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Safer Pest Control

Ants, spiders, roaches, and their ilk aren't exactly welcome houseguests. But some of the pesticides commonly used to get rid of them can be more dangerous to your baby than what's bugging you, says Janet Hurley, a pest-management expert at Texas AgriLife Extension at Texas A&M University in Dallas.

Fortunately, there are much less toxic remedies you can buy or make yourself with common household ingredients that banish bugs.

Roaches Sprinkle boric acid in childproof bait containers (both found at hardware stores) and place them in areas where roaches tend to hide (under kitchen sinks, in pantries and cabinets). Or buy pesticide-free roach traps at pestproducts.com.


Spiders Most spiders are actually helpful because they prey on other insects. If they still freak you out, vacuum in corners and around windows once a month to get rid of the webs and egg cases. Then dump the vacuum bag or empty the canister.

Ants Fill a spray bottle with equal parts vinegar and water, or try EcoSmart's organic insecticides made from plant oils ($4 for a 14-oz. aerosol can; buyecosmart.com). Then spray around doorways, windows, and other
ant hot spots.

Mice Use a traditional snap trap with a sticky bait such as peanut butter, or if you're a gentle sort, either a live trap which pens the mouse in a cage without killing it, or a glue trap (also called a glue board) that the mouse gets stuck to. Rather than risk being bitten as you try to release the critter outside, just toss him in a plastic bag, secure it tightly and dispose. Whichever you choose, position the traps so that they're perpendicular to a wall, with the bait end flush against it you'll have better luck because mice like to run against walls). Close off the area where you have traps so pets and children can't get to them. You can also try a new "Rodent Repellent Garbage Bag" that's scented with natural oils like eucalyptus and mint, which irritates rodent sinuses and masks food odors. They're available online at nomorerodents.com. Cases of 100 bags start at $39.

Bats Though the thought of a bat in your house is likely to make you shiver, these winged warriors are very beneficial to nature, and in some areas, it's a crime to kill them. The recommended procedure for removing a solitary bat from your home is to wait until it lands on the wall and quickly cover it with a box. Then slip a piece of cardboard between the wall and the box, so the bat is caught inside. Take it outside and then release it. Bunches of bats, known as a colony, typically nest around chimneys, in attics, behind shutters, or under loose siding or shingles. If this is the case at your house, you've got more work to do. The preferred practice is called "exclusion." Basically you seal off any openings so they can't get back in and force them to make their home elsewhere. As for rabies, only about 1 in a 1000 bats in a colony carry this illness. If you find a bat lying on the ground, it is likely to be either injured or rabid, so exit the premises and call animal control in your area right away. For more how-to-advice on handling bats, go to the web site of Bat Conservation International, batcon.org.

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