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Easy Ways to Naturally Repel Insects

Bugs are a crucial part of our ecosystems, acting as food sources for animals, pollinators, and decomposers. Even though insects are essential to nature, we usually want them to keep their distance from us… and our homes. Insect infestations can cause extensive property damage if left untreated. We’ve previously written about how to deter termites, but there are many other kinds of bugs that can be a nuisance. Problematic pests have historically been dealt with by using harsh pesticides that aren’t healthy for people either. If you don’t want to expose your home and family to potentially hazardous chemicals, there are all-natural ways to repel insects and make sure they don’t bug you!

Repelling Carpenter Bees

A carpenter bee pollinating flowers. Photo by Judy Gallagher / CC

A bit larger than bumble bees and less fuzzy, carpenter bees have the inconvenient habit of drilling into wood to build their nests. They can be found all across the USA, with their most active season varying by your local climate. The first signs of a carpenter bee infestation are small piles of sawdust near tiny holes in your building’s exterior. Unlike termites, the carpenter bee doesn’t eat the wood that it is burrowing into – it is excavating a nest. They actually feed on pollen and nectar like other bees. The burrowing of carpenter bees can be messy, loud, and definitely destructive to your property.

Solitary Bee House. Photo by Robert Engelhardt / CC

It is hard to remove carpenter bee infestations after they’ve started. Therefore, preventative measures work best to keep these bees at bay. A very simple way to repel carpenter bees is to paint your wood. Use a colored paint or a clear varnish to thwart carpenters from taking up residence in your buildings. They don’t like painted or treated wood, because it is more difficult to burrow into.

You can also build a solitary bee house to attract the bees away from your buildings. These houses come pre-made with holes that the bees will find convenient for turning into nests. Just like us, bees don’t want to do any unnecessary work. If they find a cozy place with an already-made hole, they’re more likely to use that than to put in all the effort of digging into your precious woodwork. Place it in an area that gets direct sunlight in the mornings, and is away from bird feeders and your house. If you put your bee house near your garden, the bees can even help you by pollinating your flowers, fruits and vegetables.

Keeping Away Carpenter Ants

Eastern carpenter ants are all black. Photo by Ryan Hodnett / CC

These little pests also like to burrow into your woodwork. They act much like termites do: by chewing through wood to create a network of tunnels for their nests. If you have a carpenter ant infestation, there are going to be thousands of bugs in a single nest, making them difficult to exterminate. Furthermore, carpenter ants can also bite. Their bite isn’t harmful, but it can still hurt! To identify carpenter ants, you’ll have to know which type is native to your region. The Eastern USA has all black carpenter ants. Ones from the Western USA have a black body and red legs. Florida has red carpenter ants with black abdomens that are slightly smaller than the other two types.

Diatomaceous Earth is a helpful tool for fighting insect infestations. Photo by Kozhev / CC

If you find a probable carpenter ant nest, you might be able to control the infestation with some more natural options. Diatomaceous earth is a unique sand-like substance that is harmless to plants, pets and humans. However, it’s quite effective at killing insects, including carpenter ants. This is because the tiny particles of this sand are able to pierce the exoskeletons of insects quite easily. Sprinkle the diatomaceous earth near areas where you see carpenter ant activity. If they walk through it, they’ll track it back to their nest and spread it to other ants as well, killing them. Be mindful that this treatment is very effective on most insects, so try to keep it away from areas where beneficial bugs hang out.

Another way to control carpenter ants is to make an ant-bait trap. Get a plastic deli soup container, and drill a hole into the side about 1 inch from the top. Mix a few tablespoons of borax and granulated sugar together in the container. Add water to the mixture gradually until the powders dissolve and the mixture is liquid, and a milky white color. Place the container in the area where you think the carpenter ants might be nesting. The ants will enter the container, attracted by the sweet smell of sugar. Then they’ll take some of the mixture back with them to their nest, and all the ants that consume it will perish. If the queen happens to eat some, the whole colony will collapse.

Moths, Be Gone

Common clothing moth and worm on wool fabric. Photo by Clemson University / CC

If you’ve taken a wool sweater out of your closet only to find it is covered with holes, you know how frustrating a moth infestation can be. Interestingly, it isn’t the moths that do the damage, but their larva. Little worms nibble away at natural fibers like cashmere, fur coats, and wool suits and sweaters. If you find some of your garments have new holes in them, it’s time to do a deep-clean of your closet. Spread diatomaceous earth around your closet and then vacuum everything. The diatomaceous earth will kill any larva or eggs that get sucked up as you clean.

Next, take the clothing that is susceptible to damage and either put them in an airtight bag in your freezer, or put them into the dryer on the hottest setting. Hot and cold temperatures will kill any moths or worms on your garments. If you are choosing the freezing method, you’ll need to leave your clothes in the cold for at least a week. The heating method works more quickly, but you’ll need to be careful about which clothes will tolerate going in the dryer.

To prevent moths, traditional deterrents like cedar aren’t all that helpful. Mothballs do work, but are toxic. Instead, choose good clothing storage options When winter is over, clean all your garments before putting them into a vacuum-sealed bag until you are ready to use them next season. Keep wool suits stored in garment bags when not in us. Clothing that you wear frequently is usually safer from moth infestation, as they prefer to lay their eggs in places that are dark and undisturbed.

DIY fruit fly trap with a paper cone funnel. Photo by Downtowngal / CC

Bye Bye, Fruit Flies

Fruit flies don’t do a lot of damage to your property, but they are quite a nuisance in the summer. They buzz around your kitchen and fruit bowl, and sometimes you’ll find one stuck in your drink. Gross! But don’t worry, there’s an easy way to trap fruit flies that you can DIY with some ingredients that I bet you have laying around your pantry.

There’s no need to go out and buy a fruit fly trap, when you can make a highly effective one at home. Take a cup or takeout container and add some apple cider vinegar and juice in the bottom of it. Add a splash of water, and then a few drops of dish soap to the mixture. If you want to cover the trap, snap on a lid to the container, or put some cling wrap over the top of the cup, and punch holes in it so the fruit flies can enter. Or you can make a funnel-lid with paper and tape it to the top of the jar, with the point facing inwards. The flies are attracted to the smell of the vinegar and fruit juice. They end up trapped in the liquid because the soap disrupts the surface tension, making the flies unable to get out. You’ll be amazed at how effective this non-toxic DIY trap is.

Other Creepy Crawlies

There are many other pests that can invade your home. Bedbugs, earwigs, centipedes and more can all make your home a little less comfortable. While some of these bugs are benign, others may be a possible health hazard. Some infestations need professional help to take care of, so it is best to make sure you take preventative measures to stop these critters from colonizing your space!

Remember diatomaceous earth? Well, it’s actually really effective at killing most kinds of bugs! And it’s safe to use around your pets and children: just make sure you purchase the food-grade kind. Periodically you can sprinkle it into your carpets and vacuum up the excess. This will kill many kinds of bugs that might want to burrow around in your rugs. Do the same thing for your mattress every now and then, and even sprinkle some between your mattress and box spring. Adding this simple ingredient to your cleaning routine can be very helpful in keeping away the creepy crawlies.


Effective ways to naturally repel insects do exist, and should be the first thing you reach for when trying to get rid of minor pest problems. Choosing less toxic methods for pest control is better for the environment, and safer for you, your family, and your pets. We encourage you to try some of these methods before calling exterminators and using pesticides or fumigation. We hope these tips will keep critters from ‘bugging’ you!

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