Snakes, Scorpions, and Spices

June is a tough month in Arizona. The cooling monsoons haven't hit and the critter population is out in full force.

A few weeks ago our 10-year-old discovered this rattlesnake resting comfortably in our neighborhood. (You can see it well hidden beneath the bush.)

Several days later the rattlesnake "wandered" into the street just in time for our neighbor to drive over him. She drove over him 4 times in all. Her husband promptly beheaded and buried him. People in Arizona take rattlesnakes seriously.

Several days later we found a baby Gila Monster above our front door.

The other night, Colin found a giant scorpion in our kitchen. Ryan appeared just in time to kill it with my slipper.

Our ant population came out in full force two weeks ago.

No wonder people build walls around their homes and hire pesticide control!

Since we're renting, a wall is not an option. The chemicals used in pesticides are out of the question. Our chemical sensitivity prohibits this, and I'm grateful. Pesticides have been shown to damage the nervous system, reproductive system, and other organs. They are known to cause developmental and behavioral abnormalities, hormone disruption, and immune system dysfunction.

Even the American Medical Association acknowledges this:

Pesticides can be dangerous to consumers, workers and close bystanders during manufacture, transport, or during and after use.

The AMA recommends limiting exposure to pesticides and using safer alternatives:

Particular uncertainty exists regarding the long-term effects of low-dose pesticide exposures. Current surveillance systems are inadequate to characterize potential exposure problems related either to pesticide usage or pesticide-related illnesses… Considering these data gaps, it is prudent…to limit pesticide exposures…and to use the least toxic chemical pesticide or non-chemical alternative.

For more, see this abstract.

Last summer we relied on Borax. Boric acid is an excellent alternative to pesticides. According to this descriptive article:

Boric acid acts as a “stomach poison” for ants, cockroaches, silverfish, and termites, and is most commonly used in a bait formulation containing a feeding attractant or as a dry powder. The powder can be injected into cracks and crevices, where it forms a fine layer of dust. Insects travel through the powder, which adheres to their legs. When the insects groom themselves, they ingest the poison, which causes death due to starvation and dehydration 3-10 days later. Boric acid can also abrade the exoskeletons of insects.

At the American Chemical Society's 238th National Meeting last year, scientists reported new research on so-called "essential oil pesticides" or "killer spices." Rosemary, thyme, clove, and mint are a few of the spices shown to interfere with the insects' nervous systems.

Yesterday we tried a natural pesticide control company, Eco Pest of Southern Arizona. The treatment was 100% botanical and utilized some of these essential oils.

It's only been a day... but so far so good. We didn't react to the treatment. The ants seem to have gotten the message. We've had no scorpion sightings.

As for rattlesnakes? We do our best to practice the "Double A" rule: Awareness and Avoidance. The same tactic we use when it comes to toxic mold.