By Susan C.
Flummoxed over fruit flies? Anxious about ants? Moths mating in the bird food cabinet? Most of us been driven over the edge by some sort of insect or rodent invasion in our bird’s area at one time or another, and a good part of that anxiety is because we don’t want to use pest control methods that could possibly harm our pets or wildlife. Here are some non-toxic and easy ways to control the nasty critters.
Begin at the port of entry. Inspect the outside of your home and remove any debris lying in proximity to the foundation. Mice, ants and even some wasps gravitate toward wood, cardboard and overgrown or dead foliage. Removing these food and shelter sources is your first line of defense.
Sprinkle diatomaceous earth around the foundation of your home to deter soft bodied insects, such as ants, silverfish, fleas, roaches and ticks. It can also be used inside garages and basements, under sinks and along baseboards. Diatomaceous earth, or silica, is made of fossilized, tiny aquatic organisms called diatoms, and it works to kill insects through desiccation. They crawl through it, and it leaches the moisture right out of their bodies. It resembles talcum powder and won’t hurt animals or people who ingest small amounts.
According to the National Pesticide Information Center, diatomaceous earth is commonly encountered by wildlife, including birds, and is not known to be harmful. Like any powder, inhaled diatomaceous earth can irritate nasal passages, and on the skin, may cause some irritation and dryness, so wear a filtration mask when applying it, and do not disperse large amounts when birds are present. Due to its abrasiveness, it can also be irritating to the eyes. You can find Safer® Brand Diatomaceous Earth in the pesticide departments of home improvement stores, such as Home Depot, or buy from online sources, such as Amazon.
If you’ve seen evidence of mice, (little black/brown droppings that look like chocolate confectionary sprinkles, chewed food bags) look for their entry points. Search beneath sinks, around plumbing pipes, along baseboard heating and inside cabinets and closets. Plug openings with steel wool and check frequently to be sure it hasn’t been disturbed. Baking soda, bay leaves or peppermint oil on cotton balls placed inside cabinets and at entry points can help repel mice and some insects. Check your garage, laundry room and mud room for anything that could be nesting material, such as rags, cellulose insulation, cardboard boxes or clothing that hasn’t been moved in a while and discard or relocate it. Be sure that bins of clothes and decorative items are securely closed and keep car windows rolled up. Mice have been known to nest in automobile upholstery.
Should you use electronic pest control devices? None offer a quick resolution, and none are 100% effective. Read package claims on such devices; they’re regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. The best results combine ultrasonic devices with trapping, as the sound waves cause rodents and insects to scatter, often into the traps. Old fashioned snap-traps are probably the most humane, economical and effective methods of mouse control. If you have an aversion killing mice, try humane traps and release the captives far from your home.
Thwart insects and rodents in bird food by storing it in pest resistant containers. Transfer bagged food to glass containers or canisters with tightly fitting lids. Keep the food on a high cabinet shelf, rather than on one close to the floor to reduce risk of a mouse invasion. Consider painting cabinet shelves white so that you’ll see evidence of insects or rodents before their presence becomes overwhelming.
Many people freeze or refrigerate bird food, especially seed, to reduce the risk of moth infestation. Check packaging to see if refrigeration is recommended for any pellets you may be using. Buy only as much food as you will use within about a month and rotate stock regularly. Pheromone moth traps are very effective in reducing moth infestations. Place a few around your home, (out of reach of birds—they’re sticky!) and you’ll see results very quickly. Buy pantry moth traps in home supply stores, select pet shops or online.
Ants in the bird cages? Dab petroleum jelly around the legs of the cage stand near the bottom. Ants won’t crawl through it. Make sure to apply it all the way around each leg and re-apply when necessary. Ants don’t seem to like vinegar either. Using white vinegar and water to clean floors and wipe down surfaces may discourage them from setting up camp in the area. Be extra vigilant about cleaning up flung fruit and discarded soft foods. Clean your birds’ cages in the evening so there is no debris to attract nocturnal pests. If you know you have mice, roaches, or other night crawling pests, remove all bird food from cages at bedtime.
Are fruit flies driving you crazy? Are they hovering around the fruit bowl on the counter and the fresh produce in your birds’ dishes? Wash fruit and vegetables as soon as you bring them home to remove possible fruit fly eggs. Refrigerate grapes, apples, strawberries and other produce that does well in cool temperatures. Remove and wash your birds’ fresh food dishes after a few hours, especially during warm weather. Empty the trash each day.
Invest in some non-toxic fruit fly traps or make your own using apple cider vinegar and a little liquid dish detergent. Mix about half a cup of vinegar with several drops of dish soap, stir and put the mixture in a jar or bottle with small holes punched in the lid near the infestation. Alternatively, cover the jar opening with plastic wrap, secure it with a rubber band and punch holes in the plastic with a toothpick. Within a day or two, there should be more fruit flies in the jar than hovering around your kitchen counter. Other fruit fly attractants include red wine, crushed basil leaves and bananas. Fruit flies don’t like moving air. A celling fan (turn it off when birds are at liberty) or well-placed oscillating fan will help keep them at bay.
Heavy infestations of insects or rodents often require professional intervention. Look for a company that advertises itself as “green”, “natural”, “organic”, “earth friendly” or similar methods. Tell them that you have birds (include other pets as well). Ask what products and methods of application they use. Ask for references and guarantees. Research the products yourself to be sure that they’re not toxic to birds. Relocate your birds during the application process if it will make you feel more comfortable.
UNDER-SINK PEST-PROOFING HACKS
Install motion sensitive lights in the cabinet under your sink so you’ll easily see evidence of little intruders before they set up permanent encampments.
Get rid of that collection of plastic bags stuffed under the sink! The mess can hide unpleasant truths. Instead, get reusable bags for shopping, or install a dispenser for the plastic ones. In some locales, stores must charge a fee for single-use plastic bags. Some municipalities have outlawed them altogether.
Don’t keep your trash can under the sink. Some garbage inevitably goes astray, and the dark, warm environment is much too hospitable to mold, mildew, fruit flies, and other pests.
Store cleaning products and other under-sink necessities in a few plastic dishpans to keep thinks orderly and upright.