When Garden Pests Come Indoors

The Hill Gardener

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Overgrown gardens, especially those with ivy and ground cover, provide ideal breeding spaces for mosquitos. It is important to keep your garden cleaned up if you don’t want a major infestation. Photo: Rindy O’Brien

2020 has been unusual in so many ways for gardeners. First we had no rain, and now too much rain. It does seem the summer cycle has been an ideal scenario for bugs and pests. All of a sudden, ants, mosquitos, beetles, and other garden bugs are leaving the garden and marching into our homes. So, what can you do to keep the invaders out and still enjoy the last hurrah of summer.

When the Buzz Is Bad
Al Nelson, owner of Capitol Mosquito Control, says he doesn’t think mosquitos are any worse this year then previous years, but because we are home due to the Covid pandemic we are now outside in our yards more and noticing them. All the recent rain is also making treating them more challenging. What’s more, all that rain is filling up pots and crevasses with water, creating exactly the kind of breeding ground mosquitos like. DC was named this year as the third worst cities for mosquitos, according to Orkin’s annual survey. Atlanta is number one.

Fleurie Kamga, owner of FLK Pest Control, hunts the trails of pests to stop the home invasion.  He is licensed and certified by the Maryland Department of Agriculture every year.

Al should know–he has been treating mosquitoes on Capitol Hill since 2013 when he started his business in a row house at Fourth and D Streets. “While our business has moved to Hyattsville, a large number of my clients are on the Hill,” says Al, “and I really feel at home there.” English basements and downstairs steps often can be the source of mosquitos, because there is less foot traffic to disturb them; dampness is often present; and mosquitos like shadow time, early morning and evening. “One advantage of our company is we know where to look,” Al says.

Capitol Mosquito Control uses only organic eco-safe products. There are many extract oils like peppermint, rosemary, garlic, and chrysanthemums that are made into organic sprays and used by Capitol Mosquitos.  Spraying every two weeks is suggested to keep the mosquitos at a tolerable level.

”You can never really get rid of all the mosquitos on your property,” Al says. “But, by diligent maintenance, you can create outdoor spaces that the whole family can enjoy.”

One big tip Al shares is to remember that mosquitos migrate.  If you have sprayed your yard, the mosquitos will relocate next door to your neighbor’s yard. When possible you should try and make treatment a block effort, to make sure the problem isn’t just being pushed from one spot to the next. Al notes that alley ways and trash cans are other big sources of mosquito infestation.

In a usual Hill alley, there can be up to 120 trash cans or more in a block. Invariably, there are 20 to 25 broken lids on the cans.  In the cracks on the lids, or the water accumulated at the bottom of the trash can because no lid is used, mosquitos can thrive. It is the perfect breeding ground because moisture and food are all in one place. Bird baths and little ponds can also attract mosquitoes, especially if the water does not circulate.

And the ground cover and ivy often favored in our small front gardens also attracts mosquitos. It is easy for them to lay eggs down in the soil, especially if the space is a little overgrown. Al says the key to success in controlling mosquitoes is source control. “If we can prevent the place we know mosquitoes thrive, then we can do a good job eliminating the problem.”

The Ants Go Marching Two by Two
Another pesty complaint by homeowners this summer is ants inside the house.

Folks who have lived for years in their homes are suddenly reporting ants in their kitchens, dining rooms, and other living spaces.  Fleurie Kamga, owner of FLK Pest Control, has noted an increase in homeowners requesting ant treatment this year.  In business since 2006, Fleurie is a pest technician licensed and certified by the state of Maryland.  He says in order to be certified he must take a class annually and pass a test.  The course work is rigorous and requires serious study.

Ants, like many other pests, make a trail when they come into your house from the garden and outdoors.  To really get rid of the ants, it requires treatment inside and out.  “I have to find the ant trail and treat the source where they are gaining access,” says Fleurie,  ”otherwise they will keep coming.”  Like mosquitos, the ants are looking for moisture and food.  Places like a dog or cat bowl of food and water is where you see them, or on counters where food is left out. “Sometimes we use tracking powder to see how they are gaining access.”

Unlike mosquitos where you can never truly eliminate them, ants, beetles, and other pests can be stopped from entering your indoor space with a little patience and treatment. In both cases, it may take more than one visit of the pest control company to accomplish the task.

Home Remedies
Sadly, science says there is not any evidence that citronella plants, commonly known as mosquito plants, actually repeal mosquitoes.  Maybe, if you are sitting right next to plant, the smell will deter mosquitos at that moment, but it is not actually a fix. In fact, lemongrass is the plant that produces citronella oil that is used in organic sprays and candles.  It is considered to be effective in repealing mosquitoes and is considered a registered pesticide product. Rosemary plants can also help buffer attacking mosquitoes, but as Al Nelson points out, you cannot plant enough of these to beat the numbers of mosquitoes around.

Peppermint and garlic extracts are a good home remedy for pests, and high quality oils and extracts are available at Yes Organic Market on Barrack’s Row. Photo: Rindy O’Brien

If mosquitoes can breed in a water bottle cap, think of all the small places where water can accumulate.  Spraying areas with peppermint and garlic oil can help.

Ants can also be kept at bay by squeezing a lemon or putting lemon peels near where the ants enter. Again, follow the outdoor trail of the ants, and use anything sour and bitter to keep the ants away. Cloves and cinnamon are often believed to be a natural repellent as ants don’t like a strong smell.  Treatment using these home remedies often needs repeating two times a day.

It is quite possible for you to enjoy your beautiful gardens and outdoor yards. For those fighting ants and mosquitoes, September signals the end of the ant and mosquito battles. As our long summer days wind down, and temperatures start to cool off, these pests also wind down. Whether you use the home remedy route, or hire professionals, Al and Fleurie emphasize the need of homeowners to be persistent and patient in their plan of attack and always be vigilant eliminating standing water and overgrown weeds.

Rindy O’Brien recently thwarted an ant attack in Her hill condo, a first in ten years.  For ideas or comments, [email protected]