How to Get Rid of Bugs in Your House Safely

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Warm weather can bring soft breezes and open windows, but also unwanted pests. Our local expert explains nontoxic ways to clear insects from your home.

Q: Help! We’ve been seeing piles of sawdust around the house so we definitely have something in need of being exterminated! I’ve been looking for reviews of exterminators in Westchester to pick one but have been unsuccessful. Can you recommend? Many thanks! — Robin, Armonk

A: “Exterminate” is an ugly word, isn’t it? But the phrase “infested house” isn’t so pleasing either, so I see your point. Specific recommendations are tricky, but I’m willing to go out on a limb and suggest you go as green as possible to de-bug, especially if you have kids, pets, or breathe using human lungs. After all, you’re going to be living with whatever product is used after the guy who spritzes it all over the place is safely outta there.

A few Westchester exterminators offer integrated pest management, which means first determining if those piles of sawdust require action, and, if yes, whether the control can be biological and therefore less toxic than synthetic chemicals. Veganix is a company in Elmsford whose name conjures an image of kindly, vegetarian bug whisperers who will come to your home and persuade the little fellows to move on. That’s not the case, but they do use eco-sensitive products. Anthony Glen, Veganix’s president, says that your piles of sawdust are called “frass,” which turns out to be the technical term for insect waste, and are most likely deposited by carpenter ants, or possibly bees. “Ninety percent of the time, it’s carpenter ants — they’re the biggest nuisance in the eastern United States,” he says. The good news is that, unlike termites, they cause no significant structural damage. Bees are a little more of a problem because their holes are larger.

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Both can be eliminated with the insecticide that Veganix employs. It contains peppermint oil, eugenol oil extracted from cloves, and soybean oil — sounds almost tasty. Glen has been using the product since 1992. “When I started in this business, I used to come home just as sick as the insect,” he remarks cheerfully. “We used to use pyrethrin from Pakistan or Afghanistan — that was all we had. I looked like I was going to a battlefield with the mask, the goggles. Customers would ask, ‘How come you have all that gear? Am I safe?’ Now we have a whole spectrum of green products. Botanical pest control is much less intrusive, it won’t harm animals or humans, and it’s safer for the environment. It’s just as effective, it’s as cost effective, and everybody’s more comfortable.” Call (914) 826-4247 or check for more info.

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