Garlic is one of the oldest cultivated plants we know of and is believed to have originated in central Asia more than four thousand years ago. Over the centuries, garlic was used as food, medicine, and even as a money substitute. It was even used in various mysticism and enchantment practices throughout the world.
Today, the fascination with garlic and its alleged benefits has led researchers to attempt to validate the centuries of garlic use in various fields of work. In this article, we will cover garlic’s use as a pest deterrent.
Here are the 10 pests you can get rid of by using garlic:
There are trillions of ants around the world, so it is no surprise to find them in your garden or home. These social insects live in large numbers, so if you see a few milling around some plants in the backyard or walking across the floor on the way to the pantry, beware. If allowed to go on their merry way, they will arrive in droves and make themselves at home.
There is no beneficial reason for ants to enter your home, but in the garden, they are helpful in aerating the soil for plants and in controlling some other insect populations. They also serve as food for lizards, birds, spiders, and other insects.
However, that’s pretty much where their usefulness ends. Ants can wreak havoc in the garden and will eat almost any fruit, vegetable, or plant. To make matters worse, they protect insects that produce honeydew (a sweet, sticky substance) and feed on plants, allowing these insects to thrive and potentially decimate your favorite greenery.
Ants are repelled by strong scents. Placing garlic in areas of the home where ants have been seen will ensure they don’t return. Pay careful attention to sites of entry, and be sure to place peeled and thickly sliced cloves of garlic at those places. When the garlic cloves have dried out, they can be removed and replaced with fresh garlic, if needed.
In the garden, you can spray ant colonies with a mixture of garlic and water. To create the spray, purée a few cloves of garlic in water and add to a spray bottle. This mixture can also be sprayed on the ant trail to disrupt the pheromones the ants leave to track their route.
2. Barber Pole Worms (In animals)
This worm is a blood-sucking parasite that infests sheep and goats. It is a global problem but tends to be more prevalent in temperate and sub-temperate regions, particularly when conditions are warm and wet.
The larvae of the worm are eaten by sheep and goats during grazing and burrow into their stomachs. Here they develop into adults and feed on blood. If the infestation is large, the animals can bleed to death.
Naturally, livestock owners want to prevent an infestation, but keeping the worm population low is a challenge. Barber pole worms are prolific, and females can lay up to ten thousand eggs per day. These eggs are excreted in the feces of their host. They hatch into larvae and are ready to be consumed by another unsuspecting animal. Signs of an infestation include diarrhea, lethargy, anemia, growth retardation, edema, dehydration, and loss of milk production in lactating mothers.
Deworming drugs are used to try to control barber pole worm infestations, but they have little effectiveness because the worms are resistant to them. In areas where this parasite is common, sheep and goat owners can feed garlic to their livestock as part of their daily management practices.
When garlic was orally fed to gerbils infected with barber pole worms, it reduced the parasitic burden in the gerbils by 68.7 percent. When combined with Mexican marigold, 87.5 percent of the worms were removed. The strong larvicidal activity of garlic against the parasite suggests adding garlic to the feed of at-risk animals should prevent barber pole worms from thriving in their hosts.
3. Darkling Beetles
Darkling beetles are scavengers and decomposers. This may seem like a good thing for the garden. They’ll clean up debris, dead plants, and rotting wood. But they will also feed on living plant material, too, and attack vegetables, fruits, seeds, and flowers.
The larval stage of darkling beetles is the mealworm. These are pests, too, and are frequently found in the garden eating young plants or munching away in stored grains like cereal and flour.
Considering that there are thousands of different species of darkling beetles and that they can be found all over the world, you are likely to find them in your backyard garden. Depending on the species, the adults live from several months to ten years, and the females lay hundreds to thousands of eggs over their lifetime. That’s a lot of destructive potential that needs to be harnessed.
All stages of the darkling beetle life cycle find garlic toxic. Garlic essential oil was applied topically to larvae, pupae, and adult insects. It was most harmful to the larvae, followed by the pupae and adults. Symptoms of intoxication, injury, and death followed within twenty to forty hours after exposure.
Garlic essential oil can also be used as a repellent. Ninety percent of larvae were driven away after twelve hours of exposure. It appears that garlic essential oil can serve as an effective control agent for mealworms and darkling beetles.
Pest Spray recipe:
- 1 teaspoon garlic essential oil
- 1/4 cup castile soap
- 30 ounces water
- Mix all ingredients in a 32-ounce spray bottle.
- Spray directly on the mealworms and beetles.
4. European Starlings
Sixty European starlings were released into New York’s Central Park in 1890, with forty more being released the next year. The population of these birds in North America has since exploded to over 200 million.
These birds travel and feed in flocks, so when they descend on a field, they can wreak excessive damage. They are a major pest to farmers and consume both wild and cultivated fruits and seeds. They even go so far as to pull sprouting grains to eat the seeds.
Livestock are also affected. Starlings deplete livestock rations, selectively eating the high-protein supplements added to the feed. Farm animals are left deficient in nutrients and fail to thrive, forcing the farmer to purchase more costly supplements and feed.
A soft approach to deterring starling populations from settling in an area is to use garlic oil. After overnight food deprivation, European starlings were given the choice to either eat garlic oil–impregnated granules or go hungry.
They significantly reduced their consumption by 61 to 65 percent. Garlic oil repels these birds, so putting some garlic oil granules strategically around farmer’s fields and feedlots may be enough to send the starlings away in search of more palatable food.
Moles are underground-dwelling mammals that typically feed on insects, worms, and other arthropods living in the ground. Plants and seeds constitute only a small percentage of their diet, but they are still very harmful to lawns and gardens due to the tunnels they dig.
Some of the tunnels are shallow and look like tubes running just underneath the grass. However, extensive damage can be done very quickly since the tunnels are dug at a rate of six meters an hour.
Mounds of dirt that look like mini volcanos may also be evident. These indicate mole feeding sites. Other tunnels go as deep as ten inches and serve as the main highway through which the moles travel from their dens underground to their feeding areas near the surface.
Typical repellents include sonic, ultrasonic, and electronic vibrations. These may work but can be expensive and require maintenance. Chemical repellents are also used, but these also have their drawbacks. They may not be safe for pets, children, wildlife, or other plants.
Trapping and relocating moles is an effective way to remove them from an area. It often requires the help of a professional who can humanely trap and move the mole to a place where it will thrive but not become a pest for another landowner.
An inexpensive method to deter moles from lawns and gardens is to use garlic. Moles have a highly developed sense of smell, so strong odors, like those from garlic, are offensive to them. They will leave the area to avoid the smell.
Whole peeled garlic cloves or crushed garlic can be put into the tunnels and mounds. The moles will abandon these tunnels and build new ones, hopefully far away. If they continue to dig in the area, maintain this practice until they have moved on. Spraying garlic water over the soil of their feeding sites will also encourage them to leave.
Garlic water repellent recipe:
- 1-gallon water
- 5–6 minced garlic cloves
- Boil the water on the stove. Turn off the heat and add the garlic cloves. Allow the garlic to infuse the water for about 20 minutes.
- Remove from the stove and strain the minced garlic out of the water. Transfer the water to a spray bottle. Spray the soil on the mounds and tunnel openings with the water.
Mosquitos are hardy pests that have been around for millions of years. They are tough to get rid of and even tougher to avoid when outside. The females bite humans in order to use their blood to develop their eggs. As they do, they inject saliva into the skin, which can cause an immune system response. The results are tiny red spots in some people or itchy, swollen, red welts in others.
Mosquitos can smell their prey from up to fifty meters away and are attracted to carbon dioxide, movement, chemicals in sweat, and heat. Getting bitten by a mosquito may not seem like such a big deal, but these pesky insects can carry diseases like the West Nile virus, Zika virus, malaria, and yellow fever.
To avoid getting bitten, many people use chemical repellent sprays or lotions on their skin. To avoid direct application to the skin, some people use chemical repellent paper strips worn on the body or placed in an outdoor area.
Many people want to avoid chemical-based repellents and are turning to natural products as alternatives. Garlic wards off several species of mosquitos known to carry diseases like the West Nile virus, encephalitis, and dengue fever.
Toxic sugar baits containing microencapsulated garlic oil or microencapsulated garlic oil plus a 1 percent boric acid solution were used to attract two types of mosquitos known for carrying West Nile Virus and/or inducing encephalitis, an infection causing inflammation of the brain.
After two days, the mortality rate was 86 and 91 percent for the two species of mosquitos feeding on the garlic-oil sugar baits, while the garlic-oil plus boric-acid baits generated fatality rates of 91 and 99 percent.
Another study using microencapsulated garlic-oil sugar baits corroborates garlic’s efficacy, this time on the Asian tiger mosquito, a known carrier of dengue fever. Gardens with high numbers of these mosquitos had their perimeters sprayed with the garlic-oil bait.
The entire mosquito population collapsed after about four days and continued to decline. After twenty-six days, only 15 percent of the original mosquito population remained. Garlic can be safely used to reduce mosquito numbers and the risk of infection and disease.
7 . Spiders
There are tens of thousands of species of spiders throughout the world. In North America, only a few have bites that are harmful to humans. These are the brown recluse, widows, hobo, and yellow sac spiders.
Most, however, are harmless to humans and provide a valuable service for us: they eat other insects that can be found in the home, like earwigs, roaches, mosquitos, flies, ants, and other crawling or flying pests.
Despite their usefulness, it’s not good to have too many spiders in the home. Females lay eggs in a sac or cocoon and attach them to their web or carry them around. One female can lay hundreds of eggs, so when these hatch, an infestation inside the house is likely. One spider tucked into a darkened corner or a few hidden from sight are fine, but when they are highly visible at every turn, it’s time to get rid of them.
Vacuum regularly to remove webs and egg sacs. Take care to keep other insects out of the house so spiders have nothing to eat. Make your home a less desirable habitat by removing clutter and drying out damp areas like basements. As a final step, place repellents around the home to send spiders packing.
Spiders don’t like the smell of garlic. Spray garlic water (see page 105) where you have noticed spiders or where webs are present. Pay attention to doors and windows, which are potential areas of entry—you don’t want more coming in after you have gotten rid of the previous ones.
A few drops of peppermint essential oil can be added to the garlic water. Peppermint repels spiders, too, and the scent can help mask the odor of garlic to human noses.
These parasitic pests feed on the blood of other animals, and their bite can spread disease. There are over 900 species of ticks throughout the world. In North America, the deer tick has been getting a lot of attention for its role in transmitting Lyme disease. Deer ticks are small, about 1/8 of an inch, and can vary in color from reddish-brown to blueish gray. They blend into the environment and often go unnoticed.
When they sense a host is approaching, they scramble up shrubbery, grass, or trees and grab onto the host as it brushes by them. They crawl around the host until they find a good place to feed and deeply embed their mouthparts into the skin; there they remain for days, feeding on blood.
Because their bites are painless, most people don’t realize they’ve been bitten. After walking through woods or hiking in tall grass, be sure to check your body for ticks. Don’t forget about any pets; ticks love them too.
Taking care to eliminate ticks from your property will greatly decrease the chances of being bitten by a tick. While most bites are not serious, some ticks do carry diseases that they pass onto people and animals. In addition, the wound created by the bite may become infected.
Keeping lawns mowed and yards clear of debris can limit areas for ticks to inhabit. Spraying pesticides around the perimeter of the property is also a popular method to keep ticks away. While this can be effective, pesticides can cause damage to other forms of life, both above and below ground.
Garlic used as a natural spray can repel ticks and not harm other wildlife or the environment. A garlic juice spray was used in Connecticut over a three-year period to determine its ability to control the population of the nymphal stage of deer ticks. This stage of the tick is more likely to go unnoticed and transmit Lyme disease because of its smaller size.
Up to a 59 percent reduction of tick, numbers were noted during the post-spray period. Multiple applications were needed, but it looks like garlic can be used to decrease tick numbers around the home and yard.
Snakes are an important part of the ecosystem, keeping mice, birds, frogs, insects, grubs, and other pests at bay. Unfortunately, many people are uncomfortable or squeamish around snakes, even though most pose no threat to them.
The majority of snakes are nonvenomous and actively avoid encounters with humans, but it’s important to know the harmful snakes living in your area. An accidental encounter can lead to a painful bite, which can result in a secondary infection. It can even be life-threatening, particularly to children and pets.
Keeping snakes out of the yard and away from the home is a concern for many. Snakes like to hide in tall grass, woodpiles, and overgrown vegetation. Removing these will force snakes to relocate. Make sure to seal all openings into the home, garage, and outbuildings because snakes have a way of finding openings and will move indoors in search of food or to set up a nesting site.
If a snake does take up residence in the home or yard, an expert can be called in to safely and humanely remove it. There are also snake traps that can be used indoors. When caught, relocate the snake to another suitable habitat.
To avoid dealing with this problem in the first place, you can use garlic to deter snakes from entering your property. Mix equal amounts of crushed garlic and rock salt. Drop some of this paste around snake nesting areas.
Spraying garlic water around windows, doors, crawl spaces, or the perimeter of the home and property should also repel snakes and force them to find more pleasing habitats. If it rains, be sure to reapply the paste or spray.
10. Spider Mites
There are many species of spider mites, and they are very destructive to both indoor and outdoor plants. One of the most common ones is the two-spotted spider mite. This arachnid is tiny, only 1/50th of an inch long. It lives in a colony and has been reported to infest over two hundred species of plants, including trees, ornamental plants, vegetables, and fruits. The eggs overwinter on the vegetation.
When the temperatures rise, the eggs hatch, and mite numbers can explode exponentially within weeks. They feed on plants by penetrating the plant tissue with their needle-like, piercing mouth. The damage produces yellow or white spots all over the leaves. The leaves eventually turn yellow or copper and fall off. Flowers brown and wither. Severe or prolonged spider mite infestations kill the plant.
To control populations, water can be used to spray the plants to dislodge some of the mites. This only removes a portion of the mites, though, and they can quickly replenish their numbers. Other insects can be introduced to prey on the spider mites.
This is effective under the right conditions, but the end result is difficult to predict. Insecticides destroy spider mites, but many of these affect the plant, other insect populations, or surrounding vegetation. Use insecticides judiciously and consider low-impact or organic alternatives.
Garlic naturally repels the two-spotted spider mite. These mites infest strawberry plants and can ravage entire crops. Garlic intercropped with strawberry plants reduced the two-spotted spider mite numbers on strawberry plants by 52 percent. The number of eggs on the plants were 64 percent less than the number of eggs on plants without garlic intercropping.
The more rows of garlic in between the strawberry rows, the greater the spider mite repellency. Consider planting garlic in the garden or add to the landscaping around the house if spider mites are a concern.
As you can see, garlic has more uses than its common, well-known potential on human health. In fact, using garlic in your garden and around your household can help you get rid of unwanted pests and keep your children safe. Hopefully, this article has provided more insights on how this amazing garden vegetable can be used on your homestead.