Modern man has trouble realizing how serious a problem pests can be. Even the word “pest” (a word whose root comes from the same Latin word that “plague” and “pestilence” come from) has been degraded to mean little more than an annoyance. Insecticides, antibiotics, traps. etc., have all brought the problem of pests into check so that we can go about life without much worry about malaria or food spoilage.
But in the aftermath of a nuclear war or a break down of society, that could all quickly change. Pests often are able to multiply faster than their natural enemies, and many (including rats, flies, and cockroaches) have a high resistance to radiation. Thus, It is possible that a “plague” of grasshoppers, mice, or other pests might engulf an area following any major upset in the environment.
Helping nature’s pest control
Though nature has a way of compensating to bring such situations back into balance, it takes time. You may not have the year or so of time it takes for things to even out. You need to be able to “help” things along.
I like to think of this battle against pests as a real war. Just as a war can’t be waged effectively with only one type of weapon, so too, the “Pest Campaigns” can’t be waged with just one technique. A number of “fronts” and a wide range of weapons are called for.
Chemical warfare? You bet; pests haven’t signed any pacts with you, so they’re fair game. Chemicals can be divided into two classes: those that repel pests and those that actually kill the animals. Generally, repellents are easier to use and also safer. Therefore you should use these first.
Flies, mosquitoes, and ticks are all dangerous to your health, and your first line of defense with these is a good insect repellent. While most commercial repellents are good, there are two chemicals that are considerably better than the others found in most repellents. The repellents containing these are more expensive, but the extra cost is worth it in a survival situation.
The repellent chemicals are N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide (“DEET” for short), and ethyl hexanediol. Deet is the better of the two, but both are very effective. When you’re looking for repellents, check the contents label for one of these two chemicals.
Several naturally occurring chemicals act as repellents to insects and can be used to keep insects out of your living area. While not as effective as commercial repellents, they may be more readily available during an emergency. These chemicals can be found in the following off-the-shelf sources: clove oil, pepper (of all types), camphor, bay oil, and cucumbers.
Recommended article: Repel Garden Pests With Companion Planting
Generally, just grind up a combination of the stuff, add some water or alcohol to the mix, and spread it where you don’t want six-legged enemies to be walking (while these concoctions have some effect on winged insects, they work best with crawling insects).
When an insect gets into your living area, more than a repellent is needed. That’s when you call out the lethal chemical weapons. While most household arsenal spray “weapons” will often do the trick, they don’t have as long a shelf life as one might hope for.
Nevertheless, you’d be wise to have some cans of Raid or whatever in your survival stockpiles for use in an emergency following the aftermath of a disaster. These chemicals would be especially useful during the first year or two following a nuclear war or similar collapse when nature’s balance might be all out of whack.
One insecticide that has an extremely long shelf life is chlordane. This chemical was banned a while back because a number of insects have been developing resistance to it, and there was some indication that there may be long-term health hazards from casual use of it.
Many insecticides used in pest control are poisonous to human beings.
Cockroaches and ants are always with us. They’re hard to kill and breed quickly, even if you keep your home religiously clean, they will invade your area if enough of them are around. Since they can live on practically nothing, you may soon have a small colony of the filthy little insects camping out with you.
The good old Borax
In addition to the spray insecticides, a very effective and inexpensive poison is borax powder. This is commonly available and has an indefinite storage life making it practical for survival use.
Like most other insects, ants and roaches spend a lot of time cleaning off material that sticks to their feet. If you scatter the borax powder in areas where the insects travel (like behind furniture and in dark nooks and crannies), they’ll gradually ingest more and more borax until it finally kills them. Just be careful where you spread it; borax is mildly poisonous to people, too. To learn more about cleaning your house with borax, check this article.
Natural aid for pest control
It is also possible to repel a number of crawling insects—including roaches—with the chemicals that are produced naturally in bay leaves and cucumbers. Even if you hate eating cucumbers, grow some in your “survival garden.” To release the chemical from the cucumber, just slice or pulp it and scatter the bits wherever you want to block the movement of insects into your home.
Other potent chemicals that will actually kill, rather than repel, ants, and other insects are found in the rinds of citrus fruits (especially oranges), nicotine, and caffeine.
How about soap?
Good old soap and water is also potent against many insects and is easily sprayed to coat plants or animals infected by insects.
Inert gas is also a must when dealing with Insects. Any long-term storage supplies like grain or beans should be packed in sealed cans in which nitrogen or carbon dioxide has been used to displace the oxygen which an insect needs to live. Properly sealing and preserving your grains and seeds will prevent opening up a “surprise” when you need to find the expected contents of a storage container. That’s why a lot of preppers are using desiccants to preserve their grains.
Read next: Organic Pest Control For Your Garden
Traps for pest control
Trapping and enemy is another strategy useful in the war against pests. Sometimes, traps are even better than destroying a pest outright. Some pests are eatable either by you or by your livestock. Too, many pests may create health hazards if they are just killed and left in your environment.
A good example of this occurred during WWII in Africa. Allied troops found that flies couldn’t be swatted. The flies had been feeding on corpses, and smashing one created a foul smell and splattered rotten material about; trapping the flies and burying them was necessary.
One of the traps used by GIs to get rid of flies can be easily employed by preppers. The trap consisted of an empty, clear quart bottle with a small mouth (a vinegar bottle or a beverage bottle will work well). The bottle is partially filled with water and placed on its side so that the mouth of the bottle faces to one side and the water remains in the lower half of the bottle lying on the ground.
Bait, in the form of rotten meat, is placed inside the mouth of the bottle. Flies eat the bait and then take off, often into the clear bottle rather than through its opening. As they bang about inside the jar, they eventually crash into the liquid and finally drown. As their bodies rot in the water, they attract more flies.
This trap is simple and cheap. It also works with sugar or honey, but it’s better not to use these baits: they attract beneficial insects like bees, which are necessary for pollinating flowering plants in your area (so that they can produce seeds).
Adding a little dishwashing detergent to the water also improves things since it reduces surface tension so that flies drown quickly and are less apt to climb to safety.
A similar fly trap can be made with a wide-mouthed bottle and a paper or wire cone. The cone is placed in the baited jar with the cone’s point down. A small hole is made in the point of the cone so flies can get into the jar, and the cone is taped to the rim of the jar. Once the fly eats the food, it takes off and can’t find its way out.
Flypaper can be made if you have some sort of sticky material available to work with. Generally, rosin is used for this. If you should have some rosin, then it is possible to create a sticky concoction to put on paper or other surfaces, which will cause any fly landing on it to become stuck in place.
Turpentine or linseed oil can be used to dissolve the rosin, and the mixture can be painted onto the paper and left to dry to a tacky surface.
A couple of formulas:
- 150 parts rosin, 50 parts linseed oil,
- 18 parts sugar or honey, and 10 parts turpentine,
- 10 parts rosin, 1 part honey, or sugar.
The only problem with flypaper is that it can become used up when its surface is covered with flies, and it’s attractive to beneficial insects as well as flies. Generally, the best location for flypaper is indoors, where you don’t want any insect cruising about. The best thing about flypaper is the low price and it can be stockpiled without any problems
Dead flies can be used to enrich your compost heap or to feed chickens or fish provided you have not poisoned them.
Water traps can be used to catch rats and mice. The general design consists of floating enough garbage on the surface of a large container of water to make it appear to be solid (Styrofoam is good for this). Bait is placed in the center of the water. When rats or mice try to walk onto the water to get the bait, they sink into the water and drown.
That’s the theory. In fact, a lot of good design has to go into the trap to make it impossible for the rodents to climb back out. But once perfected, these traps will continue to work for some time with occasional replacement of bait and water as well as the removal of the corpses you’ve trapped. Adding detergent to the water will greatly enhance this trap’s abilities to kill mice and rats.
Another good trap can be made from a large ceramic or metal container. Make a mouse- or rat-sized hole in the upper side of the container. Once it’s done, bury the container in the ground so that the hole is even with the surface of the ground. Place some type of bait inside the container. Mice or rats will smell the bait and try to get to it, falling into the container. They won’t be able to climb out because of the slick sides of the container.
Don’t forget the good old standard mouse and rat traps. While some rats get, so they know to avoid these, if a large number of rodents are a problem, you’ll still catch a number of them with these traps and be able to cut down on the population.
While some hard-core survivalists might maintain that you can eat rats, I have to disagree on the grounds of a queasy stomach. However, it is possible to “recycle” little rodent bodies by feeding them to poultry or by burying them where they can be plowed into the garden next season to add nutrients to the earth.
Larger traps, as well as snares, may also be needed to deal with pests ranging from Bugs Bunny to rabid dogs. Traps work well if you are careful to bait them properly and place them in the correct place. Be sure that you don’t place traps in locations where “friendlies” will be caught. Warning signs on traps should be considered in a populated area.
Other pest control methods
Pests in the garden are a major problem. Biological warfare is useful when battling pests. Though you probably aren’t set up to breed killer bacteria, you can encourage natural biological enemies to kill a number of pests.
One way is to bring helpful insects and animals into your area. When you’re out foraging, capture “allies” and bring them back into the area of your home and garden. Finding a toad or non-poisonous snake and bringing it into the home front enhance your survival chances.
About 99 percent of all insects are—contrary to what one might think—beneficial. Don’t kill insects indiscriminately, and if you find one that can be captured, bring it back to your area so that it can feed on other harmful insects.
Praying mantis, lady beetles (or ladybugs), Assassin beetles (cog or wheel bugs), ant lions, aphid lions, carrion beetles, fireflies, as well as a host of others can be used effectively as pest control. If you’re not sure that an insect is a pest, don’t kill it, or you may be getting rid of an animal that would help you. Kill only known enemies!
Denial operations and barriers are important in any war. Be sure to take advantage of screening and mosquito netting to keep pests out. Though we take screens for granted in the U.S., they are modern inventions that have probably done as much as anything short of good sewer systems to prevent disease among modern man. You can’t afford to take screening for granted during a disaster.
With intensive gardening, it is possible to “screen in” your entire garden with netting or plastic sheeting. While this won’t keep out all insects, it can greatly cut down on the numbers coming into it. Just be sure that you have some insects in the garden to pollinate the garden (if you don’t do that by hand)—otherwise, no fruit or seeds!
Fencing can be important in keeping larger pests out of an area. Barbed wire and chicken screen might make a difference as to whether your flock or garden survives or not.
How about guns for pest control?
Modern warfare usually conjures up the picture of a soldier with an assault rifle. Things aren’t so clear cut when you’re battling pests. While some pests such as wild dogs or rabid animals might be effectively controlled with an assault rifle, such a practice is at best wasteful of ammunition and may attract attention that you don’t want from freebooters or others who you don’t want to be hearing front.
One solution to this problem is to use squib loads in your rifle. A squib load is one that has a very small powder load so that the retort of the rifle is a lot softer than normal. The only problem with squib loads is that they don’t cycle the action of a rifle and require reloading equipment as well as a lot of time to perfect. And a poorly loaded squib load may leave a bullet wedged inside your expensive rifle’s barrel.
A better bet is to use cartridge adapters, which allow you to shoot smaller .22s or pistol cartridges in your rifle. An added plus is that the .22 won’t damage the pest much; meat and pelts are available if you haven’t annihilated the animal with a heavy-caliber weapon.
Another good bet is the lowly .22 title. The real plus is that a second shot is quickly available if you need one. A wide variety of ammunition is available from hypervelocity rounds suitable for dispatching dog-sized pests to standard rounds for small animals.
Preppers and survivalists shouldn’t forget the CB Caps that CCI is currently selling. These are commercial .22 squib loads that allow the shooter to fire almost silently from a .22 rifle while having the punch necessary within 30 to 50 yards to dispatch small animals with very careful shot placement. If you want to fight all types of pests, a good assortment of .22 ammunition and one or more good .22 guns are a must.
Think about getting a pellet rifle
Perhaps the best bet fur sniping at small animals is the pellet rifle.
If you think of pellet guns in terms of the old Daisy, you had as a kid, forget that train of thought. Modern pellet rifles aren’t toys: they send out little bolts of lead at speeds that approach .22 rounds. The real plus is that ammunition is cheap (air and a small bit of lead), and the rifle actually gets better with use because the parts wear in and function more smoothly. And if you hate to clean rifles, another plus: cleaning is easy and only needed every thousand rounds or so!
For one thing, a pellet gun kills by penetration in a manner of a knife or arrow. Momentum and pellet size aren’t considerations; speed and accuracy are.
A second consideration for survival use is the need for minimum service and repair of an air rifle and the speed at which you can bring it into play (shots at pests will be fleeting. no time to pump 10 strokes to get full power). This means the single-stroke spring-powered air rifle is ideal both for case of use, as well as long-term dependability since it doesn’t have any valves which easily spring leaks.
A pellet traveling at a velocity of 500 fps is the minimum needed to kill a large rat (pellets are lethal at lower speeds, but this speed is needed for “clean kills”). Assuming that you want to have the ability to strike anything from a rat down in size out to 500 yards, you’ll need a pellet rifle with a muzzle velocity of 800 to 850 fps in order to have at least 500 fps at 50 yards.
A scope is a real plus to take full advantage of the accuracy of an air rifle. Though a scope takes the adventure out of pellet gun use, it does make for more pest kills.
You may need to deal with “sometimes pests” like dogs digging in the garden or cats eyeing the hen house. In such a case, pellet guns loaded with felt pellets will allow you to injure only an animal’s pride rather than killing it for a minor offense (just be careful not to hit it in the eye). Inexpensive BB pistols will also work for this purpose, and don’t forget the good old tossed rock.
To wage the battle against pests successfully during a survival crisis, a wide range of strategies and different weapons are needed. With traps, small-caliber firearms, and some inexpensive chemicals—along with a dash of know-how—a prepper can maintain proper pest control and standard of living.