Veganism is dedicated to the protection and welfare of all living things, even the smallest crawling insects. For most vegans, this means following strict guidelines that prohibit the usage of products and services that benefit from, or result in, the harm or exploitation of animals. This ideal becomes a lifestyle, which vegans live, more often than not, to the letter. However, this lifestyle can come into conflict when the natural world wanders a little too close, and some of the more dangerous critters therein come home to stay.
The topic of vegan pest control is a hotly debated subject, one which many vegans currently find themselves in the middle of and often have few appealing choices. To help, we compiled a guide of all the best practices for keeping your home free from unwanted pests while still holding to the ideals of veganism.
Unfortunately, the term “vegan pest control” is something of an oxymoron, as the “control” part of “pest control” directly correlates to “kill.” When browsing pest control isles in home improvement stores, you will quickly realize that the vast majority of products there are, at best, designed to quickly and mercilessly kill your invading critters. Those few “humane” or nonlethal products are designed to deter pests by creating unpleasant smells, sounds, or other sensory effects. Overall, commercially available pest control products are, in reality, not humane at all, with many of them, such as glue or snare traps, downright torturous. So the question becomes: are there ways to keep pests at bay while still recognizing animal rights?
Thankfully, there are some options for vegans looking to protect their yards and homes from unwelcome invaders. Keep in mind that all entries on this list are designed to be as humane as possible. However, if there is no option but to kill the invading pest (as can be the case with some nasty yard insects), these methods aim to do so naturally and with as little impact on the environment or other creatures. Of course, all methods, practices, and items listed here will not be animal products.
Every homeowner’s top priority for pest control should be prevention, especially for vegan homeowners. It’s easier, safer, and better for the pest species if it never comes onto your property in the first place. It is also easier to keep pests out than to relocate or otherwise remove them.
When pests invade a location, they are always looking for food sources, breeding grounds, or shelter. Any element of your property that provides one or more of these is called an “attractant” and should be removed or restricted. While it’s almost impossible to remove all attractants, here are some of the usual culprits that will draw in a wide variety of pests:
- Trash: Pests love trash. Gnats, flies, rodents, and cockroaches will swarm to litter and refuse. Removing all piles of trash and debris from your yard and home is a top pest control practice and an essential part of being a responsible homeowner. When cleaning up trash, make sure to store it in sealed plastic bins.
- Wood: While burning wood is a great way to save on heating and is beneficial for the environment, improper firewood storage can attract numerous critters. Weevils, rodents, termites, and more can burrow inside or nest within firewood. If you use firewood, keep it stored off the ground (usually inside a cart or stand), cover it with a plastic tarp, and keep it more than 25 feet away from your house.
- Standing water: One of the biggest attractants for insects, especially flying ones, is standing water. Many insect species use standing water as a reproduction site and will quickly infest it. Even worse, when standing water is absorbed into the ground, it can cause the soil to become overly moist, leading to the growth of harmful molds and fungi that can damage your grass. Moist soil can also attract pests like lawn grubs, earwigs, and termites. Having a good drainage system around your yard is important. Check out strategies for yard drainage improvement in our detailed article.
- Remove seed and feed: Bird-watching is an excellent hobby that can be rewarding and relaxing, but doing so improperly will only lead to trouble for your home and lawn. Pests like mice love birdseed, and they won’t hesitate to move into your crawl space or inside your walls if you invite them to your yard. If you’re going to bird-watch, regularly remove all seeds and shells. You can use a garden rake to collect the seeds into a pile, then shovel it into a sealable plastic bin with a spade.
- Unkempt grass: Tall grass is a fantastic cover for insects and tiny pests. Keeping your lawn clean and trimmed will dissuade them from moving in. Shorter, properly maintained grass also provides superior water drainage and can help prevent standing water.
- Compost bins: If you compost, store it in sealable plastic bins and keep it at least 25 feet from your house.
Remove Access Points
Removing access points is one of the most significant steps in keeping pests out of your lawn, garden, and home. We recommend once or twice per year, preferably at the beginning of spring and fall, to do a walkthrough of your property. These early-season walkthroughs are also great times to apply repellents.
Removing means of access to a lawn or backyard can be tricky, as these are wide open, accessible spaces. But you can still make moving in an unappealing or difficult decision for pests. Do this by removing any large objects that pests can hide inside, such as rundown vehicles or turned-over wheelbarrows. If you own a shed, keep it locked and reasonably sealed when not in use.
You can also invest in a privacy fence, as this is great for keeping rodents and larger mammals out. We recommend solid, tight-fitting wood or vinyl fences, as they are cheap, easy to install, and difficult to damage.
You can protect your garden with products like landscaping fabric, row covers, and organic mulch. These act as barriers that will protect your garden’s soil from burrowing pests like grubs and larvae. Organic mulch can also carry other excellent benefits, like improved water retention and added nutrients.
As for your home, make sure that all cracks, holes, and openings in your walls are sealed with expanding foam and caulk. Even small, quarter-inch cracks are wide enough for many pest species to squeeze through. Screen doors should also be free of holes or openings and can be patched or wholly replaced – you can purchase screen rolls through home improvement stores. Finally, ensure that all entrances to your crawl space and attic are sealed and devoid of openings.
Catch and Release
There are many nonlethal and non-injuring pest traps. These are called no-kill traps and are one of the only commercially available options for vegan homeowners. These traps lure in animals with bait and have a one-way entrance that the pest animal cannot escape. These traps are only available for mammal pests, like mice and raccoons, and do not exist for insects.
There is some debate among vegan communities on these traps, as they can be distressing to the animal, and if not checked frequently, the animal may starve.
However, some animal species require removal and relocation once they decide to take up shop. Mice, rats, and raccoons are persistent, invasive animals that carry numerous diseases, some of which can be fatal. Once these pests infest your home, you will have to remove them, and catch-and-release traps are your only nonlethal option, besides thorough prevention and deterrents.
If you decide to use catch and release traps, check them every day, and handle them and the critters within with care. In the case of larger pests like raccoons, contact local animal control for proper relocation.
The opposite of attractants is repellents. These are plants or chemicals that certain pests can’t stand to be around and will generally avoid. Your options for repellents will depend on what specific pests you’re trying to keep away. There are many commercially available repellents in the form of sprays, but these are almost all tested on animals and are not vegan-friendly. Instead, here are some all-natural repellents that should help keep your lawn pests at bay:
Vinegar is an excellent bug repellent, but it comes with a big asterisk. Vinegar’s main repelling force is its concentration of acetic acid. This acid burns, irritates, and can even act as a pesticide for some insects, so you will have to use it with care. It works best as an ant and earwig repellent, as these insects are hardy enough not to be killed by it and can’t stand its smell. Spray a solution of 50% water and 50% apple cider vinegar around locations you want to repel ants and earwigs. However, be careful not to apply this to any spiders or wasps, as vinegar can be lethal to them.
Citronella is one of the oldest pest repellents out there. It is derived from lemongrass and keeps flies, mosquitoes, and other nasty pests at bay. There are plenty of vegan-friendly citronella candles and sprays available online that can help you protect your backyard and patio.
There are plenty of pest-preventing plants you can incorporate into your flower beds or garden to help deter unwanted guests and protect your veggies.
- Most mint species are excellent for deterring burrowing insects.
- Lemongrass can keep away wasps, gnats, flies, slugs, and mosquitoes.
- Marigolds repel most nematodes, mosquitos, and whiteflies.
Cayenne, or any other hot pepper, is an effective all-around repellent. This spray is great because it doesn’t kill or injure any of the pests you’re deterring, but it will irritate them and send them running. This solution is annoying to them but not truly harmful. Mix 1-2 tablespoons of powdered cayenne or powdered red pepper flakes into 1 gallon of water to make this DIY repellent. You can then spray this solution onto your garden plants to dissuade troublesome insects and near locations raccoons or mice like to enter.
Unfortunately, repellents can fail in some instances, and even a well-maintained and defended yard can become infested. Insects like termites, lawn grubs (the larvae form of Japanese beetles), and aphids are known for this. These critters can wreak havoc on your lawn, yard, and garden in short order. You also can’t catch and relocate them, as there are thousands, and they are often too difficult to catch. In these situations, vegans are realistically left with two options, let them play their damage out and hope they move on (this will sacrifice your lawn or garden in the process), or help nature take care of the problem for you.
This method is one of those hotly debated points of contention we mentioned earlier, as in this situation, you’re killing the pests in your yard, but in a natural, indirect way. If you decide to go through with this route, you will be finding, acquiring, and introducing the natural predators of your pest species. For aphids, you introduce ladybugs. For lawn grubs, wasps and ground beetles will work. Alternatively, you can incorporate these beneficial insects early on — this method adds more biodiversity to your ecosystem and keeps pest insects in check before they become problems.
Unfortunately, there are few, if any, nationally available humane pest control companies. Thankfully, however, the market for vegan pest control is recognized, and some small groups are rising up to fill that need. But these companies are small, local, and not accessible to most homeowners.
Pest infestation is a nightmare for any homeowner, but it provides a uniquely challenging situation for a homeowner who practices a vegan lifestyle. They not only have to worry about the damage caused by the pests but also the moral challenge of humanely removing them. Thankfully there are some options for vegan-friendly pest control, namely prevention, repellents, and no-kill traps. The most significant plus side is that vegan-friendly pest control is slowly becoming more recognized and hopefully will become more widely accessible.