As the warm weather brings unwanted guests into our homes, we round up the most effective products to tackle common insect intruders
Summer is great for many things, from picnics in the park to swimming at the beach.
But we’re not the only ones enjoying the warm weather — the hotter months also mean an influx of insects and bugs.
For many of us, it can be uncomfortable giving our homes over to these creepy crawlies, but there are ways to manage and control our unwanted guests.
Director of Cork Nature Network, Gill Weyman, and member John Emmet O’Sullivan note that the most common insects we find in our homes at this time of year are flies, wasps, mosquitoes and ants, which are more active in warm weather due to their metabolisms.
They point out that although such insects can be an annoyance, the best way to manage bugs is through deterrence, as they are essential for biodiversity.
“Insects play critical roles in pollination, decomposition, nutrient cycling, food chain and pest control. These tiny animals are fundamental for a healthy ecosystem,” Gill says. “Insects are in decline. We need them for our natural environment, for biodiversity and as pollinators for food production.
“They play a significant role within ecosystem food webs and maintaining their numbers is a necessity, instead of depletion. It is about collaborating with them, adapting our practices to deter them and providing them with outside habitats.”
When things do get out of balance, however, or for those afraid of certain insects, there are effective products you can use to discourage or get rid of them altogether.
“The reality is that most amateur products are really good at killing insects — they actually go through a lot of tests before registration and will only pass if they are safe and effective,” says Chris Izart, Director of Dublin company OwlPestControl.ie. “Amateur and professional products use the same ingredients.”
What makes the difference, he adds, is “the knowledge and experience on how to use them for a quick kill, and how to control, without chemicals, the conditions which are conducive to insects for the long term”, which can take “a lifetime of learning”.
Richard Faulkner, Advanced Technical Field Consultant with Rentokil.ie, notes that if your infestation is really out of control, the most cost-effective solution is to seek professional help.
“If you’ve got a large problem, get on to a professional company because it’s gonna save you money,” he says. “Especially this time of year, if you’re dealing with a lot of wasps — because you’ve got the risk of anaphylactic shock, you need the proper PPE, and they can become very aggressive when being treated.”
We asked the experts which products they recommend for dealing with unwanted bugs at home.
Marie Hand, Managing Director of Wicklow cleaning service BlitzCleaning.ie, discovered Orion Gel Bait (€20 for two, Amazon) while visiting her sister in Spain and she now swears by it.
“I’ve seen a huge improvement since I’ve introduced this product as part of my cleaning toolkit,” she says. “It’s a kind of star-shaped holder that sits on the floor, I have mine in the kitchen and it’s brilliant, I haven’t seen an ant for about two years.”
On a lower budget, Rachel O’Connell, Head of Pest Control at Dublin company CleanAllOver.ie, recommends Nippon Ant Bait Station (€9.99 for two, lenehans.ie).
“They are easy to use, mess-free and safe. They leave no nasty or dangerous residue around the home and they act quickly too,” she says. “Plus, they are safe to use around pets and kids.”
To keep wasps and flies out of the house, Richard recommends starting from the outside.
“If we feed our pets outside, make sure that when the pets have finished eating we remove any excess food and keep our bins as far away from entrances to buildings as possible.
The bins can attract flies and wasps, and if it’s near a door and the door’s open, the next port of call is to come through that door into your home,” he says.
Gill notes that August is peak time for wasps, but “they can be discouraged from homes by using essential plant oils such as lemon oil or lavender oil”, (from €8.95, evergreen.ie).
Patricia O’Neill, founder of Dublin cleaning service Aboutime.ie, is also a fan of using essential oils as a deterrent, pointing out they have a number of uses.
“Put a few drops of the oil into a spray bottle with water and then spray it around, or if there’s a place where you know insects are gathering, you can soak a piece of cotton wool with some of these oils and place it there and they just won’t go there,” she advises. “Be careful with the oils because they’re strong, so always use gloves.”
For a more immediate solution, Marie likes the “really fast-acting” Aldi Fly and Wasp Spray, although it is not currently available in Irish stores. An alternative option is the Rentokil Fly and Wasp Killer Spray (€4.26, OwlPestControl.ie), which can quickly get wasps under control.
Marie’s other top pick is the Aeroxon Window Fly Killer (€5.49 for four, Woodies), a window sticker that kills flies on contact. “This product lasts for six months and is decorative on any glass in the home,” she says. “Unlike sprays, it doesn’t release any odour.”
Creative entomologist Nessa Darcy prefers a natural solution: vinegar traps. “I do occasionally resort to self-defence methods,” she says.
“This is just a cup of apple cider vinegar with a drop of washing-up liquid on top to break the surface tension. Place it on a counter near the flies’ favourite hangout spot and they will soon be tempted to their doom.”
Although there are at least 18 species of mosquitoes that can be found in Ireland, Gill notes that none of them are disease vectors. “A good way to keep them away from homes is to grow basil plants indoors, which produce essential oils that deter mosquitoes,” she says.
Nessa also advocates using natural plant oils over harsh chemicals. “If I’m working outdoors where there are a lot of horseflies, mosquitoes or ticks, I use a natural lemon eucalyptus-based insect repellent,” she says.
LifeSystems Natural Insect Repellent Spray (€12.99, LifeSystemsOutdoor.com) can last up to eight hours per application and is designed to repel mosquitoes, midges, horseflies, sandflies, gnats and ticks.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE) is recommended for all crawling insects, including fleas, lice, bed bugs, silverfish and ants, and can be applied to almost any surface (from €8.40, OwlPestControl.ie).
“It’s a powder that is not poisonous — it’s kind of like ground-down fossilised algae and that’s very good for all kinds of bugs. You can use that inside the house, even on your bed,” Patricia says.
Chris adds that DE won’t work if wet and warns that you may need a combination of insecticides for a particular insect. He also mentions smoke generators such as the Insecto Smoke Bomb (from €8.95, lenehans.ie), used to kill fleas, cockroaches and flying insects.
“They are brilliant for getting rid of clusters in attics as the fumes spread out everywhere,” Chris says, noting that if you have a large infestation, you’re better off calling the professionals. “The fumes don’t penetrate the eggs or fleas that are hidden inside drawers or fabrics.”
The best way to tackle silverfish, Chris adds, is to “tackle the build-up of excess moisture in the long run”. Richard points out that these bugs are becoming a lot more common in Irish households.
“It was sort of a minor pest that we didn’t deal with that much, but in the last few years they’ve become very prevalent. Hoover regularly — they’re starch and cellulose feeders, so keep the environment clean and disturbed. The more settled an environment, the happier an animal is there.
Silverfish like a good bit of relative humidity, so sometimes you can use a dehumidifier.”
Margaret Miller, Managing Director of Dublin cleaning company PinkLady.ie, also recommends a dehumidifier for removing excess moisture, such as the ElectriQ 10L Dehumidifier (€114.97, BuyItDirect.ie).
“It’s good value at 10 litres of water per day, extracting moisture from walls, ceilings and floors,” she says, noting it can help to tackle black mould too. “It’s a great machine to have on your side.”