Answers to your questions about gardening, energy, homesteading and other sustainable living topics.
Help! I’m terrified of spiders and my house is full of them, but I don’t want to call an exterminator. Is there a nontoxic way to get rid of them?
Yes, you can reduce the number of spiders in your home by dusting crevices, corners and the spaces under beds and furniture with diatomaceous earth (DE) — a natural mineral dust with tiny, sharp particles. When spiders come into contact with these particles, they dry out and die within days. In addition to spiders, you can use DE to control other crawling insects that come inside your house, such as roaches, carpenter ants and even bedbugs, which are a growing concern for many people. Diatomaceous earth is most effective on pests that are under constant moisture stress, which is the typical life situation of most house spiders and insects that wander in from outdoors. The idea is to spread a light layer of the dust in places where spiders or other insects are likely to walk or crawl. As long as it remains dry, DE will be effective indefinitely. You can find diatomaceous earth at stores that sell organic pest control products. (Check out Organic Pest Control and Garden Products Finder for help locating a mail-order source.) Look for a product that says it is listed with the Organic Materials Review Institute, an organization that reviews products to ensure they comply with national organic standards. Some products come in a bottle designed to puff the dust into cracks and corners, or you can buy a small, handheld puffer.
— Barbara Pleasant, contributing editor
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