By Amanda Addey-Jibb
Spring seems to have peaked its head out from under the covers of winter, and we are finally starting to get a glimpse of the sun again! Praise be! But with the rapidly-approaching warm weather comes another, less welcome guest: bugs.
Whether it be ants, flies, spiders, snails, stink bugs, cockroaches, pill bugs, or millipedes, I’m sure we’ve all had our share of experiences with bugs here in Japan. For my final Shufu Tips, I’d like to share with you some preventative measures for keeping those unwanted pests out of your sacred space.
First, make sure to check all the potential entrances for bugs. That means: doors, windows, air conditioner and heating vents, stove vents, and drains. And don’t forget about the bathroom! The bathtub/shower room is prime real estate for tons of critters who love the dark, warm, and humid atmosphere (maybe now is a good time to start charging a cover?). In my shower room, I have a drain, an air vent, and a window, so that’s three times the likelihood that I’ll have some uninvited guests in the summer, not to mention all the little nooks and crannies they can squeeze and hide under.
If you live in a house or on the ground floor, take a quick peek outside and keep an eye out for potential bug havens: cracks or holes in the foundation, large pools of still water, tall overgrown grass or bushes, and nest such as wasps’ nests or anthills. Make sure to fill any cracks with caulking or steel wool, and to remove any other possible insect breeding grounds.
Next, you’ll want to reinforce your windows and doors. Check for any possible cracks or gaps in the siding and the door/window itself. If you sealed your windows for winter, then you already know how this goes. Cover any cracks or holes with tape and/or plastic, but this time you don’t want to cover the entire window. Soon enough it will get hot and you will probably want to open the windows, so that’s why getting a screen for your windows is essential. Make sure to regularly check the screen for holes, cover any rips or tears with tape, and check for misalignment with the tracks. You don’t want to give those pesky critters any leeway on this.
It is considerably more difficult (read: impossible) to completely bug-proof vents and kitchen/bathroom drains, however you can definitely set up some preventative measures. Targeting these spots with anti-bug spray can be helpful in dissuading insects from coming through, so if you don’t mind the smell it’s a good idea to get yourself some bug traps, bug spray, and/or bug killer to spread around these locations.
If you’re looking for a more natural solution to keep bugs out, consider spraying white vinegar (my holy grail cleaning product) around sinks and drains, and use it to wipe down counter tops, floors and the area around vents. Granted, not everyone can suffer the smell of vinegar everywhere, so mint (particularly peppermint) is another great natural option. Ants, spiders, and other bugs hate mint and will avoid it, so sprinkling fresh chopped mint leaves on your windowsill or spraying a peppermint oil and water mixture should have a similar effect.
Cinnamon, cilantro, citrus, garlic, and tea tree oil are just a few of the other natural ingredients that bugs tend to avoid. You can either sprinkle these around in their plain form, or as a spray mixed with water. Do be aware, though, that for any of the natural options I’ve outlined, you will likely have to use more than you would when using a typical chemical or poison product. You will also have to repeat the preventative cleaning process more regularly, perhaps as often as once or twice a week. And lastly, for bigger, hardier bugs like cockroaches, you may have to settle for the bug poison in the end if you find the natural options aren’t doing the trick.
For a more aggressive approach to natural bug control, it’s very easy to make your own DIY bug trap from water, sugar/honey, and a little dish soap. This should be sweet enough to attract any ants and flies, but thick enough to drown them when they get stuck in in. You could place this mixture in small dishes on the floor or close to windows for ants, or in big bottles placed high on shelves for flies.
You can also make your own bug catcher by cutting through any size plastic bottle at 2/3 of the way up, turning the bottle neck piece over, and sticking it into the bottom half upside down. Just tape into place and fill with your thick, sticky bug-killing substance, or any other bug bait of your choosing, and you’re good to go. Fixing an LED light to the bottom will also help attract flying bugs.
You can even use this bottle to gently scoop up and trap stink bugs without causing them to emit that wonderful smell.
Of course, keeping your home neat and tidy, not leaving food out on the counters, and not leaving dirty dishes in the sink too long are still the best ways to discourage bugs from entering your home, but I do still recommend preparing before summer hits. I wish you luck in the war on bugs, and I hope that this article, and the others up to now, have been useful to you! Thank you again for reading, and have a beautiful bug-free day.