May 19, 2011

Kill that Impulse! Compassionate Solutions for Your Favorite Pest

Allan Badiner

First of all, because it is quick, harmless, and vouched for by many Buddhists, one should start the campaign to oust the unwanted critters by standing in their presence and chanting to directly to them, as follows:

May all living beings be well, happy and peaceful.
May no harm come to you.
May no difficulties come to you.
May no problems come to you.
May you always meet with success.
May you have patience, courage, understanding, and determination to meet and overcome inevitable difficulties, problems, and failures in life.
May you also have the wisdom to know that you should leave here immediately, and if not, steps will be taken to remove you.

The next day, or at the end of the same day, take these steps respectively:


antsIf you have an ant infestation, use your vacuum to quickly get rid of the invaders, and then immediately empty the vacuum bag in the outdoor compost pile or at some distance from your house.

Do not use ant bait, or poison sprays like Raid that continue in the toxic waste stream from their point of manufacture to their ultimate destination in landfills or via runoff or sewage into our waterways and oceans.

It is important to quickly erase the scent trail that the ants have laid down. First, wash with soapy water and then use a citrus-based repellant, or spray countertops and affected areas with a mixture of juiced lemon, tea tree oil, grapefruit seed extract, and a little mint tea.

The key to ant control is cleanliness: wipe up food spills immediately, wipe down food preparation surfaces with soapy water, remove garbage frequently, clean food debris out of sinks, rinse well any dirty dishes left in the sink, and sweep and mop floors regularly.

Store the most attractive food to ants (honey, sugar, sweet liqueurs, cough syrup, etc.) into the fridge or into jars with rubber gaskets and lids that close with a metal clamp, or zip lock bags. Unless the lid of a screw-top jar has a rubber seal, ants will follow the threads right into the jar. A few layers of waxed paper (not plastic wrap) between the jar and the lid, if screwed down tightly, will work well as a barrier. Transfer other foods, such as cookies, cereals, crackers, etc in paper boxes, to containers with tight-fitting lids or zip locks; and keep butter in the fridge. Paper and cardboard boxes are not ant-proof.

Feed your pet only what it will eat immediately, and then wash the bowl frequently.  If you need to have food on hand available to your pets, put the bowl inside of a larger soup bowl and create a shallow water moat around the bowl.

Keep kitchen scraps in a tightly sealed plastic or metal container. Throw non-recyclable food containers (plastic ice cream cartons, meat wrapping paper, etc.) in an outside trashcan. Wash glass, tin, and aluminum food containers thoroughly before tossing them into an indoor recycling bin.

Use hot soapy water to wipe down kitchen and appliance surfaces where sticky hands or food spills may have left some residue: kitchen counters, floors, cabinet doors and handles, fridge handle, stove knobs, sides of toaster, blender, etc. Immediately mop up food spills and sweep up food crumbs.

Keep ants off the kitchen counters by spraying them with 50:50 solution of vinegar and water.  You can go all the way applying small amounts of cayenne pepper and cinnamon at entry points of large infestations. Scented talcum powder, red chili powder, as well as ground black pepper are reputed to be major inhibitors as well.

Seal as many entry points as possible: weather-strip doors and use caulking to fill gaps in window and door frames and around baseboards, pipes, sinks, toilets, and electrical outlets. Prune trees and shrubs away from exterior walls, to prevent ants using them as a bridge into the house.

Try to cultivate a good relationship with the Daddy-Long-Legs spiders. They are intelligent and make their webs along the ant entry points, usually near the front door and the bathroom window. Let the spiders do their job.


cockroachCockroaches are among the hardiest insects on the planet. Some species are capable of remaining active for a month without food and are able to survive on limited resources like the glue from the back of postage stamps. Some can go without air for 45 minutes. In one experiment, cockroaches were able to recover from being submerged underwater for half an hour.

If you have cockroaches, then you, or your immediate neighbors, are keeping an unclean household. Cockroaches leave chemical trails in their feces as well as emitting airborne pheromones for swarming and mating. Other cockroaches will follow these trails to discover sources of food and water, and also discover where other cockroaches are hiding. Cockroaches are mainly nocturnal and will run away when exposed to light.

Cockroaches hate the smell of bay leaves. Smash up some bay leaves in a bowl and sprinkle them in the corners of your home where you have seen the cockroaches. It is helpful to do this is the kitchen and in the corners of the kitchen cabinets.

An inexpensive roach trap can easily be made from a deep smooth-walled jar with some roach food inside, placed with the top of the jar touching a wall or with sticks leading up to the top, so that the roaches can reach the opening. Once inside, they cannot climb back out. A bit of Vaseline can be smeared on the inside of the jar to enhance slipperiness. You can then take the jars to a remote location and set the cockroaches free.


fleaFleas come to you via your pets. Put a small plate greased with vaseline under a nightlight. The fleas will be attracted to the light, jump into the plate and get stuck by the vaseline. You have to remove the plates every one to two days-- take them outside and sprinkle dirt on the plate so that they will eventually have enough traction to climb out of the plate to freedom. Put a plate in each room that has fleas.

Sprinkle your pet with cornstarch or baking soda. Let it sit, and then brush it off outside.  Add chopped raw garlic, and garlic oil, or powder to your pet food. Start with just a small amount, and gradually add more until the cat is getting up to one clove, and the dog is getting up to three cloves. It's good for your pets (within those limits) and fleas are repelled by the odor in their sweat.  Launder the dog or cat beds in the house on a weekly basis. Put half a teaspoon cider vinegar in your cat's water dish for three days.

It can take 3 to 6 weeks for flea eggs to hatch. Once you have taken care of fleas on your pets, thoroughly clean your home environment of any fleas and flea eggs. If there is a serous outbreak, your pet may be unwell, or poorly nourished. You may need to give your pet internal medicine that repels the fleas.


mouseAlong the central coast of California where I live, you either have cats or rats.  Get a cat or two, if possible. Females tend to be better mousers or rat-eaters. They can live in the garage at night, and have free run of your yard in the daytime.  If they are semi-feral, all the better. Lure them into the garage at night with just a little food, and they will be slightly hungry most of the time, and eager to search for rodents.  It is not realistic to expect that your content well-fed house-cat is going to suddenly become a mouse hunter.

If you have mice, use Humane No-Kill Mousetraps, available on the web, and at  My favorite is the Catchmaster Repeater Humane Mouse Trap which is also easily available on the web. Check them frequently, and using gloves, dispose of the mice as far from the house as conveniently possible. If electronic mouse repellers that use ultrasonic noises were effective, mice would be rare.

A mouse will eat almost anything, but they prefer cereal grains, seeds, or sweet material. They require very little water, obtaining most of their water needs from their food.  They multiply rapidly and are most easily detectable by their rod shaped droppings (feces) --about 1/8-1/4 inches long. Mice may contaminate your food supply with their feces and urine.

House mice or rats gnaw through electrical wiring, causing fires and failure of freezers, clothes dryers and other appliances. Rodents can carry a wide variety of diseases transmissible to humans. A very real problem with the infestation of mice is the Hantavirus and Salmonella. Always wear intact rubber or plastic gloves when removing rodents and when cleaning or disinfecting items contaminated by rodents.

For those with serious or frequent infestations, invest in a UV Rodent Tracker, an industrial grade professional UV LED light. This UV light is able to detect the presence of urine, making rodent inspection easier and more efficient.

Close all openings through which they can enter a structure, and seal cracks and openings in building foundations and openings for water pipes, vents and utilities. Prevent mice from chewing or pulling out patching compounds by making sure patching materials are smooth on the surface. Be sure doors, windows and screens fit tightly. All food that is stored, processed or used should be made mouse-proof. (See section on ants).

With a little work, and easy maintenance following, you can be rodent-free indefinitely.


tickTicks had a PR problem with humans long before the big news about Lyme disease. They want our blood and their bites are enduringly painful.  This is one of the most challenging pests to contend with, as the desire to make ticks an exception to the "Do Not Kill" precept can be understandably strong.  Getting them off of yourself and your pets is hard enough, and then what do you do with them?  Their fluids are toxic to humans.  The good news is there is a safe way to dispose of ticks without killing them- or risking their return.  After you have removed the tick from its host, using magic tape only, tape the tick(s) to a sheet of paper, and toss the paper into the compost.  Ticks, as our luck would have it, can live without motion or nourishment for weeks. By the time the tick has spent a few nights in the compost heap, the paper and tape decompose just enough to free the animal.

Bugs on Plants (aphids. etc)

aphidsAs a preventative, add peppermint essential oil mixed with a little water in a mister bottle and spray directly on your plants.  On sight of aphids or other plant bearing bugs, wash the foliage with insect soap, and then maintain by spraying the peppermint solution regularly.

The greatest guarantee, aside from cleanliness, may be metta meditation.  Learn the lines and then you can substitute yourself and your loved ones and gradually larger groups until the entire circle of life is included. I don't know anyone who practices metta who has a pest problem. 

For further compassionate solutions, contact the Bio-Integral Resource Center (BIRC) 510.524.2567

Images: Cockroach: wahiaboy. Ants: ceoln. Flea: Armed Forces Pest managment Board. Mouse: Brian_Kellett. Tick: Duncan Brown (Cradlehall). Aphids: Nick Dimmock.


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SophiaM's picture

From the OP article:

"Sprinkle your pet with cornstarch or baking soda. Let it sit, and then brush it off outside. Add chopped raw garlic, and garlic oil, or powder to your pet food. Start with just a small amount, and gradually add more until the cat is getting up to one clove, and the dog is getting up to three cloves."

"Garlic Toxicity and Pets
A Small Amount Can Be Toxic
Many people consider garlic to be a holistic remedy in the prevention of heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even certain types of cancer.

These potential medicinal benefits, however, are not effective for our pets. In fact, garlic is extremely toxic to dogs and cats and the consumption of even a small amount can lead to severe poisoning and, if not treated in time, death.
Pet owners who believe garlic helps prevent fleas should heed caution.

“Using garlic as a homeopathic treatment for flea prevention has been debunked as not effective,” says Lee. “I would never recommend adding any garlic powder to your pet’s meal; you could potentially injure your pet over time.”"

Eric Wright's picture

Regarding Aphids, any insect soap or a solution of soap you make yourself will suffocate the animals. If you wish for no-harm on aphids, they are very fragile creatures and just touching them can kill them. The best option would be to spray them off with plain water using a spray bottle, or to shake them off from the plant by grabbing its stalk. Also the aphids in this picture appear to be afflicted by the parasitic wasp or hoverfly, who lays its offspring inside the insect to hatch, killing the aphid. This is a very effective natural control method and can be encouraged by planting small flowering plants like alyssums, or letting radish, turnip, dill, parsley, carrots or cilantro to bolt. The tiny wasps in their adult life cycle rely completely on pollen and nectar for food.

jakolsky's picture

I live in San Francisco and during the rainy season ants show up in great numbers. I happened to be visiting the Lawrence Livermore Science Museum in Berkeley about 15 yrs ago. They had an exhibit on how to use non poisonous means to eliminate pests.

The suggestion for ants was to locate the places they were coming in from and to dump copious amounts of cinnamon in the area and hole. Fifteen years later i have yet to see an ant.

wigijdk's picture

Unfortunately, my condo unit has a bit of a cockroach problem. I am not sure why, but I usually see them running down the hallway when I walk to the front door of my condo and I just leave them alone. Recently, though, my daughter woke up and apparently had sustained a cockroach bite while she was sleeping, and I did not even know they could bite. I try to be compassionate to all creatures, but I had to take some steps to keep the out of my home. There are some natural ways you can combat their presence. I did a search and found this page about what causes roaches and will be taking some action but if this doesn't work I may have to call a service.

caleb's picture

I usually just place pests back outside but the other day I went into my green house which gets super hot since its in phoenix probably like 108 degrees. Anyway I lifted up a board and and there was a mother and many baby scorpions. Scorpions really creep me out and I almost just smashed them with a board but instead I searched scorpion control phoenix in my local pages and found an amazing pest control company near me in phoenix. When I told the pest control agent not to kill them he gave me a funny look but he put them in a jar and said he would release them in the desert for me.

canadiancattrees's picture

I have a cat who eats spiders and flies! We inherited another new cat resident. Darn cats had already shredded up a couch and loveseat and guess what, wife wants new ones now. I thought of building the kitties a new cat tree to prevent them from furniture scratching until I found an awesome site in Canada. Cats love them! cat trees Canada They have a great selection of Armarkat models, all kewl looking cat towers!>armarkat in Canada I even found an article that tells you how to train your cat! solve cat scratching I tried the yarn trick after putting the catnip between the ropes and my cats went crazy.

kirk_1's picture

I have long captured spiders in upside-down glasses, and tossed them out the windows, or opened windows and shooed out flies. This said, there are some that I won't treat that way; if you get ants, even though, as the above comment says, they don't bring germs, you need to stop them, because they will infest your home, eventually making a nest if you do nothing.

Mosquitoes, on the other hand, carry serious diseases. I live in France, and in the south of the country, there is a problem with a tropical disease that recently reached France from mosquitoes.

I also had, some years ago, a yellowjacket nest in the attic of my house. They were coming into my son's bedroom through gaps in the roofing. I called an exterminator for that.

It's worth noting that insects are considered by some to not be "sentient beings," and, while I do believe that all life is sacred, I'll draw the line at mosquitoes and yellowjackets.

sharmila2's picture

The risk of "germs" spreading through "pests" is quite overblown, and unfortunately a common misconception. Yes, there are a few insects that carry disease, some mosquitos and ticks in certain regions. However, the VAST majority of so-called "pests" are benign and harmless - ants, spiders and cockroaches - and their main crime is to provoke our "ick" factor. You are far more likely to catch "germs" from your school, workplace, bank, grocery store and - worst of all - hospital or clinic environment, simply by contact with humans and the things human touch, which is everything.
So sorry, but there is no scientific excuse to kill bugs unless you also wear sterile gloves, mask and a hazmat suit as you go about your daily business. Didnt think so :)

saprishi81's picture

Having pests in the house means that there would be germs so you and your entire family are running the risk of diseases. It is better to solve this problem; you have the solutions pest control. Get a good pest control company to get pest control done at your place.

caleb's picture

I am teaching my daughter to be compassionate for bugs and insects.
Kinda funny,my daughter and I actually made rollie pollie farm out of a old fish tank. The rollie pollies are loving it! I was wondering what rollie pollies eat so I typed in what do rollie pollies eat on google and I was amazed at the information I found. Turns out rollie pollies can eat fish food. Talk about the circle of life. Our fish dies. We have extra food and a tank and along comes a rollie pollie farm!

I found out all you can ever want to know about what rollie pollies eat here

silverdesertlv's picture

While striving to have compassion, I have found that their are a number of ways to keep pests out without killing them. I do admit that if there is a significant health risk to a pest problem I will opt for control methods that include killing the pests. I do however try to do as little damage as possible. For example, i recently found a cockroach inside my home. I have heard that they don't harm anything but i have also heard that they can spread disease and even bite. See Do Cockroaches Bite I am very conflicted in how to handle these types of problems. Thoughts?

sharmila2's picture

cockroaches are harmless, just annoying and icky. they dont bite live humans, but some varieties can fly and be quite alarming. unfortunately they are difficult to get rid of, especially if you live in a humid climate and a house with lots of spaces for them to hide and propagate.

prema.dimauro's picture

i too had a compassionate heart for a rat that i found in my house i went to lowes and got a no kill cage.
i caught the rat and put him in the car to transport him. during the car transprot the cage overturned and the rat got loose n my car. i had to go home and leave the doors open hoping that he would lleave the car, which he did.

littled did i know he was just one of a family of rats i had running around my house. at this pont i had to get the big weapons out and . it took quite sometime to get ride of all the critters, but to my disappointment i had no alternative but to do what i did. the safety of my dog and family was important to me my health could have been in jeopordy. i tried. i still feel bad but i did what had to be done!!!

peace and love

agapetos's picture

Wonderful article! In my family I often get a share of questioning glances when, for example, I save a tick that has attached to me or my dogs and release it back into nature. It seems people in Europe have extremely strong aversion and fear of ticks. But despite their horrific incarnation, all they want is a little food.

Alan Shusterman's picture

I have to admit being challenged by this. I'm known in my house for catching spiders and ushering them outside, but there's no denying that there's even a limit to my tolerance. Most of the bugs listed here are on my Squash list. So perhaps the following comment is just a way for me to justify my bug-harming ways.

Consider this: unlike humans, bug behavior is guided primarily by chemical signals. What counts for 'bug eyes' and 'bug ears' are relatively useless (or adapted for highly specialized purposes like triggering circadian rhythms or dodging a bat's radar). The basic behaviors of fight-or-flight, eat-or-reproduce, are largely determined by kinds of chemicals that bugs stumble into. Most of the recommendations made here (sprinkle this fragrant herb, swab that natural oil) are literally chemical warfare as far as bugs are concerned. Bugs avoid these chemical because natural selection has taught them that the chemicals are harmful or toxic.

Chemical deterrents may look gentle to us (and the intent is certainly there), but try to see it from a bug's point of view.

sharmila2's picture

Agree that the suggestions are all chemical deterrants; but since the bug will instinctively avoid them with no harm to themselves, it is surely superior to the -crushed on the sole of your shoe- approach!

deannalang7's picture

I really do try to do relocate bugs to outside. And what's wonderful is that I'm teaching my young daughters that all life is important and precious. (and also not to have the typical girl-screaming reaction!)

sharmila2's picture

congratulations - I've trained my husband finally after 10 years of marriage that it is worth taking the effort to relocate the bug outside, rather than kill it for no reason. He still grips that they are in "his" space, but at least we've found a peaceful compromise!