30 of Our Best Tips for Dealing with Bugs and Pests This Summer

published May 25, 2021
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While pests and insects can be a problem any time of year, there can certainly be spikes during these warmer months — especially while, say, you’re trying to enjoy a nice meal outside. So with Memorial Day weekend right around the corner, we thought we’d take a minute to round up our very best tips for dealing with (and preventing!) mice, fruit flies, roaches, mosquitoes, and more. These tips can help inside your kitchen and in your backyard. Scroll through and then tell those little buggers to buzz off!

Credit: Faith Durand/Kitchn

1. Make your own fruit fly trap.

Fruit flies are almost inevitable if you keep any kind of fruit on your counter. And actually, sometimes they even seem to show up when you don’t have any fruit! Don’t worry — our Editor-in-Chief, Faith Durand, actually tested four of the most popular DIY fruit fly traps out there and found a clear (highly effective!) winner!

Read more: I Tested Four DIY Fruit Fly Traps and One Method Clearly Worked the Best

Credit: Joe Lingeman

2. And a DIY wasp trap.

Did you know you can also make your own wasp trap to set up outside? You’ll just need an empty bottle, some sugar, and a box cutter.

Read more: The First Thing You Should Do with a New Bag of Sugar

Credit: Diana Liang

3. Make sure the kitchen is dry.

We spoke with Marche Shelton, owner of Nexpro Pest Control in Atlanta, Georgia, to find out what residents can do to keep their kitchens pest-free. Here’s what he had to say: “One of the first things is to keep everything dry. Make sure there’s no excess water around the counter and no water sitting around anywhere in the kitchen.”

It’s not just cooking or cleaning water that can draw pests, either. “Check to make sure there are no leaks.” Not only do leaky pipes or dripping faucets waste water and pose the typical moisture problems of rotting wood and mildew, but they can also make your kitchen hospitable to roaches and other pests. 

4. Wipe down pantry shelves.

You know not to leave food out and to wipe up splatters and spills, but here’s a reminder to check your pantry too. Errant flour, pasta, nuts, spices, beans … they all become a target for pests. Make it a regular habit to check your pantry shelves and wipe up messes. Also, look for poop while you’re in there. Mice tend to hide when humans come around, but they’ll leave poop behind as a clear sign they’ve been active.

5. Get rid of plastic bags and appliance boxes.

Here’s a great reason to stop collecting plastic shopping bags. And to finally get rid of all those appliance boxes you’ve been saving just in case. “Don’t store plastic bags in your cabinets. That draws bugs. Don’t keep boxes to small appliances. Roaches love cardboard and plastic bags,” Shelton says. By cutting down on areas where bugs can hide and shelter, you’re making your kitchen less hospitable to roaches and cutting down on areas where they are comfortable living and reproducing. 

6. Upgrade your trash can.

One Kitchn staffer had a mouse problem in her apartment when a downstairs neighbor started renovating. She swears that switching to this garbage can — with its rubber gasket seal — helped her solve the problem once and for all. Why not make it just a little bit harder (or impossible!) for mice to find your dinner scraps?

Read more: The Trash Can This Kitchn Staffer Swears Ended Her Mouse Problem Once and For All

7. And empty it often.

Even if your trash is more secure than the Pentagon, you’ll still want to empty it frequently. As in, before it starts to smell bad! It’s not just mice that could be attracted to your trash, but flies might also come to lay eggs in there. “The biggest horror stories I’ve heard are when people forget to take out the trash [before vacation] and come back to an infestation after a week,” says Dave Lofquist, an associated certified entomologist and technical training manager at Arrow Exterminators.

8. Skip the shelf paper.

Sure, it looks cute but shelf paper can be food for cockroaches. “We think of crumbs and left-out food as their food source, but when that goes away, roaches have no problem finding other things to eat,” says Howard Bright, the owner of Anti-Pesto Bug Killers. Just skip it.

9. Store food in airtight containers when possible.

Anything that’s not in a glass or plastic container with a tight-fitting lid runs the risk of contamination, especially items like flour or cereal that come in bags or cardboard packaging. “Some rodents can even get through plastic containers, but that’s more rare,” says Dr. Michael Bentley, staff entomologist for the National Pest Management Association.

10. Don’t leave any food out. 

This one feels like a no-brainer, until you remember that bowl of pretzels that you left sitting on the counter. Put food away as soon as you’re done with it, and keep as much as possible in the fridge or the freezer, rather than on a shelf. At the very least, put things in containers!

11. Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink.

Don’t leave pots and pans in the sink. You don’t want to head down to the kitchen to find a mouse licking up your plate!

Credit: Joe Lingeman

12. Clean out your toaster’s crumb tray.

While you’re on Crumb Patrol, be sure to check the toaster. Toasters almost always have a crumb tray and they need to be emptied. If you don’t, it’s very likely that mice will find their way in. There is something very unsettling about seeing mouse poop mixed with errant everything bagel spices. Trust us.

Related: How to Clean the Toaster

13. Spray around windows with a vinegar/water solution.

“There’s an easy way to deter bugs (particularly spiders) from making their home in yours — one that doesn’t involve spraying pesticides indoors, one that I learned from my mother,” says Shifrah Combiths, one of our regular contributors. “Mix a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar and spray around your window frame. Do this indoors, and outdoors too, if you’re able to.”

Read more: My Mom’s Solution for Keeping Spiders Out of the House

14. Pick up these incense-like sticks.

These Madison James Flyaway Sticks are so beloved, they tend to sell out regularly. They’re in stock right now so, if you have an issue with mosquitoes and other insects in your yard, pick some up.

15. Set up an outdoor fan.

Flies can’t, um, fly super well in the wind. If you have a covered patio, think about installing a ceiling fan. Otherwise, just set up some portable outdoor fans. Even those battery powered fans attached to spray bottles could offer some degree of protection.

16. Rethink the flowers near your patio.

The insects that flutter around your outdoor table could be there because of the flowers you have around the perimeter. “Honey bees, for example, are drawn to wildflowers, lavender, sunflowers, goldenrod, honeysuckle, and herbs like chives, oregano, and thyme,” says Dr. Jim Fredericks, chief entomologist for the National Pest Management Association. Maybe consider some replanting and move flowers elsewhere and surround your patio with plants instead?

 17. Make an herbal centerpiece.

Fill a vase with a mix of basil, lavender, lemongrass, rosemary, or mint for a bouquet that will keep the flies (and other insects) away. Bonus: It looks and smells great, too!

18. Use UV light to catch fruit flies.

If you’ve tried our DIY fruit fly trap and you need more serious reinforcements, try this gadget, which uses UV light, a fan, and a sticky glue board to attract and catch the little buggers.

Read more: This Sleek Amazon Gadget Solved My Pesky Fruit Fly Problem — and Has Almost 12,000 5-Star Ratings

19. Set up a butane-powered mosquito repeller.

As you can see just from this post alone, there are a lot of things that can help you repel mosquitos. Some work better than others (although we’ve tested — and love! — everything in this post!) and this one continues to impress us. It uses a mini butane tank to heat up a mosquito repellant pad and is literally as easy to use as turning on a switch.

Read more: This Simple $22 Gadget Is My New Favorite Way to Keep Mosquitos Away

20. Or try one that’s rechargeable.

A new release from Thermacell, this one is rechargeable so you don’t have to worry about stocking up on those mini butane tanks.

21. Dissolve a few of these in nearby standing water.

If you have any standing water in your yard, you probably get a lot of mosquitos! Try tossing these into the water. Amazon reviewers have given them a 4.5-star rating on Amazon, with one shopper saying “we can finally sit outdoors in the evening!”

Read more: This $9 Amazon Find Will Solve Your Mosquito Problem Before It Even Starts

22. Arm yourself with a super-charged fly swatter.

One of our staffers lives in the Caribbean and she rounded up five mosquito solutions that locals love. “A mosquito racket and a bottle of wine should be a standard housewarming gift for anyone moving here,” someone said. This model from Intelabe got a nod because it has a built-in, rechargeable battery that plugs into any USB port and the handle doubles as a removable LED flashlight.

Read more: I Live in the Caribbean and Here Are 5 Mosquito Solutions That Locals Swear By

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

23. Add dryer sheets under your table legs.

We know that a lot of people are anti-dryer sheets these days, but if you have a leftover box, you can use them to keep ants from climbing up the legs of your table.

Read more: The Icky Reason You May Want to Put Dryer Sheets Under the Legs of Your Table

24. Keep the food and drinks inside — or at least covered up.

Swatting away at insects is futile. You know it. We know it. We all know it. Your best bet is to keep food and drinks inside and let people serve themselves in there. If that’s not realistic (maybe you don’t want people going in and out of the house), try to keep things as covered up as possible. Drink out of cups with lids, use pitchers with tops, and put collapsible covers over dishes.

25. Get one of the best mousetraps on the market.

Get the wrong mousetrap and you could wind up just offering an all-you-can-eat buffet of peanut butter. If you have signs of mice (their left-behind poo, chewed up packages, for example), shop from this list below.

Read more: The Very Best Mousetraps You Can Buy on Amazon

26. Clean under your appliances.

It’s shocking how many crumbs can collect under your appliances! Make sure you pull them out and clean under them regularly! This will help get rid of anything that could attract mice and roaches.

27. Follow the FIFO rule.

FIFO stands for “first in, first out” and, not only does it help you eat things before they turn, but it also helps to make sure you don’t open a new box of cereal if there’s a half-eaten box already in the pantry.

28. And be smart about what you buy in bulk.

That giant box of crackers won’t save you any money if you have to call in an exterminator to get rid of the pests who started feasting on said box. The longer something sits in your pantry, the bigger the window of opportunity for pests to get in there, warns Scot Hodges, VP of Professional Development and Technical Services at Arrow Exterminators.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

29. Use flour or cocoa powder to kill roaches.

High on the list of things cockroaches love: cocoa powder and flour. Mix equal parts of cocoa powder or flour with diatomaceous earth (you can find it at your local hardware store) and sprinkle it where you’ve seen cockroaches. Diatomaceous earth is non-toxic to pets and humans, but it kills insects by destroying their exoskeletons. The roaches will take the “bait” back to their nest and feed it to the other roaches, who will also die.

Read more: How To Get Rid Of Cockroaches

30. Know when it’s time to call in a pro.

Sometimes, pests and insects could be a symptom of a bigger problem. If you have issues frequently or the pests seem to be multiplying, it may be time to call a pest control professional. They can help you identify an unknown food source (like a dead animal in the wall — it’s not uncommon!) or a point of entry you may have overlooked. You can find certified professionals in your area on

Of course, this is just a starting point! Do you have a tip for dealing with bugs or pests — inside or out? Tell us in the comments below!