Ian Sample: Our battle with bugs


The tried and tested method for eradicating bedbugs was once to sling gunpowder into the crevices of the bedstead, light and stand well back. These days, chemicals such as pyrethroid sprays are used to flush them out. Non-toxic methods include steam-cleaning the mattress. As an extra precaution, use petroleum jelly on bed legs to stop the bugs creeping up from the carpet.


The cat flea is the most common variety, and readily bites humans. Chemical treatments are aggressive and often based on industrial insecticides such as organophosphates. For a more natural way to control these pests, soak a cat collar in a mix of alcohol, cedarwood oil, lavender, citronella and thyme oil. It will last a month.


If checks on Welsh schoolchildren are anything to go by, four out of five headlice are now resistant to the aggressive chemical treatments designed to wipe them out. According to the British Medical Journal, your best hope of beating these blood-sucking parasites is wet-combing. It only works 57% of the time, but that's vastly better than chemicals.

Clothes moth

Adults moths have malformed mouths and can't eat, but their larvae devour wool, hair, carpets, fur and feathers. The moths are attracted to stains from food, sweat and urine, so if basic standards of cleanliness are too demanding, try dry-cleaning. Moth-proofing treatments are available and modern mothballs don't have the stench of naphthalene.


A nest can churn out 30,000 wasps a year, so if there is one nearby, act quickly. You may feel it's safer to call in the professionals, but if the nest is within reach, you could throw a big plastic bag around it, knock the nest inside and quickly seal the bag. Wasps cannot cope with extreme temperatures, so leaving the bag in the sun will probably kill the entire nest.


Exceptionally robust, cockroaches are best left to the experts. Borax is one of the most effective treatments, but newer chemicals are proving their worth. A combination of the insecticide hydramethylnon, the hormone hydroprene and a drying agent, drione, is now common. The insecticide lingers in dead roaches, where it can kill others feeding on their carcasses.

Black ant

There might be too many to count, but the key to wiping out ants is to go for the weak spot - the nest. Track the ants back to the entrance of the nest, then pour a kettle-load of boiling water on to it. Back that up with insecticide powder. Many of these are sweetened, tricking the ants into taking the powder deep into the nests, destroying them from the inside.


Relative lightweights, woodlice can easily be eradicated by cleaning and vacuuming. They like it damp and dark, so keep piles of leaves and big plant pots away from the house. If they find their way in, look at ways of sealing cracks around doors and windows. Insecticides designed to kill off crawling insects are effective, but a quick spray around wall edges should be enough.

Thanks to guardian.co.uk who have provided this article. View the original here.


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