When Should You DIY Pest Control?
Ah, DIY pest control. It's something I'm quite familiar with. My foray into the field kicked off the day my husband saw two adult skunks and a baby in our yard. He did some sleuthing and discovered the hole under the front porch. Then he broke the news to me. A few days later, I saw a skunk slink into the hole at twilight.
So I made some calls and found out it would cost $125 for someone to just set a trap by our porch. Then it would cost $75 per skunk removal. Oh, and did I know that skunks often have litters of 6–10 babies?
That's when I became 100% confident in my ability to do my own pest control. And you know what? It actually worked. It sounds daunting, but you can DIY pest control for a lot of types of pests. Here's how to rid your place of unwanted house guests yourself—and here's when you'll want to call an exterminator.
Do It Yourself
Just because you have ants in your home doesn't mean that you are living in unsanitary conditions. You may simply be living near an ant colony that is constantly foraging for food. If you do find them in your home, try placing ant baits near their point of entry. I like Terro indoor ant baits—they worked well on a little infestation we had in our sun room. These baits are filled with a sweet liquid borax that the worker ants bring back to the colony to share. Borax is lethal to ants and destroys the whole colony within about 24–48 hours.
As soon as you stop seeing ants, it's time to seal up their point of entry. It's also important to frequently wipe down your kitchen countertops and vacuum up any crumbs on the floor and baseboards, all of which make it harder for the ants to forage for food in the future.
A fruit fly infestation may not seem as alarming as other pest infestations, but it can be quite annoying to have them invading your kitchen each summer and fall. Unfortunately, it's hard to get rid of the common fruit fly, especially because they breed in everything from decaying fruit to garbage cans to sink drains. To eliminate them entirely, you need to target their breeding ground. Remove any decaying fruit and vegetables from your countertops, and pour a bacterial drain cleaner down an infested drain.
To trap adult fruit flies, which can live for 30 days, grab a bottle of apple cider vinegar. Remove the cap and cover the opening with plastic wrap secured with a rubber band. Poke a hole in the plastic wrap. The flies can get into the bottle, but they can't find their way out.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Environmental Protection Agency recommend integrated pest management to tackle a mosquito problem. That means eliminating standing water around your property, utilizing window screens, and spraying yourself with mosquito repellent if you plan to be outside during peak mosquito times, typically around dusk. If you still have high numbers of mosquitoes hanging around your house or if you're hosting an outdoor event on your property, you may want to hire a professional to spray your yard.
The best way to remove a skunk is to trap it. That involves buying a trap, baiting it with something enticing (i.e., marshmallows because then you won't trap a neighborhood cat), and waiting for the skunk to be caught.
When it's trapped, you're supposed to slowly approach the cage and carefully throw an old blanket over it without letting the skunk see you. Skunks won't spray once the blanket is in place. You can then put the skunk in your car and drive it at least 5 miles away to relocate it. It won't be able to find its way back.
Do what we did: a strategic, multipronged attack on their den. Because I didn't want to put a skunk in my car (seriously, what?), we decided the best thing to do was kick them out of their home. My husband built a one-way door that we put in front of the hole. Knowing that they're diggers, he dug deep into the ground and stacked bricks around and under the door so they couldn't just bypass it.
We then took off the front steps and threw a barrage of things under the front porch: paper towels soaked in ammonia (they hate the smell), Christmas lights (they don't like lights), and a cheap radio that played loud rock music for 24 hours (they prefer EDM). We replaced the steps and waited. Sure enough, they vacated the premises and couldn't get back in.
Whether you do DIY pest control for squirrels or call a pro depends on where they are located. If they're in your attic, you can try trapping them yourself. Place traps along their points of entry, bait them with peanut butter, and then relocate the trapped squirrel at least 5 miles away. Don't forget to check for a nest full of babies, which will need to be removed by hand. Then seal up all points of entry.
If the squirrels are in your chimney, you should call a pro because of how difficult it can be to get them out.
Wasps and Hornets
These are fairly simple to eliminate once you find their nests. Wait until nighttime, when the wasps are most likely to be home, then spray wasp and hornet spray onto their nest. Spray a few more times over a couple days to be sure they're all dead, then eliminate the nest.
Call a Pro
Bed bugs are among the trickiest pests to eliminate. They are tiny, they can hide easily, and they reproduce quickly. They can be found on everything from the mattress to the bed frame to the nightstand. They can cling to your clothes and travel with you to new locations, which they then infest. It can be hard to kill them while they're in the egg stage. For all of these reasons, it makes sense to hire a professional, who often use high heat and multiple insecticides to destroy them.
By the time you see one cockroach in your home, you may already have an infestation. Cockroaches are nocturnal insects that are great at hiding, so seeing one during the day often means seeing one that was forced into the open due to overcrowding. Although it can be tempting to just burn everything to the ground—especially when you learn that they can fly (!)—you should hold off until you consult a professional.
They will place traps and baits inside and around the exterior of the home, spray insecticide, vacuum up roaches and roach debris, and teach homeowners how to eliminate potential food and water sources.
If you have a raccoon in your house, it's probably living in the attic, and if it's living in the attic, it's probably not alone. That's because it's most likely a mother raccoon with babies. Mothers seek out attics because they are warm, predator-free spaces in which to have their litters.
To remove them, you have to first remove the babies from their nest by hand. The young ones won't leave the nest for months, so it doesn't make sense to lay a trap if they'll never go near it. Once you remove the babies, you have to trap the mother, which can be difficult as she can be quite aggressive and protective of her young. That's why it's best to call a professional, who knows how to seek out the nest and how to remove the mother safely.
Evicting mice and rats from your house means inspecting your entire exterior for the tiny holes that they can squeeze their bodies through. It's a daunting task, one that even pros have trouble with. But they're more likely to spot these areas, and when they do, they can expertly seal them off. Once they seal the openings, the pros have to set dozens of traps in strategic areas. They have to keep removing dead rodents and setting traps until the traps stay empty. Do yourself a favor, and leave the hard work to the experts.
Because they can destroy the very structure of your home, it's necessary to have a professional to deal with a termite problem. The pros usually use a mix of termiticides and baits to kill termites on the surface and deep in the nest. They may use fumigation and heat to kill them, too.
A Note about Relocation
Many pests require trapping and relocation, but states usually have pest-control restrictions, such as only approving certain areas as relocation sites. Others may require you to hire a professional to trap the animal. That's why it's key to check your state's laws before you do any DIY pest control.
Colleen is a makeup/skincare junkie who has a serious Sephora problem. She writes about all things beauty and occasionally does hand modeling for work. Her job is strange.