Myth or magic? 16 pest control tricks we tested for you

Unwelcome critters, whether in your cabinets or on your tomato vines, are a common woe. We rounded up the best tips from the internet and tested them to see which actually work.

Scroll through below to see the what actually works, and what doesn't:

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16 pest control tricks we tested for you
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16 pest control tricks we tested for you

For: Garden bugs

Panty hose nets: MYTH

Last year I lost all but TWO of my tomatoes to some sort of intruder. This year, I was determined to keep them alive. We asked for tips from a few neighbors, one who had covered all fruit in nylon panty hose, only to find that strewn about the neighborhood the next day... —Lauren Locke

For: Garden bugs

 Hot sauce spray: MAGIC

...I then inquired at our local garden center and a lovely gentleman suggested spraying the fruit with a solution of 1 part hot sauce (without seeds) plus 3 parts water. Note: I learned (the hard way) that hot sauce seeds clog up the sprayer, so use a kind that doesn't have them. I have been doing it all summer and have already enjoyed half a dozen tomatoes, with more ripening by the day. I should note, there was one bite early on, but after a single spicy nibble, we've been bite-free all summer. I am DELIGHTED. —Lauren Locke

For: Spiders

Osage oranges: MAYBE

My father-in-law swears that keeping osage oranges in your garage or basement works great as a spider repellent. I Googled it and the internet told me that this hack wasn't proven, but I didn't want to burst his bubble by telling him. Regardless, I keep a few in my garage just in case. I still have spiders in the garage, but maybe fewer of them? The osage oranges usually decompose into a dead, brown blob and are quite ugly. —Ryan Merrill 

Credit: Food 52

For: Ants

Lemon half + cloves: MYTH

I have heard that piercing a lemon half with cloves and keeping it in cupboard keeps bugs away. —Jane Poretsky

We have sugar ants!!! We placed lemons with cloves in them right at the opening where the ants were coming from and they just marched right past the lemons. :( Also, I think the open lemon attracted fruit flies. —Alexis Anthony

For: Ants

 Cayenne + water spray: MYTH

So I once had a massive ant problem and was told they hate cayenne pepper. I tried to make a solution of that plus water and to spray it everywhere and a) it didn't work and b) it was a total disaster (stained cabinets, ruined spray bottle, etc.). —Kenzi Wilbur

For: Ants

Cayenne pepper sprinkle: MAGIC

Cayenne sprinkled to block the ants on their path seemed to work!... Kristen Miglore

For: Ants

Cornstarch: MYTH

...Cornstarch did not. Also, Amanda Hesser told me later the cornstarch would attract roaches :( —Kristen Miglore

Credit: Food52

For: Gnats

Nearby cup of apple cider vinegar + dish soap: MAGIC

I recently over-watered my plants and, as a result, they developed a serious gnat problem. They were everywhere. To attract them to their demise, I put out a bowl of apple cider vinegar with several drops of dish soap in it (which breaks the surface of the vinegar), and amazingly the gnats were attracted to this mixture and dove to their death (morbid, I know)... —Jen Morris

For: Gnats

White vinegar + soap + water as plant spray: MYTH

...I also used another hack I found online: I watered the plant with 1 tablespoon soap plus 1 teaspoon white vinegar plus water every other time I watered it. The plant is alive, but struggling. :( —Jen Morris

For: Roaches

Cats: MAGIC

My cat will flip them over on their back and then they die. And then she sits on it like a prize. —Sam Weiss-Hills

For: Mice

Steel wool clogs: MAGIC

I experienced N.Y.C. apartment trauma about 6 years ago. I had just been home for the weekend and stocked up at Costco (think granola bars and double-packs of Rice Krispies cereal). They were neatly packed away in my closet. I went into the granola bar variety pack box and pulled out a s'mores flavor—my favorite flavor of anything, ever—and screamed! There were nibbles taken out of at least a dozen of the bars. (One bite here, one bite there, shreds of metallic wrapping on the floor.) I bee-lined to my building super's office and insisted he come up immediately to find the hole these little creatures were using. After using steel wool to stuff a radiator pipe hole and a small opening near a pipe in my kitchen, the critters have never been back! Steel wool is my hero. —Jackie Stauffer

For: Mice

Peppermint oil: MAYBE

I have tried it and it doesn't work, but it does make your kitchen smell nice. I finally gave up and bought a humane trap, which I have perfected the use of. We haven't had any new mice sightings in our apartment recently, but I still have the oil at home. I used it more recently to help cover the scent of a mouse that died in our wall—that was a practical use. —Lauren Kelley

I have had mice in the past, and peppermint oil worked for me. It works really well for water bugs, too, which I get from time to time as well. I put about 10 to 15 drops of oil on a cotton ball and put that in corners of the bathroom. I noticed a difference for sure, but you have to refresh them if you see pests coming back. I do it twice a month-ish! —Laura Beam

For: Mice

Peanut butter in humane traps: MYTH

Things I know not to do: Use actual non-violent mouse traps with peanut butter. Those do NOT work. —Sam Weiss-Hills

For: Mice

Cats: MAGIC 

The best remedy for a mouse problem? Cats. —Sam Weiss-Hills

For: Mosquitos 

 Dryer sheets for prevention: MYTH

Mosquitoes and I have a long and complicated relationship. Like mosquitoes, I like water, nighttime parties, and hanging out in fields. Mosquitoes like me a lot, but the feelings are not mutual. After some especially bad bites turned into blisters that had to be popped by a doctor, I've taken to just wearing DEET-loaded bug spray. For me, the natural stuff smells nice but does absolutely nothing.  

Since I've unsuccessfully tried about every type of mosquito repellant, I didn't have high hopes for the dryer sheets. I took some of my Mrs. Meyer's Lavender Dryer Sheets, rubbed them over my skin, and went to my backyard to wait for the mosquitos. While I smelled nice, the mosquitoes were not afraid and went right for my legs. After I accumulated about twenty bites, I reluctantly sprayed on my DEET and slathered on some anti-itch cream. I'll save those dryer sheets for my laundry. —Hillary Pollack 

For: Mosquitos

Lime juice to make itches stop itching: MAGIC

I'm a magnet for mosquito bites come summer, and I get them all over my ankles and behind my knees no matter how much preventative spray I use. Desperate for relief, and feeling weird about coating myself in Cortisone every day, I took to the internet for an alternative solution. Turns out, lemon and lime juice are acidic (and antibacterial) enough to numb the itch—and rubbing a slice all over your bites really, really does keep you from scratching! I'm keeping limes on hand all summer (even more than I usually do for spritzing on fish tacos, margaritas, etc.). —Amanda Sims

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Photos by Lauren Locke, Rocky Luten, Sam Weiss-Hills, and Hillary Pollack.

This post was originally published in August 2015.

Related: Stay away from these foods

11 PHOTOS
9 Foods That Make You Tastier to Mosquitoes
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9 Foods That Make You Tastier to Mosquitoes

Learn which 9 foods make you more appetizing to mosquitos!

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Beer

What’s a cookout without a cold one (or two)? There’s always a cooler full to the brim with ice-cold beers at backyard barbeques. A few Heinekens can give you a buzz, but even a single beer can make you a target for mosquitos. Scientists are not exactly sure why mosquitos go for beer drinkers, but they don’t think it has anything to do with the increase in ethanol in the bloodstream or the heightened body temperature caused by beer consumption. Like us humans, mosquitos may just like the taste of a good brew.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Potassium-rich foods

Bloodsucking mosquitos are extremely attracted to lactic acid. Too bad lactic acid is constantly naturally released by our bodies, making us prime snacks. Eating potassium-rich foods, however, increases the amount of lactic acid you give off through your skin. Bananas, potatoes, prunes, raisins, lima beans, avocados, and spinach are full of potassium, so snacking on these makes you even tastier to the invasive insects. Well, there goes guacamole!

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Salty Snacks

Wiping salty potato chip crumbs on bright beach towels or on denim cutoffs while enjoying the sun is a typical summertime occurrence. Little did you know, eating a high-sodium diet also increases the amount of lactic acid you produce, and more lactic acid means more mosquito bites. Filling up on salty snacks like crispy chips, hot curly fries, roasted peanuts, or even that bacon on your burger, will make you that much more delicious to mosquitos.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Sweets

Often picnic tables are piled high with tart cherry pies, melty ice cream cakes and sugary candies to celebrate summer. As much as we love these tasty desserts and sweet things, they have a saccharine aroma that is very attractive to most animals, mosquitos included. Not only will the sweets attract sweet–toothed friends and family, they will also act as magnets for bugs and mosquitos.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Alcohol

A refreshing cocktail or mixed drink will definitely cool you down at an outdoor gathering, but scientists think those who drink alcohol are more likely to attract mosquitos. Not only are they sweet-smelling beverages, the alcohol increases your body temperature, which makes you a target for the little blood-suckers because they are drawn to people with warmer blood. A frozen daiquiri or white sangria sounds super good — until a pesky mosquito bites you.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

High Cholesterol

High cholesterol is not only a health hazard, but having a higher level of cholesterol in your blood increases your appeal to mosquitos. It is always important to lower your bad cholesterol if it is too high and recommended by your doctor. Eating more fruits and veggies, and opting for lean meats can help to lower cholesterol levels. Just think of it as killing two birds with one stone.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Limburger Cheese

Chomping on Limburger cheese will transform you into a gigantic neon “Eat Me” sign for mosquitos. This variety of cheese is made with the same bacteria that cause feet to stink. This is a super bonus for mosquitos because they love smelly feet. Well that stinks!

Image Credit: Flickr/Jason Rossiter

Pickled Vegetables

Picture a perfectly charred hot dog crowned with a heavy dose of tangy sauerkraut, tasty ketchup, and sweet pickle relish. But that sauerkraut and pickle relish can be your downfall. Pickled veggies contain lactic acid, therefore they attract those dreaded mosquitos. Kimchi is another condiment that makes human blood a little sweeter to mosquitos. Maybe a bare hot dog doesn’t taste as bad as itchy bites feel.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dairy Products

So many delectable summer favorites, like sweet strawberry ice cream, coconut froyo, delicious Redi-Whip, and layered parfaits, are dairy-based. Unfortunately, these desserts and other dairy goods cause the body to produce lactic acid, which reels in the mosquitos. Guess that means we’ll have eat our ice cream inside to avoid those biting bugs.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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