Every year when we go camping, we develop an uneasy relationship with bugs. Insects are everywhere in our world; there are far more of them than of us. Living in houses most of the time, we find ourselves further and further separated from the outdoor world of nature and bugs. Camping brings us right back in line.
Because we camp with medieval reenactment groups, we see a lot of medieval pavilion tents. You know, the ones with canvas walls and no connected floors. The people who live in these tents (while camping) lay down a tarp on the ground and often put rugs on top, creating a comfortable indoor floor. They open their walls wide midday to let in the fresh air and cool down their tents. Between the open walls and semi-earth floor, those tents collect a fair number of insects. The people who sleep in these tents are mostly fine with this, saying most of the flying insects congregate up near the ceiling. I have a hard time with this philosophy myself. I don’t love bugs.
But what really is the alternative? We built an insect-resistant yurt. We attached the floor to screened walls under the liftable privacy walls, have a screen on our center hole, and a bug screen inside out door. Nevertheless, ants visit multiple times daily, to the point that we have to ignore them, and large beetles sneak in every day or two. Camping, we can throw the beetles out and ignore the ants, but what about at home?
Many Canadians do not like to see bugs in their homes. Bugs are quickly put outside or squashed. Infestations of ants such as we see while camping are met with poisons and bait. Inside our house, the number of indoor plants results in a higher-than-normal number of small flies that will not respond to traditional baiting with juice/vinegar/etc and a cup covered with holey plastic wrap. Each late spring, the ants come marching in. I see creepy and fast house centipedes every month or so. The worst one? Little silverfish-like bugs that eat paper. Those need to leave. Outdoors, we get Japanese beetles so badly that our ornamental cherry looks brown by late June, and the peas an cabbage often fare no better. Wasps keep trying to set up shop on our house, and box elder beetles multiply in hills and creep into our house through every crack.
Dealing with insects is a matter of attitude. People who live in tropical and subtropical areas are much more likely to live alongside insects and all manner of other creepy crawlies as a matter of course, no pesticides needed. It’s all how you become used to living, and if you can adjust your attitude, you may find you get along better with the tiniest inhabitants of your home without resorting to removal methods at all. Where it matters most, there are natural ways to keep gardens pest-free, using companion planting and border plants, but this doesn’t always solve every issue. Storing foods in pest-resistant containers keeps most insects out of kitchens.
Some of the bugs, like the flies, we’re resigned to sharing our home with. Some, like the mounds of box elder beetle, are shocking but don’t do much harm. Some are scary but helpful, like the house centipede, which eats other bugs. Ants, on the other hand, tend to cause harm indoors be swarming in huge numbers, eating my lemon plant, and invading the kitchen. The silverfish-like bugs will eat my books if I let them. The wasps keep my family from enjoying outdoor activities. And the Japanese beetles eat my garden to bits if I let them. What do we do? We want to avoid harmful chemicals in the environment and in our home and bodies. I’m already allergic to enough.
Some insects will be around whether you want them or not, and don’t hurt anything. How do we deal with the harmful ones in our house? See Part 2 next Friday for safer solutions to getting rid of common pests.