It is an unfortunate fact of life that, at times, you may find yourself playing the role of host to a variety of unwanted house guests. Pests such as flies, mosquitoes, mice, and raccoons are a persistent problem for many households, and while you may be the hostess with the mostess when you’re entertaining human guests, you’re less than delighted about your latest visitors – and you’re ready and willing to find a way to end their stay once and for all.
So you do the sensible thing: you seek advice, usually online, in the hopes of ejecting pests once and for all. Unfortunately, while doing so, you’re likely to stumble across one of the many myths that surround the subject of pests – and you may even follow advice that will, at best, be fruitless, and at worst could actually be harmful should you give it a try.
Given the plethora of confusion that surrounds the subject of pest management, we thought it was time to get back to basics by indulging in a little myth-busting, as well as highlighting the pest management solutions that are actually capable of producing results…
Myth: Clean homes don’t experience pest problems
This is one of the most persistent myths surrounding pest control, and like most myths, the reasons it has flourished is perhaps due to the fact there is an element of truth to it. Sure, if a house is dirty, then there is a higher chance that pests will invade; a fact that provides the basis for this myth. However, it does not follow that a clean house is automatically a pest-free house. Many pests will simply want to enter a home in search of shelter rather than to collect food, so if you spot any signs of pests, then it’s always best to take action – even if your home is perfectly clean and tidy at all times.
Myth: You’ll always be able to see bugs if you have an infestation
To an extent, this myth seems to make sense: if you have a bug problem, then you’d expect to be able to see bugs in order to identify that problem… but in reality, this simply isn’t the case. Fleas, bed bugs, termites, and many other types of household pests are almost entirely invisible, which means it’s more than possible for your home to have a significant problem without you ever actually seeing the insects that have caused that problem directly. Instead, you have to look out for signs of infestations, such as rust-colored spots or droppings on linen (bed bugs and fleas) or damaged woodwork (termites).
Myth: Owning a cat eliminates a rodent problem
Unlike dogs, it is thought that cats domesticated themselves. They noticed that humans tended to store items such as grain and that rodents were attracted to that grain – so the cats of old decided that rather than hunt for their own prey, they’d simply follow humans around and wait for the mice to come to them. Humans, glad that cats were keeping rodent numbers down, were more than happy to go along with this arrangement. Everyone was a winner – well, except for the grain-hungry rodents.
However, times have changed. Humans no longer expect cats to fend for themselves by catching rodents that wander into grain stores; we feed them directly instead, and inevitably, cats’ interest in catching their own prey has greatly reduced. Nowadays, well-fed domestic cats cannot be relied upon to keep rodent problems at bay; they may catch the occasional mouse from time to time if they want to, but relying on this occasional interest is unlikely to sufficiently manage an infestation.
Myth: Treating your pet for fleas prevents household fleas
Staying on the subject of pets for a moment, it’s worth noting that most pet owners will know that they need to regularly administer flea medication to their cat or dog – doing so is part and parcel of routine pet ownership. However, the fact that you have prevented fleas from affecting your pet does not mean that your house cannot experience flea issues. Fleas can be brought inside on shoes, clothes, and even your pets’ fur (provided they do not try to bite their host), so if you see any signs of fleas in your home, then further investigation is required – even if your cat or dog is perfectly up-to-date with their flea prevention treatment.
Myth: Ants love sugar or sugar-heavy foods
This myth is half-true; ants do like sugary foods, so you have to be careful when storing sweets and sugar itself in your home. However, ants are not solely interested in foods that are high in sugar. Ants can, and will, help themselves to almost any food item is provided with the opportunity, so always use ant-proof containers – such as plastic or metal storage boxes – and avoid storing fruit and vegetables out in the open.
Myth: Cheese is the best bait for mouse traps
People often believe that mice like cheese, and therefore cheese is by far the best bait for mouse traps. However, this myth is – similar to the ants-and-sugar connection – only half of the story. Yes, some mice do like cheese, but it’s far from their favorite food – given the choice, most mice will prefer sweet food. Even more intriguing, the same study that found that mice prefer sweet food also concluded that some mice don’t really like cheese, which is thought to be related to the very strong odor cheese tends to produce. As a result, if you’re looking to use mouse traps, avoid cheese entirely – and always seek professional assistance if you have a long-term mouse problem that traps are struggling to control.
Myth: Mothballs are a great way of deterring raccoons
This myth is surprisingly popular online, with a number of sites suggesting that scattering mothballs in your yard or attic is the best way to rid yourself of a raccoon problem. However, despite the commonality of this tip, giving it a try for yourself should be avoided at all costs. Mothballs are designed to be used against moths – the clue is very much in the name here! – and are actually prohibited for use against raccoons. Worse still, mothballs can actually be dangerous; if used in an attic, for example, the harsh chemicals they contain can build and spread throughout the rest of your house, which can be harmful to human health. As a result, using mothballs to deter raccoons should never be attempted; instead, learn more about raccoon abatement practices and then contact a specialist to undertake the necessary steps to resolve the problem.
Myth: Boiling water is the best way to rid yourself of an ant problem
An incredibly common myth, this idea is incredibly simple: if you see ants, kill them with boiling water. Admittedly, this myth does have a basis in fact – boiling water will kill almost all creatures, so you can expect a line of ants to be halted in their tracks if you give it a try. However, an underlying infestation will not be solved by a liberal application of boiling water on visible ants; the nest will still exist, albeit minus a few members. This myth is akin to removing the visible, above-ground parts of a dandelion when weeding; the problem will be sort-of solved immediately, but will inevitably regrow, as the roots remain in place. Persistent ant problems tend to need expert assistance in order to ensure the issue is permanently solved, so save your water and call a pro instead.
Myth: Ultrasonic devices are the best way to deter pests
Ultrasonic devices sound – pun not intended – like a great way to ensure your home is pest-free. Rather than worrying about laying traps or calling in expert help, all you have to do is plug an ultrasonic device in, which will emit a high-pitched sound that you can’t hear but is said to be utterly intolerable to a wide variety of household pests without any further intervention required on your behalf.
There’s no doubt that ultrasonics sound like a great idea, but unfortunately, these devices are almost entirely useless. There’s very little proof that the sounds produced by ultrasonics are actually problematic for rodents and bugs; they can hear the noise, but they don’t really find it troublesome, and they’re very unlikely to leave a warm, comfortable environment just because of a high-pitched sound. Furthermore, studies have confirmed that pests soon become habituated to the noise, so even if they are startled at first, they’ll soon realize the sound is harmless and will thus remain in your home. So while ultrasonics may seem like a hassle-free way of both preventing and combating pest problems, they’re simply not worth the investment.
Pests of all kinds have long plagued human homes, so it makes sense that a number of pest-related myths have arisen as a result. However, understanding the reality behind these myths – as we have outlined above – is incredibly important for anyone wanting to ensure that their own management of household pests is as effective as possible.