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During summertime, we often find yellowjackets circling the potato salad, fruit flies feasting on the peaches on the counter, and an army of ants marching towards your kitchen compost. Keep your sanity during the bug season while keeping your family safe from pesticides! These pests are bothersome, but there are surprisingly effective ways to combat them without resorting to chemicals.

Here are some basics on prevention and control measures.

Fruit Flies

Follow these tips for preventing and trapping fruit flies so you can get through lunch swat-free.

  • Manage kitchen waste. Keep your kitchen clean and free of food scraps or overripe fruit. The goal is to keep stored foods dry and prevent odors from escaping.
  • Keep flies outside by installing window and door screens.
  • Even if you’re diligent with these tips, a household that loves fruit may still have some flying friends. The good news is it’s super easy to set up effective traps. The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides has detailed instructions on how to make your own fly trap.


If the ants are marching into your house, don’t panic! There’s no need to completely eradicate nuisance ants, but you can keep numbers down without toxic sprays.

  • First, identify your ant. The tips here are for nuisance ants.
  • Gain quick control of ant invasions by mixing a teaspoon of liquid soap in a quart-sized spray bottle filled with water. Spray areas where ants are active, and wipe up the dead ants with a sponge. This will destroy the chemical trails left by worker ants.
  • Sanitation is key. Keep kitchens and other rooms as free of food as possible. Store pantry food in tightly sealed containers, preferably with a rubber gasket, because ants can get into glass jars with screw-top lids.
  • Eliminate standing water. Always wipe counters clean of any grease or spills, and fix leaky faucets.
  • Make a pet food fortress. Set your pet food dish in a “moat”- a bowl of soapy water.
  • Check indoor potted plant soil, where ants often nest. If found, take the plant outside and submerge it in a bucket of water for 20 minutes. The flooded ants will vacate the soil.
  • Seal entryways by caulking any cracks and crevices to the outside.
  • For more information on solving nuisance ant problems refer to the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides ant info sheet.


They may not seem like it when they’re dive-bombing your picnic, but yellowjackets are actually beneficial insects that serve as pollinators. The idea is to keep them out of our way without killing them unnecessarily.

  • When you’re dining al fresco, avoid uninvited yellowjackets by keeping food and drink covered as much as possible. Keep a tight lid on garbage cans. Eliminate any standing water.
  • Avoid perfume, hair spray, or other scented body care products, which can attract yellowjackets.
  • You can deploy a few simple traps around your deck or patio: examples include RESCUE!® Reusable Yellowjacket Trap, available at Fred Meyer and other home/garden stores, or Safer® Brand Deluxe Yellow Jacket Wasp Trap.
  • Don’t swat at yellowjackets, as this can provoke them to sting.
  • Removing a nest is a chore that should be tackled only by professionals with expertise working around stinging insects and protective clothing. In the Puget Sound area, Douglas Cheney (425-485-0103) removes wasp nests using least toxic methods.