Mom and Daughter Smiling

Uncovering Myths about Pests

During the summer, it may seem impossible to keep bugs away from the home, so people will try just about anything. Perhaps you’ve heard about household DIY tricks to prevent pests, but what actually works?


As a way to help homeowners everywhere, Ron Harrison, Ph.D., entomologist and Orkin technical services director, has debugged some of these myths and explains why some everyday household items can truly help keep pests away.


Truth: Orange peels to repel cockroaches

Some orange varieties, such as the Osage orange, actually contain a chemical compound that repels cockroaches. However, while the fruit may repel these insects in the immediate area, it will not prevent them from infesting other parts of the home. To prevent cockroaches:

  • Remove all water and food spills.
  • Seal all cracks and crevices inside and outside the home as adult cockroaches can squeeze through a space as thin as a quarter.


Myth: Grits to kill fire ants

The theory is when fire ants eat dry grits and then consume water, their stomachs will explode. Since adult ants cannot digest solid foods, this theory is a myth. Fire ants have no natural predators in the U.S., so the population has grown quickly and is difficult to control. Here is what can help prevent fire ant activity:

  • Remove outdoor food and moisture sources that attract fire ants, including spills, open food containers, pet food and water bowls.
  • Check for and seal gaps around doors and windows to make it more difficult for fire ants to enter the home.


Truth: Bags of Water to Repel Flies

You may have seen water hanging in a clear bag on a porch or outside of a restaurant. Did you know there is evidence the bag can repel flies? It’s not the water itself or the plastic bag that make it effective – the trick works when light reflects on the water inside the bag. This confuses the flies so they stay away.


Myth: Dryer Sheets to Repel Mosquitoes, Spiders and Rodents

Dryer sheets are rumored to protect against much more than static cling. But there is no scientific research to back up these claims. Wiping dryer sheets along baseboards and in corners may appear to work because they are picking up dust and crumbs, which attract pests. So what can repel these pests?

  • For mosquitoes: Apply an EPA-approved insect repellent with DEET.
  • For spiders: Install screens and tighten seals on doors and windows. Also, remove webs and other insects, which are a food source for spiders.
  • For rodents: Clean up crumbs, cover trash cans, store food in tightly sealed containers and seal cracks and crevices inside and outside the home.


Truth: Soapy Water to Repel Garden Bugs

Garden bugs called aphids thrive when temperatures rise and they feed on trees, flowers, fruits and vegetables. Combining two tablespoons of dish soap with a gallon of water and spraying the mixture on plant leaves every few days can help manage an aphid infestation.



Summer temperatures and weather patterns lend themselves well to pests’ survival needs, which make it a peak time for pest activity. If you give these prevention tips a try and find pest activity will not subside, remember to call a licensed pest professional to assess the situation.