Pesky Pests: Easy Homemade Mosquito and Insect Traps and Repellent

By Nora Dunn on 13 July 2009 (Updated 12 March 2012) 22 comments
Photo: gliuoo

'Tis the season! You want to enjoy the long warm days and evenings by spending time outside (in the backyard, for example). The only problem is, as soon as you get comfortable out there, the pests set in shortly thereafter to make your time outside as unbearable as can be. Try these simple, safe, inexpensive homemade snares for all things creepy and crawly. (See also: Use Beer to Get Rid of Pests)

General Insect Trap Techniques

STICKY PASTE ON PAPER

  1. Find some old paper bags, plastic bags, or even just pieces of cardboard. (Don't be afraid to find creative ways to reuse things you would otherwise throw away).
     
  2. Make a paste of sugar, corn syrup, and water by heating it together. When the mixture cools, spread the paste on the paper bags (or equivalent) and place strategically around the house. They are ideal if hung.

How it works: The insects will be attracted to the sweet smell, but will get stuck in it as soon as they land on the bag.

STICKY LIQUID IN BOTTLE

  1. Start with a large clear plastic bottle or milk jug.
     
  2. Attach some string around the mouth of the bottle so it can be hung later.
     
  3. Make a thick sticky liquid with sugar and vinegar.
     
  4. Pour this sticky mixture into the bottom of the bottle.
     
  5. Chop up some appropriate bait into small enough pieces to put it inside the bottle. Fruit is usually a good bet.
     
  6. Poke some additional holes in the jug to give bugs greater access to the bait inside.
     
  7. Hang the trap in a “high-traffic” area for bugs.

How it works: They will be attracted by the fruit and fly inside, only to get stuck in the vinegar and sugar mixture.

Mosquitoes

BOTTLE TRAP METHOD

  1. Start with an empty plastic bottle that is in your recycling box. It can be as small as a 500ml bottle, or as large as a two-liter soda bottle. Discard the cap.
     
  2. Cut the top third of the bottle off. It is important to make your cut in the area below the top of the main shaft of the bottle (where it is widest). You should now have a bottle top in the shape of a funnel, and the cylindrical body of the bottle.
     
  3. Invert the bottle top (funnel) into the bottle. It should be a snug fit (given the equal diameter of the funnel top and bottle shaft), but if necessary, secure it with tape.
     
  4. Wrap the bottle with black paper to create a warm dark place for your mosquitoes to go.
     
  5. Inside the bottom of the bottle (either before you secure the inverted funnel, or poured into the bottle through the spout), place the following:
    • 1 tablespoon of yeast (for a 2-litre bottle, reduce proportionately for smaller bottles)
    • water to fill the 1/3 of the bottle
    • 1/3 cup sugar
       
  6. Place the bottle a short distance away from where you are.
     
  7. This mixture is good for up to a couple of weeks. Change as necessary.

How it works: The mosquitoes will be attracted to the CO2 generated by the yeast and will fly into the bottle. The sugar and water mixture will make them sticky, and they will be too disoriented to escape.

Yellow Jackets / Hornets / Wasps

BOTTLE TRAP

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW
  1. Use the same technique as above to construct a bottle trap with the top inverted to make a funnel into the bottle. There is no need to cover the bottle with black paper.
     
  2. Fill the bottom with a sweet liquid. Yellow jackets aren't picky; you can use juice, soda, or just sugar water. (If you wish to repel honey bees, then add a small amount of dish soap and vinegar to the bottom of the bottle before adding your sweet liquid).

How it works: Yellow jackets, hornets, and wasps will flock to this bottle (in a big way), will go inside (via the funnel), and will get stuck in the liquid or will become too disoriented to escape.

This simple technique works alarmingly well; if you are in a “high-traffic” area, you could end up emptying an entire bottle full of these pests by the end of a few days.

Flies

BOTTLE TRAP

  1. Follow the instructions above to make your own plastic bottle trap.
     
  2. Add a ¼ cup of vinegar and a ¼ cup of sugar to the bottle.
     
  3. Finish filling the bottle to just below the funnel bottom (which was formerly the bottle top) with water.

Fruit Flies

Using the same bottle trap technique, apparently all fruit flies need is vinegar to get in and get stuck.

Alternate method to the Bottle Trap:

If you don't have a plastic bottle handy, you can use a glass jar and poke holes in the lid large enough for your pest of choice to get in.

Ants

Combine flour and borox, and apply to ant-heavy areas.

Alternately (or additionally), growing herbs like spearmint, tansy, and southernwood can repel ants.

Cockroaches

Mix flour, borox, and cocoa powder and strategically bait problem areas.

Aphid Control – and Garden Pesticides

Make a spray with water and rhubarb. This is actually poisonous to many garden insects, and when sprayed on your garden will act as a natural pesticide.

Mice and Rats

If you have a rodent problem and aren't keen on using poison because you have animals that could accidentally ingest the poisoned mouse or rat (which could in turn kill your pet), then the following may be a remedy for you:

  1. Mix together flour and cement mix, and bait problem areas.
     
  2. Be sure to leave a water source nearby too.

How it works: The rodents will be attracted to the flour and will eat it (along with the cement mix too). When the rodents drink water, the cement mix will actually start to turn into cement…thus killing the critter.

While this may seem cruel (it is no more or less humane than poison), if you are the sort of person who would use poison if it weren't for the danger to domestic animals, then this may be a solution. If a dog or cat eats a rodent poisoned with cement, they will not be poisoned themselves. However, if they directly eat the flour and cement mixture (which they shouldn't be attracted to, but you never know), there could be problems. Prudent caution is advised.

Insect Repellent

If you would rather simply repel insects in a natural and inexpensive manner, apply some vanilla extract or vanilla essence to your pulse points. Not only will you be bug-free, but you'll smell good too!

I know there are more insect traps and repellents out there. Feel free to share your best homemade secrets for staying pest-free in the comments!

 

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Guest's picture
Sean

Oddly enough, I have also heard that spraying listerine around the area where you are going to be will keep mosquitos away!

Nora Dunn's picture

@Sean - Cool! Hav eyou tried the listerine yet? I wonder if other brands of mouthwash work too...

Guest's picture
geoff k

Dear Friend, it does not work well at all!!! i had done the test in a lab @ Malaysia... although the listerin has some component (ie: eucalyptus oils) known to repel mosquito BUT the level is way too low to see any effect...

Guest's picture
terry zane

I used it, it done very good and I did pass it on to others.
now I do smell better...thanks

I also found that a sticky mouse pad placed in a corner
in the house, with a few sprinkles of candy, spiders, ants and others nightly bugs will crawl on this and stick for ever. one one but many. place it in a corner where no one will see or step on it. this gives you an idea where they roam all the time.
Just like one big happy family.

keep 'em coming

Guest's picture
judy

I have great luck with a product from Avon called Skin So Soft. It is a body oil normally used after bathing. Spread it on exposed skin when outdoors and mosquitoes will leave you alone. You smell great and the kids like it too. Very effective. There are several different kinds to choose from, but the original (in the green bottle) works best.

Guest's picture
Guest

Skin so soft DOES NOT work on Jersey Shore greenhead flies. It's more of an attractant; We used skin so soft one night, and woke up covered with bites.

Nora Dunn's picture

@terry zane - Excellent! Good to know. I like the sticky mouse pad idea - easily harnessed and customized with some of the techniques above too.

@judy - I love Avon Skin-so-soft very much for an off-the-shelf product that does the trick.

Guest's picture
Nicole

Just remember that the leaves of the rhubarb are poisonous to humans as well.

Guest's picture
Guest

Do you have any pictures of how these do-it-yourself items are supposed to look?

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

Although I was unable to locate a picture of this kind of trap (it is winter in Australia and we don't need them right now!), I have finally found an example of the plastic bottle trap here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/dincahill/2798040684/

Notice all the wasps they have already caught...

Guest's picture
Ami Dada

Gee girl, you are smart.
Some of your ideas rocks. Thanks

P.S. Save the wasps, stop kilem.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Ami - Thanks! Hope you can make good use of these tricks.

And although I'd love to be responsible enough not to kill wasps, I have yet to find a way to deter them from being around me (and I'm allergic to them) without doing so. Any tips are welcome!

Guest's picture
Justin

Very interesting combos for repellants. Love the info. Thanks for sharing.

Guest's picture

Great alternative ways to get rid of pests if you run out of repellent!

Guest's picture

1/2 vodka 1/2 water is a spray bottle is a great way to ward off bees and flies.

Nora Dunn's picture
Nora Dunn

@Tom - Great tip...as long as you live somewhere where alcohol is cheap (like the States). In Canada for example, that would be a very expensive solution... :-)

Guest's picture
Guest

Very handy as I am currently trying to find ways to captures insects for science experiment/project.

Guest's picture
Amanda

did i completely miss it or is there not something used for spiders?

Guest's picture
Bobbie

If you want to humanely get rid of rats or mice, you'll need a small trashcan or 5 gallon bucket, a cardboard box, and some peanut butter. Cut a 3 inch strip of cardboard about 4 inches longer than you would need to make a ramp from the ground up to them top of the bucket. Now, make that ramp, and bend the excess back and forth so that it will fall under light weight. Put a dollop of peanut butter on the end of the cardboard and when they try to get it they fall in and can't escape. Release them far from your home. I caught a mouse in 15 minutes of doing this!

Guest's picture
Jessi

Not to bad of ideas, but the one listed above doesn't work for wasps. Tried it last summer in an attic full of them. They ignored it.

Guest's picture
Guest

For those pesky small ants one of the best ways to get rid of them in your lawn is with instant grits, just sprinkle it around the ant hills and in about a week the ants are gone.

Guest's picture
Guest

has anyone tried this in apple trees as alternative to pesticides?