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Wed, Feb. 19

Dealing with indoor pests

Humans don't notice bugs too much outdoors, but most of us are hypersensitive to even one bug in our home.

Spiders are one kind of insect that can freak people out, but they generally want to avoid people. They usually get into homes in two ways: people brought them in, such as via boxes or firewood, or the spiders are attracted to insects next to or inside the home, Yavapai County Extension Agent Jeff Schalau says in his Backyard Gardener columns.

Spiders that enjoy living indoors generally are not harmful to humans, Schalau added. And if they're outdoors, they eat pests such as grasshoppers and other insects.

If you want to get rid of them, it's good to avoid pesticides as a general rule, Schalau said. Several researchers have concluded that ultrasonic devices don't effectively repel or eliminate pests from homes or yards, he said.

Integrated pest management is the key, Schalau said. Identify the pest species, learn about its behavior and biology, use prevention techniques, apply direct control strategies, and monitor their effectiveness so you can revise them as necessary.

For starters, don't leave food scraps out on the counter. Seal cracks and crevices around doors, windows and utilities.

Sticky traps, special soaps, horticultural oils and beneficial nematodes are ways to keep insects off indoor plants.

Bats are great for controlling insects, but people don't want them indoors. The best way to get rid of them is to build simple structures at entry points that keep them from returning after they leave. For detailed instructions, visit the Bat Conservation International website at and click on "bats in your home."

The house mouse is another common house pest. They are easy to identify by their droppings, tracks, gnaw marks or damaged food boxes. The best way to get rid of them is to try to keep them out of the house and eliminate their access to food sources, water and shelter. If that doesn't work, the snap trap is the old standby - or cats and dogs.

Crickets can be annoying when they get indoors through cracks and screens because they chirp. That sound comes from adult males rubbing their wings together to attract females. On the other hand, you can use crickets to calculate the temperature. Count the number of chirps in 13 seconds and add 40.

Cats are good for getting rid of crickets, too. So are lizards, garter snakes, birds and non-venomous spiders. Cricket baits work indoors, but experts discourage spraying insecticides indoors.

For more information about controlling specific pests, visit the Yavapai County Extension Office's website at Readers can search Schalau's Backyard Gardener columns for those pertaining to specific pests.

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