Nonpoisonous pest control |

Nonpoisonous pest control

JoAnne Skelly

Just when I thought I might have outwitted the pesky critters in our yard, they again prove me wrong. When I speak of critters, I’m not only referring to the ground squirrels, voles and rabbits, but also ants (red biting ones, tiny ones and carpenter ants) and other insects such as aphids, thrips, leafhoppers and grasshoppers. We also had a 400-pound bear in the yard. We might want to rethink a bear as a pest since he was scooping out the red ant mounds to get at their grubs.

I have hesitated to use poison on the voles or ground squirrels, because I worry about secondary kill. I know if I use the chemicals correctly, they aren’t supposed to kill the owls, hawks, coyotes, bobcats, cats or dogs that might eat a dead animal, but I don’t want to take chances. My options are trapping and killing them or putting up barriers. I use mousetraps along the vole paths to snap the voles to death and barriers around and over the garden for ground squirrels.

For managing the ants, since a bear is probably not the safest ant control method, I use baby powder. Research has shown that this clogs their cooling mechanism on their ‘skin’, and they overheat and die. They also take the powder back into their nests, which helps to reduce the population. Repeated applications are necessary. I decided not to treat the ants with an insecticide when I saw how many birds eat ants.

To control aphids on my roses I squish them or hose them off. Hosing works on roses, if you find squishing too gross and slimy, or on shorter trees and shrubs. It also works against spider mites. Mites can be problematic on dwarf Alberta spruce, most evergreens – particularly junipers – and some flowers such as zinnias and potentilla. Mites need a dry, dusty environment to thrive and simply washing at-risk plants off can keep mites under control.

To find out more gardening tips, attend the Grow Your Own classes July 9 to Aug. 27 on Mondays from 2 to 4 p.m. at the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office near you. These classes are available via interactive video from our Carson City and Douglas County offices and are free at those locations. For more information call Ashley at 784-4848 or go to

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.