Spring brings about great things like more sunshine and warmer weather, but it’s also when pests begin to appear around your home and garden. The best way to deal with them is prevention, rather than trying to exterminate them through pesticides, which can be unhealthy for the environment and aren’t always effective.
If you learn to identify these pesky critters, it’s easier to prevent them from taking hold of your indoor and outdoor spaces.
There are more than 12,000 ant species in the world, but only a small percentage of them are pests. Most of these types love sweet foods, so it’s crucial to clean up any spills or crumbs to avoid guiding them into your home.
Outdoors, ants can be beneficial to the garden, feeding on aphids and other pests that munch your plants. They also help aerate the soil, but if the colonies become too large, the benefits can quickly turn into a problem. Sprinkling cinnamon or cayenne pepper around your plants can help prevent swarms.
If you see spiders in your home once spring arrives, chances are, they’ve discovered an insect food source. The good news is, most spiders in North America aren’t dangerous. They can also be an ally in your fight against unwanted insect pests.
To keep spider populations down, get rid of clutter, seal cracks around doors and windows, vacuum regularly, and prevent their food sources from taking up residence. Some home gardeners say that planting lavender shrubs or eucalyptus and cedar trees around your house prevents spiders from entering because they don’t care for the strong odors of these plants.
Just about any plant can become the victim of this rapidly reproducing pest. To keep aphids away, spray your plants with water every few days. Remove weeds to cut back on potential egg-laying spots, and avoid using nitrogen-rich fertilizer when possible — the smell attracts them.
You can also lay down insect netting, which is available at most online and brick-and-mortar garden stores.
If you’re growing cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, collard greens, or any other member of the cabbage family, be on the lookout for cabbage loopers in the spring. These two-inch-long green worms resemble caterpillars.
Keep them off your plants by using synthetic row covers. Once the cold weather passes, get rid of garden debris, since that's where the pests hide out through the winter. Loopers also dislike marigolds, calendulas, sunflowers, daisies, and dill, so planting these botanicals near your food crops can keep them away.
The best way to prevent grasshoppers from destroying your garden is to attract birds and other beneficial insects to deter them. Cardinals, blue jays, crows, robins, sparrows, kestrels, and larks love to munch on grasshoppers. Provide a water source and a nesting habitat, and these birds will happily keep watch.
Planting marigolds, calendula, asters, and alyssum attracts robber flies, which also eat a wide range of insects including grasshoppers.
Once May arrives, so do Japanese beetles. They love to eat roses, fruit trees, and vegetables but also thrive on birch and elm. Prevent these beetles by introducing beneficial nematodes early in the spring. These naturally occurring microorganisms feed on the grubs that turn into Japanese beetles, but won’t hurt people, pets, or wildlife.
Another way to prevent them is to immediately remove any ripened or diseased fruits, the scent of which attracts the beetles.
Leaf miner worms leave a telltale white design on leaves, and they aren't picky as to the type of plant they munch on. Tilling the soil in the fall will destroy their larvae stage and reduce the chance that they’ll appear in the spring.
Planting trap crops — lamb’s quarters, velvetleaf, and columbine plants — will attract the pests there instead, keeping them off of those you want to save from infestation.
Unlike most members of the wasp family, sawflies feed on plants. The adults look like wasps, but it's their larvae, which resemble caterpillars, that are the most destructive. Eggs hatch in the spring, so it's best to start prevention before the season arrives.
Healthy plants are least likely to be the target of attacks. Proper watering techniques and fertilizing will improve your plant’s defenses. Birds are natural predators, so providing a habitat for them can prevent a sawfly infestation.
Most types of wasps hibernate in the winter, but only a small number survive. As early as April, surviving queen wasps emerge from hibernation and begin new colonies which, by June, can number between 5000 and 10,000.
Check your home’s exterior for signs of wasp nests hiding in cracks and gaps, and use silicone caulk or wood putty to seal them off. Knock down new nests that are just developing, break them up completely, and dispose of them.
Spring marks the beginning of the breeding season for mice, and they are prolific breeders. Outdoors, they usually survive for about a year. But if they find a way indoors, they can live up to three. Mouse-proofing your home is key to thwarting an invasion.