Bugging Out in Basel
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
Got bugs? I know I do. Check out some remedies for the various infestations in your house.
I’m not sure if it’s the warm climate, the proximity to a river or the fact that there seem to be no screens in Basel apartments, but there really are an incredible about of bugs in my house. I am constantly distracted by mosquitos buzzing around my bathroom or moths flying out of my pantry, or the most ENORMOUS spiders I have ever seen. This fellow was so big I was afraid we wouldn't be able to get a cup over him.
During lockdown when my house became my whole world, I became obsessed with these uninvited guests, so much so that after a couple glasses of wine I wrote a mediocre poem about them.
The Insect Seasons
First came the SPIDERS
who climbed up the walls,
then swarms of FRUIT FLIES
forming clouds in the halls.
The STINK BUGS like helicopters,
threatening their scent
DADDY LONG LEGS twitching,
while MOSQUITOS whined in the vent.
The worst were the PANTRY MOTHS
arriving in hoards,
hiding in couscous
and nesting in cupboards.
The SPIDERS invited
their large cousins to come,
into our apartment
and join all the fun.
Last came the GNATS
that plagued us in bed,
buzzing our ears
and surrounding our heads.
Now we mark seasons
not by weather or light,
but by how many bugs
we find in the night.
Apart from my poetic ode, I also did some research on how to get rid of these little monsters. I’m not a big fan of chemicals so here are some more natural approaches to getting rid of what’s bugging you.
I find these little buggers come out in early summer and can be persistent. However, the good thing about them is that if you are diligent in removing their food source they tend to disappear after a few days.
Remove all fruit – put as much as you can in the fridge or cover it in plastic bags.
Clean your drains and rubbish bins – when the fruit is gone, they will look for other food sources, which is most likely remnants of last night’s dinner. For drains, my method is to first pour baking soda down the drain followed by vinegar and then a full kettle of boiling water.
Set the traps. Vinegar traps although a bit smelly are super easy to make, simply fill a small bowl with a couple tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, a bit of honey, a few drops of dish soap and some water. You will see after a day that you will have a lovely soup of dead flies. Repeat for a few days until they are gone. You can also buy traps in the supermarket (pictured) which work fine, but they are the same as the homemade ones and smell just as strong, so I tend to just make my own.
You may be wondering why there are no screens on Swiss or European homes and unfortunately, I can’t tell you why. The New York Times has even written about it and has not come up with a clear answer, stating that “Europeans, generally, do not use screens. As Americans cover their doors and windows to keep the bugs out, Europeans usually just whisk them away, swat them or simply endure them.”
Mosquitos may be something that you find yourself swatting away and enduring all summer long, but there are still a couple ways to curtail them.
First, remove any standing water from your yard or balcony as these are mosquito breeding grounds.
Install the screens yourself. At OBI you can purchase a number of insect screens, such as this one by Tesa, that you can install yourself on the outside of your window frames. They are not terribly expensive and promise not to damage your windows, but I’m not sure they would last more than one season. For a more permanent solution you can opt to build your own frames with kits such as this.
Or if you want to take my mother’s advice, she swears by this home remedy:
1 bottle of cheap mint mouthwash
1 cup Epsom salt
1 stale beer
Mix together until salt is dissolved, put in a spray bottle and spray around your balcony or yard. It will not harm plants or flowers and is said to repel mosquitos and last for several weeks.
My first encounter with these loud flying pests was in Basel. They tend to come indoors in the fall so make sure to close windows and doors. Also keep your yard tidy as their main source of food is leaves and garden trimmings. The good news, they don’t bite and are slow and easy to catch. But beware! They are called stink bugs for a reason, so don’t squish them. I get my children to catch them in a cup and release them outside, but you can also use a vacuum, just be sure to empty it afterwards!
I first noticed this infestation after opening a package of flour and seeing that some of it was sticking to the side of the bag with tiny little webs. I didn’t think much of it and used the parts of the flour that were unaffected (I know – gross, I’m not sure how I justified this). After that I continued to notice these little webs in my dry goods and then one day, I saw a little larvae worm and it dawned on me that the webs were made by the moths that had been flying around my kitchen.
I then completely cleaned out the pantry and threw out all the affected dry goods. This seemed to solve the problem for a while and then came the day that I cut open a completely new, sealed bag of couscous and a moth flew out! After some searching on Google, I discovered that pantry moths can lay their eggs in sealed packaging! So, I came up with a plan of attack to banish these pesky moths once and for all:
Throw out any affected products (and remove the trash from the house) and thoroughly inspect the rest.
Clean any unaffected items (open and not) and the pantry with a 50% vinegar water solution.
Put the unaffected food packages in the freezer for 24 hours.
Re-package everything in plastic or glass air-tight jars.
Place moth sticky traps in several places inside the pantry.
Restock the pantry and pray.
Yes, these guys are pesky and sometimes terrifying in their size, but they actually eat the other bugs, so I tend to leave them alone, or catch them in a cup and release them outside. If you are really bothered, you can make your own spider deterrent spray.
Well, I’ve saved the worst for last, and these are the absolute worst! Otherwise known as fungus gnats, these guys hang around your potted plants when its damp and are nearly impossible to get rid of.
Once you notice an infestation you can set the same vinegar traps and you did for the fruit flies or put sticky tags in your plants (pictured), but really the best way to banish them is to re-pot your plants. Make sure to remove as much of the infected soil as possible and wash the pots with soap and water before using fresh potting soil and replanting. Then make sure to let your plants dry out in-between watering or it will happen again.
I hope that this article has helped you with some of your pest problems, if you have any tips or tricks, I would love to add them to my arsenal, so please post them in the comments.