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31 DIY Pest Control Methods that Don’t Work

Our guide busts the most common pest control myths and provides proven methods to try instead.

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pest control methods that don't work

If you’ve got a pest problem in your home, the last thing you want to do is to try to get rid of them using unproven, ineffective methods.

Unfortunately, there are dozens published online, even on seemingly reputable websites.

Don’t worry; you don’t need to spend time wondering what will work and what won’t.

In this blog, we’ve compiled some of the most common (and frustrating) pest control myths out there and busted every one of them.

By the time you’re done reading, you’ll know what control methods won’t work and what to do instead.

Rodent Control Myths

1. Ultrasonic devices

While it’s true that some ultrasonic devices can disorient or annoy pests, they aren’t an effective option for long-term rodent control.

No matter how many of them you buy, rodents like rabbits, chipmunks, mice, and rats will quickly become acclimatized to the noise.

What to do instead: Focus on proven rodent control tactics, like trapping, baiting, and exclusion tactics.

2. Repellent plants

chipmunk

Some people will tell you that high-fragrance plants, like mint and oregano, repel rodents.

Unfortunately, there’s no real evidence for this, and using “repellent plants” isn’t enough to deal with an established rodent population.

What to do instead: If there’s an area of your garden you’re trying to protect from critters like gophers, ground squirrels, or rabbits, invest in a trapping program and proven exclusion tactics, like fencing, to keep rodents out rather than wasting money on repellent plant borders.

3. Dumping cat poop into gopher holes

There’s no proof that cat poop is scientifically proven or effective for controlling gophers and other rodents.

In fact, this approach may even create health risks due to the pathogens contained in cat feces.

What to do instead: Buy pre-formulated rodent repellents from your local hardware or home goods store and place them in or near rodent holes or burrows. Here’s a formula we like.

4. Using cats/dogs to catch rodents

While cats and dogs might catch the occasional rat or mouse, they are not effective as a primary method of control.

Also, rodents carry diseases that can easily transmit to your domestic pets, so encouraging contact between pets and wild rodents is never a good idea.

What to do instead: Use traps designed for rodents, like t-rex snap traps. Increase the efficacy of your trapping program by using bait stations (like these), as well.

5. Rats’ #1 goal is to seek food

People tend to believe that rats are ravenous and that the best way to catch them is to focus on providing enticing food.

Unfortunately, this is a misguided myth. While food is essential to rats, they’re varied and savvy eaters, so they usually have more than enough food.

The bottom line is this: rats are not hungry – they are curious, and they are cautious. We don’t control rats by appealing to their gluttonous appetite.

Instead, we need to focus on understanding their curiosity, their fear of the new (neophobia), and their obsessive habits.

What to do instead: Rats primarily seek shelter and safety. They’re smart and hesitant to interact with new things in their environment.

To remove them effectively, work with these tendencies. Set lots of pre-seasoned traps in the spaces they frequent. In most cases, you don’t even need to put any food on rat traps if you put the traps in the right places – the rats will naturally come into contact with them.

To pre-season the traps, put some droppings (wear gloves) on the traps or in the bait stations.

We recommend leaving the traps or bait stations empty for a week so the rats can become accustomed to passing over or through them without seeing any of their brethren get killed.

Once you set and bait the traps, leave them in place for an additional few weeks for the best results.

6. Cheese is the best bait for mouse traps

The cartoons lied to you! Mice are not obsessed with cheese, and using cheese to set traps may actually make them less effective.

What to do instead: Mice are attracted to various food items, and many will prefer traps set with peanut butter, seeds, or even chocolate.

7. Mice and rats leave a house to die after consuming poison

While some rodents may die outside, this generally isn’t true. In most cases, rodents who ingest poison will die in their nests or other hidden areas within a home, such as vents and wall voids.

What to do instead: To get rid of rodents like mice, use baits sparingly indoors. Instead, focus on proven tactics like traps and exclusion methods.

8. Mice and rats can’t climb

This is a pervasive myth, but it’s just not true. In fact, mice and rats are excellent climbers and can quickly scale rough vertical surfaces or traverse wires and cables.

What to do instead: Use rodents’ climbing ability to your advantage by setting traps on beams, rafters, and other elevated areas such as the attic.

General Pest Control Myths

bed bugs

9. Pests are only found in dirty homes, motels, or hotels

While some pests are attracted to clutter and mess, pests can infest clean spaces, too.

As long as a space offers ample food, water, and shelter, pests will infest it! In most cases, pests enter these spaces via infested furniture or textiles or in clothes or luggage after traveling.

What to do instead: Focus on sanitation efforts, like removing clutter and pest food sources, but don’t let those things consume all your energy. Make sure you’re also investing in trapping, exclusion, baiting, and pesticides, as needed.

10. All pests are harmful

Some pests, like spiders and certain insects, can actually be beneficial. In fact, they may help control other, more problematic pests.

What to do instead: At Pest Dude, we believe that all pests have a purpose and that the trick is controlling their numbers so they don’t become destructive.

With this in mind, shift your focus from eliminating all pests to managing them appropriately.

Instead of killing pests like spiders, we recommend using repellents to move them to places where they can do good by eating lots of nasty bugs.

For best results, we recommend using EcoVia, and Essentria products.

11. DIY pest control is just as effective as professional pest control

We’re strong believers in DIY pest control (it’s what we teach people to do, after all!) And while it’s absolutely true that some DIY methods can help with minor infestations, it’s not always the most appropriate approach.

What to do instead: Call a professional team if your pest infestation is severe. Professional pest management companies have the knowledge, experience, and tools to deal with larger or more persistent problems.

Not sure to hire?

Contact us at (844) 532-0076, and we’ll connect you with reputable pest management professionals in your area.

12. Pests die off in the winter

Not true! Some pests, like cockroaches and bed bugs, can survive in the winter by moving indoors or hibernating in warm, out-of-the-way places, like wall voids.

What to do instead: Don’t wait for your pest infestation to resolve itself or believe that it won’t come back next year. Treat potential hibernation areas with baits, traps, or residual pesticides, as appropriate, to manage pest populations before they resurface in the spring.

13. Once you no longer see pests, the infestation is gone

Just because pests aren’t visible doesn’t mean the problem is resolved. In reality, many pests hide in unseen areas of the home, where they breed and reproduce, rapidly making your pest problem worse.

What to do instead: Avoid the “out of sight, out of mind” approach. Call us at (844) 532-0076 to find a pest management professional to help put an end to your pest problem.

14. Calling a pest management company is the best way to get rid of snakes and lizards

Snakes, lizards, and other reptiles can be creepy, but rarely are they worth calling a pest control company about. In fact, you can usually get rid of them with a little DIY habitat modification.

What to do instead: Rather than try to kill all the snakes and lizards on your property, which is very difficult and expensive, ask yourself why they’re coming to your property.

What do they like?

They like hiding places, and they like lots of access to bugs and rodents.

Lizards, for example, like to eat insects, so if you have a lot of insects, you’re going to have a lot of lizards. To get rid of lizards, focus on dealing with the insects (or other food source) rather than the lizards.

Close up gaps and cracks underneath your structure so they can’t hide in those areas. Move your stacked woodpile farther from the home if possible. Get rid of piled-up debris and rethink your property layout and design to get rid of reptiles. These tactics are more effective and more affordable than relying on a pest control company!

15. Deer repellent will stop deer from eating your plants in the summer

Not true! Deer aren’t eating your plants just because they love how they taste.

In most cases, deer are actually eating your plants in the summer because they’re thirsty.

Deer-resistant plants become deer food in the drought of summer, and even gallons of deer repellent won’t stop the deer from munching on your landscaping.

What to do instead: Don’t waste your time applying repellents to your plants. Instead, invest in some deer netting to protect your plants and avoid deer predation.

16. You can get rid of common pests like squirrels, raccoons, opossums, or skunks, by shooting or trapping them

These pests reproduce rapidly and they love to eat fruit, vegetables, garbage, and pet food – all of which are easy to find around homes.

Pests like squirrels can also climb almost anything, which makes them difficult to repel.

What’s more, they tend to be very difficult to trap or eliminate.

While the myth is that you can just shoot these pests or trap and kill them to get rid of them, those approaches rarely work.

What to do instead: Don’t waste your time or money trying to kill pests like squirrels, raccoons, opossums, or skunks. In most cases, these pests are harmless, and some of them (like opossums, which eat insects) may even be beneficial.

Instead, focus on pest-proofing your home and garden. Even if it’s a greater expense and more of a challenge in the short term, it will pay off in the long term.

If you have skunks coming through your property bothering your dogs, consider installing different fencing that will keep the skunks out.

Additionally, lock up or get rid of all food sources, especially if you’re trying to get rid of raccoons.

17. Killing chipmunks, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, and other burrowing rodents is the best way to get rid of them

When it comes to these rodents, many people think they’ll just shoot them with a 22 or pellet gun or throw repellent down their holes.

Some people even resort to sticking the exhaust pipe of their cars down their burrows.

Unfortunately, none of these approaches will work!

The fact is that these populations of animals can be so big that treating a few burrows with any method won’t make any difference in the population.

Instead, you might actually make the problem worse by creating a vacuum effect that leaves some burrows available for the neighbors to reproduce and move into.

What to do instead: When dealing with widespread burrowing rodents like ground squirrels, you need to think about how you’re going to eliminate all of them within a football field radius of your property (100 yds in every direction).

If you can’t address the population on that scale, you may just waste a lot of money and time picking off a few rodents here and there.

We don’t want friends throwing good money after bad, so we’re here to tell you the “one by one” method is not an effective control tactic.

Other tactics, like noisemakers, repellents, and shooting only work if you spend 5 to 7 days a week on them and the animals will only stay gone as long as you keep up your efforts.

If you’re going to use trapping, be ready to have a good euthanization program available. In most states, you’re not allowed to relocate trapped wildlife. Instead, you have to release the animals in the vicinity of where they were caught, or euthanize them humanely, which is a miserable and messy process if you’re dealing with a large population of burrowing rodents.

Instead, we recommend using a bait program and putting out enough food (1/4 lb per animal is a good starting point), then letting that bait program run for the full summer – maybe even two summers for severe infestations.

Insect Control Myths

ants

18. Bedbugs only infest dirty beds

Untrue! In fact, bedbugs have been found in some of the world’s nicest hotels, where cleanliness is a top priority. The truth is that bedbugs can infest any environment, dirty or clean, as long as they have access to a host to feed on.

What to do instead: Get rid of bed bugs by purchasing a mattress casing that covers your entire mattress, washing bedding in hot water once a week, and regularly steam-cleaning carpets, drapes, and other textiles. You should also steam-clean used furniture, clothing, or other fabrics you bring into the home.

19. Ants won’t cross a chalk line

This is a myth. While the powder might temporarily disorient ants, it will not stop them from entering or infesting your space.

What to do instead: Usually, if you see a trail of ants, they’re coming indoors because of bad weather outside – they may not even be looking for food.

They’re just trying to get warm and dry. To get rid of the ants entering your home, don’t waste your time on products like Raid (which is just a repellent that won’t actually kill the colony of ants) or home remedies like chalk lines.

Instead, put out ant bait (just be sure to use it safely).

Many people are afraid to put out ant bait because it attracts ants, but that’s the point. When you put out ant bait and ants come into the home to eat the bait, they’re feasting on the bait and bringing it back to their hive to feed the other ants.

This is the best way to wipe out the entire colony.

20. Cockroaches only infest dirty homes

Like bedbugs, cockroaches are opportunistic pests that can live in various environments. While they are attracted to food spills and scraps, sanitation alone isn’t enough to eliminate them.

What to do instead: Take a multi-faceted approach to getting rid of cockroaches. Ensure you’re securing food sources and cleaning up all food spills promptly, but add additional layers of defense with trapping, baiting, and exclusion tactics.

21. All bees are harmful and aggressive

Not all bees are aggressive. In fact, many types of bees are quite docile unless threatened or trapped inside clothing. What’s more, they play an essential role in pollinating plants.

What to do instead: Resist the urge to target and eliminate all bees. While you may want to eliminate pests, like wasps, it’s important to differentiate between problematic and beneficial species. While honey bees are not protected, they are a beneficial species.

You can tell the difference between wasps and bees by looking at their body shape: while bees have round, full bodies covered in fuzzy hairs, wasps have slim, narrow, hairless bodies and long, thin legs.

22. You can get rid of paper wasps with wasp traps

Anytime you’re using a wasp trap or a hornet trap to capture stinging insects, you’re just wasting your time and attracting more pests to your property.

That’s because the size of these wasp colonies is enormous – it’s common for 10,000 individual insects to make up a colony in the summer.

Because of that, it’s very unlikely that putting out traps is going to reduce that population at all. After all, there may be 25 hives within a mile of your backyard barbecue. If you hang up hornet/wasp traps, you’re just creating another lure to bring them in.

What to do instead: What many people don’t realize is that paper wasps are beneficial like spiders. They eat nectar and small bugs. They also eat aphids at scale and can prevent them from attacking your plants. What’s more, wasps are rarely attracted to wasp traps, and they tend to avoid bait stations.

Because of this, we recommend a different approach to treating them: if you see a paper wasp hive under the eaves of your house, wait until dark, and then hit it with a small blast of Naturecide or EcoVia wasp spray.

23. Calling a pest control company is the best way to deal with flying insects

One common pest control myth is that spraying around the house or calling a pest control company is the best way to control any winged insect that’s bugging you in the yard or getting indoors.

What to do instead: Save your money. Unless you want to spray and kill every insect in your neighborhood (which is not practical or possible), you’re not going to stop pests like flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and other flying bugs from coming into your home or bugging you in the yard.

After all, these pests have wings, and they can travel a great distance.

The best way to control them is to invest in eliminating their food sources on your property. Compost piles, soiled garbage cans, and dog poop all attract flies, for example. Clean up to get rid of the pests.

You should also screen your doors and windows and use natural insect repellent to keep them away.

24. Fleas can only live on pets

Pets get a bad reputation for being flea hosts. What many people don’t know, though, is that fleas can also live in carpets, rugs, or upholstered furniture. When they infest these textiles, they lay eggs that can lead to a new infestation even after pets are treated.

What to do instead: Treat your pets and your home’s textiles. Steam cleaning, residual insecticides, and dust insecticide formulations can help prevent and get rid of flea infestations in the long run.

25. Mosquitoes are only active at dusk and dawn

While some mosquito species are most active during these times, others will feed at any time of day.

What to do instead: Don’t let your guard down during the day. Invest in passive mosquito traps that catch and kill adult mosquitos around the clock and use mosquito killers to treat standing water sources, like ponds, where mosquitoes breed and lay eggs.

Pesticide Myths

pesticide

26. More pesticide is always better

More is not always better. In fact, using more pesticides than directed can harm your health and the environment and does not necessarily lead to better results.

What to do instead: Read and follow all label directions carefully, or hire a professional pest management team to apply pesticides for you.

27. All pesticides are harmful to humans and pets

While some pesticides contain harsh chemicals that are dangerous for people, pets, and the environment, others are designed to be safe for humans and pets. However, it’s still important to use them responsibly and follow all instructions.

What to do instead: Read pesticide labels carefully, and look for natural formulas that are pet- and kid-safe (once dry). We also recommend focusing on non-chemical pest control methods, like exclusion and habitat modification.

28. Natural or organic pest control products are always safe

Sure, natural and organic products tend to be safer, but even these formulas can be harmful if used incorrectly.

What to do instead: Even if you’re buying natural and organic products, use them with the same caution as synthetic pesticides.

29. Pesticides kill pests instantly

Pesticides can take time to work, particularly for larger infestations. It can take several days to a few weeks to see the full effects of a pesticide application.

What to do instead: If you want a formula that kills pests instantly, look for contact pesticides and formulas (like CB-80 aerosol insecticide) that advertise instant knock-down. Otherwise, be patient. Just because you don’t see pests dropping dead right away doesn’t mean the pesticide isn’t working.

30. All insects can be killed with the same pesticides

Different pests require different treatment strategies, formulations, and pesticides. What works for ants, for instance, may not work for termites.

What to do instead: Look for pesticides specifically formulated for the pest you’re trying to kill. You’ll usually get better results from a roach-specific pesticide, for example, than you will from a broad-spectrum formula designed to target numerous species.

31. Organic pesticides won’t kill beneficial insects

Not true! While organic pesticides might be less harmful than synthetic ones, they can still kill beneficial insects if used improperly.

What to do instead: Use all pesticides responsibly, and be sure to follow the label directions carefully to minimize impact on beneficial and non-target species.

Are Pests Infesting Your Property? We can Help!

Don’t settle for sharing your space with problematic pests or wasting your time on pest control tactics that just don’t work.

At The Pest Dude, we teach people to do their own pest control with real, proven methods we’ve field-tested ourselves. If your DIY approaches don’t work, though, or you need more help, we’re here for you.

We have a broad network of reputable pest control partners in your area that can help you eliminate bed bugs.

Call us at (844) 532-0076, and we’ll connect you to the pros you need to get life back to normal!

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Author Bio: Zachary Smith

Zachary Smith is the founder of PestDude.com. Zachary is a licensed pest control professional with 20+ years of hands on experience eradicating pests from homes and businesses. Zachary earned his Bachelor of Science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 2002. He specializes in rodent and insect infestation management of structures and landscapes. His passion is to share his extensive knowledge with the world.

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