at risk of carpenter ants, then your best bet is to tackle any issues with damp and remove signs of mold, such as with an air purifier for mold.
How to Get Rid of Ants
What if it’s too late?
What if ants have already made their way into your home and are treating your kitchen as their own personal banquet?
Although they’ll eat just about anything, ants famously hate the smell of cinnamon, so, grab some ground cinnamon and mix it with some essential oil.
Dab a cotton ball into the mixture and brush it around the areas where you’re seeing the ants.
That should send the ants away, but just to be on the safe side, look around for any potential entry points and block them up to prevent them from getting back in.
If the cinnamon solution doesn’t work for you, this video has ten more natural ways to get rid of ants from your home.
4: Dust Mites
Dust mites love bedding, carpet and mattresses, making regular washing and cleaning essential
These ugly-looking creatures take their name from their favorite environment – household dust.
They’re typically found in warm, dark spots such as in mattresses and bed linen, long-fibered carpets and even cuddly toys.
Though they don’t bite, they can cause skin conditions like eczema and asthma.
If you’re allergic to dust mites, it may also cause respiratory problems such as coughing and wheezing, breathlessness and tight chestedness.
As disgusting as it sounds, it isn’t just the dust mites themselves that cause the problems. Quite often, it’s their droppings that trigger an allergic reaction.
To prevent this from happening, wash sheets and pillowcases every week in water above 131°F (55°C) and tumble dry thoroughly before putting them back on the bed.
If you’re really concerned about mites, you can also buy specialist dust-mite resistant bed covers for extra protection.
How to Get Rid of Dust Mites
If you’ve already got dust mites, it still pays to wash everything thoroughly.
Don’t just stop at bed sheets and pillowcases. cushion covers, blankets, even your children’s soft toys should go in the wash to eliminate as many mites as possible.
Carpets should be vigorously vacuumed, and – since mites thrive in humid conditions – an air conditioner or dehumidifier should be used to lower the humidity.
5: Wasps and Hornets
Although they do a lot of good eliminating smaller bugs from our gardens, wasps can be aggressive and very dangerous to those senstive to their painful stings
Loud, irritating, and packing a pretty painful sting, wasps are among the most hated insects on the planet.
At best, a wasp sting can be painful. At worse, they can be deadly. People who are sensitive to wasp stings, a single one can cause a serious and sometimes life-threatening reaction known as anaphylaxis which causes confusion, loss of consciousness and respiratory problems.
When the summer comes, it’s tempting to leave doors and windows open, but this is a sure-fire way of inviting wasps into your home.
If it’s simply too stuffy to keep all of your doors and windows closed, consider investing in a good quality fly screen like this magnetic fiberglass screen door from Cherainti.
Be sure to properly dispose of food scraps and keep trash can lids closed as wasps will swarm to these areas in search of an easy meal.
How to Get Rid of Wasps
Already struggling to keep wasps away?
Grab some peppermint oil.
In 2012, the Journal of Pest Management Science found that peppermint was effective in driving wasps away, simply by adding a few drops to cotton balls and leaving them near a wasp’s nest or other wasp-infected areas in your home.
The report also noted that an essential oil mixture of clove, geranium and lemongrass worked especially well at repelling wasps.
Home-Made Wasp Traps
Another option is to make a home-made trap similar to the one we made for fruit flies earlier.
This time, instead of using apple cider vinegar, mix sugar and water together to attract the wasps, then put in a covered jar with holes just big enough for the wasps to get through.
They’ll flock to the sugar water but be unable to escape the jar.
Well-known for their blood-sucking nature, mosquitos can cause painful bites, but will retreat at the smell of peppermint oil
The majority of the time, a mosquito bite will result in nothing more harmful than an irritating, itchy bite mark.
That’s bad enough, but in some cases, it could be a lot worse.
Mosquitos are notorious carriers of diseases such as malaria, West Nile Virus, and encephalitis. They can also carry heartworms, which can prove fatal for dogs.
Mosquitoes are attracted to shaded areas and are famous for laying their eggs in even the smallest bodies of water.
With that in mind, the best thing you can do to prevent mosquitos is to make your home environment inhospitable for them.
Trim back hedges and mow the lawn at least once a week to reduce the number of shaded areas they can rest in. Then, go around your garden looking for any pools of water that might have gathered in the base of flowerpots, on furniture, and especially in areas surrounding your backyard rain barrel.
Get rid of all the water so that these blood-sucking beasts have nowhere to breed.
How to Get Rid of Mosquitoes
If you’re already plagued by mosquitoes, it’s time to go back to the essential oils.
Add a few drops of peppermint oil and/or lemon eucalyptus and mix it with water in a spray bottle.
Spraying your skin with this mix will prevent you from getting bitten, but you can also spray it in the general area where mosquitoes gather and it will repel them away.
Using Fish to Get Rid of Mosquitos
We’ve already established that mosquitoes are attracted to water sources, but if you have a pool, pond or water feature, then draining them for the summer may not be an option.
One alternative is to add a few goldfish or minnows. They may only last a single season, but during that time, they’ll feed off mosquito larvae to stop them from growing.
Cockroaches enter your home to feed on food crumbs and can trigger all kinds of allergies in the process
Cockroaches are dangerous pests known for causing allergies and triggering asthma symptoms.
A more serious concern is disease. Roaches can carry Salmonella Typhi and Poliomyelitis, the causes of Typhoid and polio.
Like most bugs, cockroaches enter your property to find food, water, and shelter, so it pays to create an environment that denies them all three.
Don’t leave food and liquids on your kitchen counters and clean up all spillages and food debris. Garbage cans should be fitted with a tight-fitting lid to deny cockroaches access and should be emptied regularly.
How to Get rid of Cockroaches
First, seal up any gaps and cracks in your windows and doors to prevent any more from getting through.
Then, give everywhere a thorough clean to deprive roaches of any food sources.
Next, eliminate their hiding places. Roaches love to nest among cardboard boxes and stacks of paper, so if you’ve been meaning to take that pile of old magazines to the recycling plant for a while, now’s the time to do it.
Finally, keep things bright and cool. Cockroaches are attracted to warm, dark spots, so keep the AC blowing and the lights on to drive them away.
8: Japanese Beetle
Japanese beetles are a major garden pest capable of destroying all of your plants and flowers
Accidentally introduced into the United States in the early 1900s, Japanese beetles have been terrorizing our gardens ever since. No matter what kind of flowers or plants you’re growing, the Japanese beetle will devour it without a second thought.
When they’re finished feasting, you’ll find that your plant leaves are skeletonized, leaving only the veins behind.
You may also find dark, brown patches in your grass as these ravenous creatures are just as happy chowing down on the lawn grass and plant roots.
Japanese beetles usually emerge in the summer months, from late May in southern states and late June in the north. They then spend the duration of their lifecycle (roughly eight weeks) feeding on every plant in sight.
The best way to protect your plants during this period is a home-made row cover tunnel which you can make yourself using some piping, greenhouse plastic or polythene and a couple of U-bolts.
Step by step instructions for making your own row cover tunnel.
This will keep the beetles out, but it will also stop pollinating bugs from getting at your plants, so if you have anything that needs to be pollinated, it’s best to isolate them first.
How to Get Rid of Japanese Beetles
The best way to get rid of Japanese beetles is just to knock them off your plants. These greedy creatures are hungriest in the early morning, which is a good time to catch them.
Lay a cloth at the foot of your plants and give them a shake until they all fall off, then dispose of them in a bucket of soapy water.
You can also make a spray using soap, water, and a cup of vegetable oil and attack your pests with it. Do this sparingly, however, as too much soap and water can damage the very plants you’re trying to protect.
Though harmless to humans, termites can cause major structural damage to your property
Unlike other bugs, termites are relatively harmless to humans. Although they do bite, these bites are not toxic, nor are you likely to catch a disease.
The biggest health risk comes from an allergic reaction and potential asthma triggers.
However, where termites cause the most harm is in the structure of your home. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that homeowners spend an average of $1 billion a year repairing damages caused by termites.
Like many bugs, termites love moisture, so the best prevention strategy involves keeping the areas surrounding your home as dry as possible.
Fix leaks and cracks that could let water in, ensure storm drains empty at least a few feet away from your property, and ensure all sprinkler heads are pointed away from the house.
How to Get Rid of Termites
If your termite infestation is really bad, then it might be in your best interest to call a professional exterminator.
Alternatively, you could buy Spectracide Terminate Termite Detection and Killing Stakes which pop out of the ground to let you know where a termite colony is active and then kills foraging termites.
For a low-cost, natural solution, soak a few cardboard boxes in water and leave them near to where you think the colony might be active. Again, termites are attracted to moisture, so they’ll flock to this trap, which you can then remove and burn safely.
10: Stink Bugs
Named for the foul smell they create, stink bugs can be caught and disposed of using a cheap, homemade light trap
Stink by name, stink by nature. The biggest problem with stink bugs is the smell.
They emit a strong odor to avoid predators which can soon leave your home smelling foul.
Outdoors, stink bugs are known to feed on vegetable patches and fruit trees, causing damages and spreading diseases to what would otherwise be a healthy, natural food source.
The best prevention method is to stop these smelly bugs from getting into your home in the first place. Seal up cracks, gaps, and holes and invest in a fly screen like the one mentioned earlier.
How to Get Rid of Stink Bugs
If they’re already in your home, the best solution is to create a homemade stink bug trap.
Buy a foil roasting pan for a few dollars and fill it with water and dish soap. Be sure to mix it up so that the edges of the pan are slippery.
Next, take a desk lamp and position the light over the pan. Turn it on, and leave it on overnight in a dark room.
Attracted to the light, the bugs will land on the foil pan, fall in, and drown in the soapy water.
Though harmless, the sight of a spider can be scary and upsetting. Fortunately, they’re pretty easy to get rid of
First of all, the good news:
The majority of spiders aren’t dangerous. Of the 3,000 species of spider identified in the United States, only 60 of them have a venomous bite, meaning the likelihood of them causing any real harm is very, very slim.
Still, arachnophobia is a real thing, and if you’re scared of spiders then the sight of one in your home can be very alarming indeed.
Good housekeeping will make your home unattractive to spiders as they prefer dark, dusty spots where they won’t be disturbed by humans.
They also come into your home looking for other bugs to eat, so if you’re overrun with spiders, there’s a good chance you’ve got some other unwanted guests, too.
Take care of the other bugs, and the spiders are likely to go away by themselves.
How to Get Rid of Spiders
There are a few natural solutions you can use to get rid of spiders without actually hurting them.
Vinegar is harmful to spiders, but if you mix some with water in a spray bottle and spray it around cracks, gaps, and crevices in your home, it will stop spiders in their tracks and make them think twice about going any further.
As an alternative, you could also use peppermint oil, cinnamon oil, and even horse chestnuts, as spiders detest the smell of these and will stay well away.
Harbingers of disease, ticks latch onto pets and pests like mice and rats, but can be eliminated with regular washing and natural anti-tick
Ticks usually make their way into your home by latching onto the fur of your household pets or onto pests like mice.
Their bites can be serious and are known to cause Lyme Disease and other serious illnesses.
If you have pets, the best prevention is to keep them well-groomed and used approved anti-tick products like Dr. Mercola’s Herbal Repellent Collar.
Keep in mind that ticks can also latch onto humans after hiding in long grass and wooded areas, so if you’re out hiking or walking through fields, wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers to prevent them from attaching to you.
How to Get Rid of Ticks
As with all bugs, regular cleaning and good housekeeping will make your home inhospitable to ticks.
Wash all clothes and bedding, including any blankets and bedding for your pets.
You can also use fine-tipped tweezers to remove any ticks that are already on you, your family, or your pets, but be careful not to crush them as this causes them to release harmful chemicals. Once you’ve grasped a live tick with your tweezers, drop it in alcohol to dispose of it safely and wash your hands thoroughly.
If your pet is scratching more than normal, it may be a sign they’ve picked up fleas
Like ticks, fleas usually attach themselves to animals and can bite both you and your pets.
Sometimes, this will cause no more harm than an itchy, red mark, though occasionally fleas have been known to cause tapeworms.
Even if your pet doesn’t have fleas, using some kind of flea treatment will keep them protected. You should also wash your pet’s bedding regularly to destroy any flea eggs that may be there.
How to Get Rid of Fleas
Again, flea treatment products, regular washing, and cleaning of pet bedding and clothing will go a long way to rid you, your home, and your pet of fleas.
Getting Rid of Household Bugs: Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Best Natural Bug Repellent?
Peppermint oil, lemon eucalyptus oil and cinnamon oil all make excellent bug repellents.
Either add a few drops of these essential oils to water and use a spray bottle on areas where house bugs congregate or use them in a diffuser as the smell will deter even the most determined of creepy crawlies.
Why Do I Have So Many Bugs in My House?
Most insects will enter your home for the same reasons:
To find food and shelter.
Left unnoticed, small liquid spills and left over food crumbs provide a banquet for all kinds of bugs, so it pays to clean them up immediately and keep on top of general housekeeping.
Many bugs are also attracted to moisture, so any damp and mould in your home is a bug-fest waiting to happen.
Final Thought: Household Maintenance is Key to Bug Prevention
Though spilled food and dark, moist spots are what attracts bugs to your home, the way they get inside in the first place is often through gaps, cracks, and crevices in your foundations as well as your window and door frames.
With that in mind, you’ll benefit from taking the time each season to inspect your property for potential insect entry points and fixing them up will do more to keep your home bug free than anything else.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.