Killing Bugs Naturally

I am a bit of an insectophobe. I can tolerate bugs when I am outside. After all, I’m visiting their home. But my tolerance runs out when they visit my home or RV, especially when they start buzzing around (and landing in) my family’s food (and their hair).  

I really don’t like to use chemical pesticides, and have tried to avoid them as much as possible. My recent experience with a fruit fly invasion allowed me to experiment with a natural solution to get rid of fruit flies that I’ve read about on the internet – Apple Cider Vinegar and liquid dish detergent.


Fruit Fly Invasion

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed fruit flies buzzing around the kitchen. I thought, “No big deal. They have a short life span. The problem will take care of itself.” A couple of days later, fruit flies were in my bedroom and the bathroom. Fast forward a week, I spotted the little buggers everywhere in my house, dive bombing my head, in my food, on the windows, buzzing around lights. Gah! I needed to take action.

I poured Apple Cider Vinegar into a small plate. I added a just a little bit of water so that the liquid would reach the side of the plate (without spilling over). Then I added a little squirt of Dawn Liquid Dish Detergent (approximately ¼ tsp).  The fruit flies are attracted to the Apple Cider Vinegar. They land in the liquid and the dish detergent will kill them. Okey dokey, I decided to give it a try.



Day One: Party Central

I left the plate on the counter overnight and woke up to find quite a few dead fruit flies in the liquid. Hooray! Alas, my glee was short-lived. Upon closer inspection, I saw there were about twenty more fruit flies under the lip of the plate and walking perilously close to the vinegar mixture of death, but not actually walking IN it.

I had inadvertently created a recreational gathering place for the fruit flies. I squinted to get a better look and grimaced in fascination as I watched fruit flies chase each other and flirt (or so it appeared) by flapping their wings and strutting around. Envision male turkeys strutting around with their feathers and wings all poofed up.  That’s what was happening, but with little tiny fruit fly wings.  

I decided to give it more time.


Day Two: Now we’re making some progress!

Every time I walked through the kitchen over the next couple of days, I stopped to check on the progress of my trap. I counted the victims and watched the social scene. On more than one occasion, my husband caught me in the midst of my dark fascination and complained, “Dump that gross vinegar!” But I wasn’t ready. I was too invested in my experiment. I wanted to see how many fruit flies I could catch.


Day Four: Ok, ok. I’ll dump it. It’s gross, I know. But kind of fascinating, right?

Finally, after four days, I gave it up. There were two remaining fruit flies flapping their wings and chasing each other around the plate. But everyone else bit the dust. I was amazed that the vinegar mixture caught over 50 fruit flies.

I still don’t know where they came from. We don’t have plants in the house. I washed all of our fresh fruit and refrigerated it. From research, I discovered they could nest in damp areas, so we’re on the lookout for moisture in our house. Hopefully, they are gone for good.


Other Natural Insecticides

Peppermint Essential Oil & Water:

Critters hate the smell of Peppermint. Combine 25 drops of Peppermint Essential Oil into a cup or so of water in a spray bottle.  I use this combination to spray all over the inside of the RV- in cabinets, along the floor, around doorways, in duct work, on counter tops.  I also spray the outside storage areas with this combination.  Be cautious on surfaces that may stain or peel.

Keep in mind a few things:

  • Essential oil evaporates. If you are having an active problem with pests, spray daily (or several times a day) until the pests go away.  
  • Essential oil is oil.  You are adding it to water.  They quickly separate. You need to shake the bottle often to insure you are squirting both oil and water out of the nozzle.
  • Essential oil and plastic do not mix.  In fact, essential oils eat plastic when not diluted.  This mixture works best in a glass spray bottle. I bought mine from Amazon.
  • I use this remedy on ants and spiders, and many RVers have used straight peppermint essential oil on strategically placed cotton balls to repel mice.  
  • Tip: You can buy Peppermint Essential Oil from many sources.  After doing research, I felt comfortable purchasing Now Essential Oil brand’s Peppermint Essential Oil from Amazon.  It’s pure, effective, and inexpensive.  I keep it in my RV for this particular use. And, it will help with any headache, sinus pressure you might be experiencing at the time (bonus)!


Diatomaceous Earth (DE):

Food-grade DE is a non-toxic white powder that can be sprinkled on pets, on carpets, in beds to kill any bug with an exoskeleton, such as fleas and roaches.  It’s often time in our foods and can be used in many ways.  DE is completely natural and non-toxic.  Like any powder, don’t inhale it.  There is also a pool-grade DE that is toxic and absolutely not safe for a natural pesticide. Make sure you only buy “FOOD GRADE” DE. I purchased my bag of DE at the local hardware store for a mere $5.


“Diatomaceous Earth is almost pure silica (with some beneficial trace minerals); under a microscope, it looks like shards of glass (glass is made from silica). On any beetle-type insect that has a carapace, like fleas and cockroaches, the DE works under the shell and punctures the body, which then dehydrates and the insect dies. DE is totally nontoxic. There is no buildup of tolerance like there is to poisons because the method of killing is PHYSICAL, not chemical.” -Permaculture website


How I Use DE:

  • I sprinkle food grade DE around the foundation of our home, both outside and inside the house (in the basement along the baseboards).
  • I used DE when I discovered fleas in our home (and on our pets).  After puncturing small holes in the top of a coffee can, I placed DE inside of the empty can and sprinkled all the carpets, the furniture, beds, our yard, and our pets.  We waited for a day or so and vacuumed.  It’s very powdery, so it’s pretty messy.  I found a bagged vacuum cleaner to be helpful.  You really don’t need to sprinkle a lot.  In fact, a light dusting is fine on your carpet.  Then, you keep it on the carpet and walk over it, working the powder deep into your carpet fibers.  You can wait to vacuum the floors until your next planned cleaning day.  Easy peasy.
  • I sprinkle DE outside of our RV around the tires, under the RV, and through our camping area to keep ants and spiders away.

 Find out more about DE here and here.

Thanks for reading the article.  These are the chemical-free strategies that work for me.  I’m interested in hearing what natural solutions you’ve tried for repeling/killing pests.  




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1 Comment

  • Reply exploRVistas December 7, 2016 at 6:03 am

    Where were you camped at, Chris? We would get a lot of them when we were next to a cherry orchard. We did a version of this with a glass and a paper cone. Works great!

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