They’re called pests for a reason: Termites cause an estimated $5 billion in property damage every year, while roaches, mosquitoes, and other creepy-crawlies spread bacteria and disease.
Pest Enemy No. 1? Ants, according to the National Pest Management Association. Over half of homeowners hate them more than any other insect, according to a survey published last month.
NPMA also — unsurprisingly, as a pest control trade group — pointed out that 60 percent of homeowners use professional preventative and extermination services. The cost? $35-70 a month. Termite treatments can cost thousands. But there are lots of things you can do to save on pest expenses – some just by maintaining and cleaning your home.
Try thinking of your home as a giant castle under siege. Don’t dig a moat, but:
- Keep tree branches and shrubs trimmed away from the roof and windows. These are natural bridges and ladders into your home for all sorts of bugs.
- Seal up cracks and holes, inside and out. Those are tunnels.
- Replace rotting wood, a likely place for insects to break through. Many are drawn to both the wood itself and moisture.
- Cut off their water supply. Insects like mosquitoes and flies are drawn to stagnant (still) water. Outdoors: regularly empty bird fountains, buckets, and anything that catches rain. Indoors: change pets’ water bowls several times a week if not daily.
- Protect food. Don’t leave food out in the open, even crumbs — they’ll find it. Be sure to regularly empty the garbage and keep containers covered. Make sure spices, sugars, and other counter-top items are in lidded jars or otherwise sealed containers.
If you want a pro to handle pests, shop around. NPMA can help you find a qualified exterminator in your zip code. They also have tips on how to identify trustworthy companies if you’re trying the phone book or some other search method. The eco-friendly directory GreenPeople also has a sorted-by-state list of exterminators that use natural or organic products instead of toxic ones.
And if you’re taking a do-it-yourself approach to save even more money, you don’t need to buy expensive sprays and traps. Sustainability business EarthEasy has a long list of insect-specific natural repellents that will help you be green and save green. Environmental nonprofit Beyond Pesticides also has a list, plus a ton of tips. You might also check out the popular, if slightly dated book Natural Pest Control: Alternatives to Chemicals for the Home and Garden.
Now that we’ve got homeowners saving on pest control, how about lawn care? Check out our story 11 Tips for a Less Expensive Lawn.