Q. Is there anything natural that I can use to keep away ants, roaches, flies and bees? I don’t like using pesticides if I can avoid them.

A. Readers of this column have offered a variety of remedies to keep away insect pests: “I was at a child’s birthday party and wasps and bees were flying all over while the food was out. Someone said to get self-sealing zippered plastic bags, fill them with water and put them on the table. The wasps disappeared. If I hadn’t seen this with my own eyes I never would have believed it.” Another said you need to put a shiny penny in the plastic bags, fill them with water and hang them so that the sunlight reflects off the bags.

Some people maintain that cinnamon can deter ants. One reader wrote, “I have always used toothpaste to repel ants. Just put a dab where they seem to be entering.”

Another advises, “Sprinkle baby powder to prevent ants. Ants will not cross the powder and it seems safe for animals. Dried cucumber peel deters roaches. I put it in kitchen drawers and behind appliances.” Other readers suggest that dryer sheets, such as you would use in the clothes dryer, may repel roaches.

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  1. Dana

    Shay Thank you! All morning I have been trying and the only thing that worked was Listerine! Thank you thank you. It didn’t hurt the bees they just simply stayed away!!!

  2. Shay

    Put Listerine in a spray bottle and spray the picnic table, chairs and air where you are enjoying the outside. You will be bug free for a few days. It doesn’t hurt the environment nor you or your pets and it’s inexpensive. I’m also worried about the honey bee population dwindling and don’t like the idea of trapping or killing the ones we have and need for pollination. Give Listerine a try~

  3. Susan

    Irish Spring for the mice. We recently moved out of the city & when the field behind us got plowed, in they came. We’ve trapped 11 since Saturday (5/11) and put pieces of Irish Spring soap in corners of all rooms. Started upstairs in the bedrooms and worked our way down. They are only coming in that one hole (we have other traps around). You don’t need large pieces either. I’m pleased with how well I am handling the whole mouse thing ;D

  4. LO

    I agree with the idea that we need to protect bees. I plant bird and butterfly appealing flowers and bushes all around a yard that never sees pesticides. The bees are so happy there and I never have contact with them or see them near food on the deck. I am happy to see so many bees! But if they come near food, I’d try the bag of water with a shiny penny. It makes sense and doesn’t hurt the bees.

  5. sw

    Deer does not like flowers that have a strong sweet smell. I found that planting Rosemary shrubs around a bed of lilies did the trick last year. This year, I trimmed those shrubs and took the branches and stuck them inside my hostas and daylilies that were just coming up. So far they have not touched those plants. I have also tear up cheap dryer sheets into strips and and tie them on the branches of plants that they got last year. Good Luck

  6. Julie

    You don’t have to like my answer. Hopefully you’ll find a way to keep them away. I have not found that way and I have a son with an allergy to bee stings. We do what we have to keep him safe, including doing our best not to plant anything that attracts bees. We’ve recently moved and are also doing our best to remove all shrubs and plants that we see are attracting bees. However, I can not require that my neighbors all do the same. So, we keep bee catchers on the edges of our property in an effort to keep our own yard safe for our son to come and leave our house without holding an epi-pen at the ready. But the beauty of living in a free country is that you are free to do what works for you and ignore the advice of others if you do not wish to take it.

  7. Torrence

    Hi: Sorry, but I don’t like your answer. I’m an environmentalist and won’t kill without a serious reason. Bees are a must for pollination. Just ask any farmer and for a long time they were disappearing and many were not getting their crops pollinated. Hope you see my meaning. I’d rather let them stay than kill them.

  8. ibelieve

    For ants and flying insects I need to get rid of as opposed to deter (I am allergic to hornets) I use mint spray. Safer makes an aerosol that works well and there are other brands as well. I used one several years ago that had a 20′ stream to get under the eaves but I can’t find it now. The active ingredient is mint oil. Does the job (instant knockdown for hornets) and smells great. It is non-toxic to pets/humans.

  9. Julie

    My dad used to plant marigolds around his garden. The rabbits loved to munch on those and seemed to leave the garden alone as a result. Plus, they make a pretty border. Bone/blood meal can also be used as a rabbit/deer deterrent, but it needs to be re-applied every so often.

  10. Julie

    Get a bee catcher and fill the bottom with Fanta orange soda. The bees will come after the sweetness of it, but then they can’t fly out. I trap dozens every summer. Don’t know of a natural repellent though.

  11. paulbyr

    I tried Irish Spring on a tip from a friend. It didn’t work for me – they ate all my Methley plums one night (sob) I hate Bambi!

  12. JF

    Hello, Recently, I had a swarm of bees trying to “settle in” under the eaves of my house. I filled a spray bottle with water and added tea tree oil (30 drops), set the dial to “stream” and sprayed all around the eaves and the section of the house that they were congregating in. Within a few minutes, they left. A few returned the next day. I repeated the process,again. The bees have not returned. Bees do not like the smell of tea tree oil. It was safe and I did not have to worry about harming the bees. Note: do not spray around cats. It can be toxic for their immune system.

  13. DS

    Last summer the squirrels ate my azaleas, pulling the newly planted ones out of the ground to munch on the roots. I bought “granulated fox urine” but it didn’t deter them. Any ideas?

  14. PP

    Sprinkling Boric acid is a great way to get rid of roaches and ants!

  15. RLB

    Fill a spray bottle with regular Listerine and spray it in areas where you have noticed the insects or other pests including rodents.. For ants, If there is an oriental market in your area, get some ant chalk. Just a line across the ant trail will make them disappear in less than an hour. You can then rinse the chalk away.

  16. cm

    Irish Spring soap hanging from a rope will keep deer out of the garden.

    • GR

      I tried the Irish Spring soap, it DOES NOT deter deer!

  17. a.s.

    boric acid (as a dust) will out & out kill crawling insects such as cockroaches (a specific) and it’s safe used as directed (powder puffed into nooks, crannies, under appliances and cabinets, etc.). my first house was built in the mid-30s in Dallas, TX and was overrun with roaches. between the boric acid in the kitchen, bathrooms & laundry room and the bois d’arc apples tossed in the crawl-space I never had any problems with the creepy-crawlies for as long as I owned the house.

  18. MJW

    Thanks for the helpful information. To keep ants away, I have found that baking soda does the trick. It won’t get rid of them if you already have them, but once they’re gone, you can keep them from returning by sprinkling baking soda all along the baseline of the kitchen (and be generous; you should be able to see a line of white).
    Re cockroaches, anyone who leaves wet garbage in the house overnight is just offering them a banquet. I wish I had learned earlier in life to never let my head hit the pillow without taking out the wet garbage.

  19. Angela M. R.

    Ant will not cross a line of sprinkled baking soda. When I saw them in the yard, emerging from a crack in the black top, I poured ammonia. All gone!

  20. daw

    Mint works for many bugs and mice in cabinets as does bay leaves.
    Vinegar works around animal food dishes; sugar ants will not cross the vinegar. And spearmint. Mint plants also repel insects like fleas, beetles and flies. … Sprinkle dried mint leaves around your home’s exterior to repel them.

  21. Jan

    I use NEEM oil – 15gtts in a small spray bottle of water with a drop or two of Dawn dish soap to help the oil mix with the water. I also like to add a variety of oils Lavender, Rosemary, Cedar, I use this spray all year long, around the outside doors, in the window sills, also on my indoor plants.

  22. betty

    Boric acid dust works!!! for dust mites, ants, spiders, cockroaches, basement bugs, etc. Supposedly they walk in it and when they clean themselves it kills them, not quickly but over days. Boric acid is a mild acid. I mildly dust my basement, my garage, my carpets and even my bed. Should I get a trail of ants I would probably find their source of entry and after plugging that, among other things I would dust it with boric acid. But research this yourself, don’t take somebody’s word for it. I buy it by the 5 gallon pail and I share it with friends. Children and pets, act accordingly, but still use the boric acid dust.

  23. DS

    What is the best thing to put on your skin to keep from getting bit? Or to ingest? I never feel bugs biting me, but find welts later!

  24. cpmt

    and flys? anything ? also something for rabbits in the yard? they eat all my flowers and plants.

  25. cpmt

    does anyone knows anything to deter rabbits in the garden? they eat all my plants and flowers …

  26. Torrence

    Does anyone know of a way to get rid of Bumble Bees and regular Bees without using pesticides? I don’t want to kill the bees since they were dying for some strange reason and I’m glad to see them making a come back.

    • Raza

      Sprinkle your plants with cayenne pepper. Sprinkle the top of the ground when you seed to prevent birds from eating the buried seed and sprinkle your sprouts and plants. You won’t need to do this all season. They will taste in the start but eventually won’t come back.

  27. Kimberly

    For hard body pests, DE, diatomaceous earth is the best. It is safe for people and pets, even if ingested. It works by getting into the joints of the insect and grinding them away, and also works as a desiccant on their soft body parts. Sorry, I don’t think it would do anything for flying bugs.

  28. Nancy

    I learned years ago in Mexico that the cleaning product “Fabulosa”, sold also in the US, keeps ants away. When you pour or spray some undiluted solution around your pet’s food dishes, ants will not cross the line. I also use it on the counter around pies and sweet desserts doing the same thing to keep ants away in the summer.

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