Garden and household pests - unwanted insects, including flies, mosquitoes, fleas, cockroaches, termites, and moths, and intruders like mice and rats - are annoying, destructive, and potentially harmful to the health of humans and pets. But the use of chemical toxins to control these pests is a problem - who knows what some of these chemicals themselves can do to the health of our family members?

Luckily, there are ways to combat these invaders without resorting to potentially poisonous chemicals. Essentially, there are four approaches to pest control; used in combination they can go a long way to eliminating insects and rodents from one's home and outdoor environment.

First, make sure you're not creating the conditions that invite these pests onto your property. Standing water attracts mosquitoes; take a walk through your property and make sure you don't have bowls of water, discarded tires, and other receptacles that can contain rain water. If you find them, get rid of them. Poorly stored food and stray crumbs can attract ants, roaches, and mice. Keep your food stored in airtight containers, wipe down counters, tables, etc., and sweep the floor frequently, discarding the refuse and removing in from the house.

Secondly, provide barriers, either physical or biological, to repel insects and rodents. Properly maintained and installed screens on windows and doors will help block flies and mosquitoes from the home. Simple to use, nontoxic home remedies can repel insects; for instance a brew of catnip tea, sprayed in a solution around cupboards, baseboards, and other areas, particularly in the kitchen and bathroom, can repel cockroaches.

Third, you can add beneficial insects and other organisms to your environment. Adding ladybugs to gardens has been a natural remedy for years: ladybugs just love aphids, and will eat them before the tiny insects can ruin your growing plants. (Some people go so far as to add a gecko or two to their homes; geckos eat cockroaches, and will help keep an infestation under control; you'd have to make up your mind if you really want to live in the same house or apartment with a couple free ranging lizards. If you have small boys, chances are they'll be thrilled!)

Finally, if all else fails, there are compounds, safe to humans with normal use, but deadly to pests, that will eliminate some insects for good. To rid your home of cockroaches, for instance, put containers of boric acid behind counters, in the backs of cupboards, in shelves, and other areas that cockroaches frequent; they'll eat the boric acid and return to their nests, carrying more boric acid with them; the boric acid will kill them and the other inhabitants of their nests. (Make sure you keep the boric acids away from children and pets.)

There are also non-toxic, natural preparations sold commercially which can be used to repel or eliminate pests without adversely impacting your home environment. In short, there are many natural, safe options for eliminating pests that you can use to make sure your home is a comfortable, enjoyable environment for your family, not for unwanted guests.

By Aldene Fredenburg
Aldene Fredenburg is a freelance writer living in southwestern New Hampshire and frequently contributes to Tips and Topics. She has published numerous articles in local and regional publications on a wide range of topics, including business, education, the arts, and local events. Her feature articles include an interview with independent documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and a feature on prisoners at the New Hampshire State Prison in Concord. She may be reached at