9 Insecticide-Free Tips to Keep Bugs out of Your House

Man using caulking gun, close-up
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Pest control, if done by a professional exterminator, can be expensive. If you do it yourself, it can be messy and time-consuming. But in either case, the biggest gripe is probably that there are bugs living in your home—and that's just gross. So the easier, less expensive route is to make changes in your environment that prevent bugs and rodents from entering in the first place.​

Thankfully, most insects require a moister environment than our homes provide. That's why, for the most part, they stay outside. They aren't foreign invaders looking to conquer territory. But they are opportunists.

In theory, a pest management professional (your local exterminator) would choose a home with no wood, paper, or foam in the construction, no mulch in the landscaping, a six-foot-high foundation, and no plants within five feet of the structure. But, my home isn't like that and neither is yours. (That would be a pretty funky looking house.) So, here are a few tips you can use to help make your home unattractive to pests that are looking for shelter.

Insecticide-Free Tips to Keep Bugs out of Your House

  1. Don't invite bugs to live near your home. If there is too much vegetation growing against or on your home, or it is too dense, it becomes an invitation for bugs living there to move on into your home if their outside situation becomes too wet, hot, cold, or dry.
  2. Research your plants before you plant. Some plants are the main food source for insects. Peonies are a big draw for ants; bees love flowers; etc.
  3. Mulch is dead, decaying organic material. I can't tell you how many insects live in and/or feed on "decaying organic material." It also produces warmth in winter as it decays—giving insects nice, warm harborage.
  4. Make sure moisture drains away from the structure. Damp soil near the home, particularly when the rest of the yard is mostly dry, is irresistible to many insects.
  5. Again—don't allow living plants to touch your home, especially above the foundation. It's advice worth repeating. Even a single blade of untrimmed grass can become a bridge from the ground into our world.

Bug-Proofing the Structure Itself 

  1. Seal cracks in concrete slabs and walls. Mechanically exclude pests from emerging upward into our world from beneath concrete slabs and through concrete walls by caulking cracks and seams in the concrete. This requires a little more time and effort, but it will outlast any attempt to chemically "seal" these areas from insects, as spraying must be done over and over again.
  2. Don't allow exterior fascia (siding, brick, stucco, etc.) to contact the soil or landscaping. Having some vertical foundation between the bug world and our world is a critical defense to keeping creepy-crawlies at bay. "Wood-to-soil" contact blurs the line between the insect world and ours. It invites all varieties of bugs to see how good we have it. This also usually causes moisture to wick up into the structure, causing water rot and mold issues.
  3. Don't allow moist lumber or insulation. This is the number one cause of recurring ants in a home. Preventing leaks from showers, windows, toilets, gutters, sinks, etc. is the single most important thing to keep your home from becoming a magnet to pests looking for a better living situation.
  4. Caulk or seal all side and top seams around windows, doors, and other "holes" in the exterior fascia like utility lines and water spigots.

But Be Careful!

It is critical to note that the bottom seams of window trim, stucco, siding, or any fascia material must not be sealed. Our homes must be allowed to "breathe" to alleviate condensation buildup in the walls. If totally sealed, an air-conditioned home in a muggy environment would sweat like an ice-cold beverage, and this moisture must be allowed to exit and equalize or it could result in terrible mold and water rot conditions.

These bottom edges are, however, where insects are most likely to enter; especially the first seam where the fascia meets the foundation. This is a perfect location to use an insecticide or a natural repellent such as cinnamon, or other non-air-tight barriers in these areas. DO NOT CAULK.

In addition to all of the above, remember general sanitation and remember the size of your adversaries. Even a small amount of crumbs on the floor from dinner could a banquet for a colony of ants.

In pest control—as with most situations in life—a little prevention goes a long way.