Safe & Effective DIY Pest Control

Safe & Effective DIY Pest Control

Do you reach for the can of bug spray at the first sight of a pest? Many people do, but did you know there are other less toxic methods for controlling ants, cockroaches, and other vermin in and around your home? Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is an approach that uses a variety of strategies to discourage the development of pest populations and to reduce pesticide use. These strategies are not difficult or expensive and promote a cleaner, healthier environment.

Install door sweeps on the inside of exterior doors to keep insects out.
Photo Credit: Judy Corbus


  • Check grocery bags, book bags, and lunch containers for cockroaches before bringing them in your home.
  • Cockroaches LOVE cardboard boxes and paper bags. Dispose of unnecessary boxes and bags immediately to eliminate breeding areas. Transfer items for storage to plastic totes with snap-on lids.
  •  Repair or replace torn window and door screens to keep ants, cockroaches, and mosquitoes from entering your home.
  • Apply weather stripping around exterior door frames. Cockroaches can enter through an opening the thickness of a dime so small gaps around your doors are all they need to come in. If your door frame peeks light, your home is not tight!
  • Install door sweeps on exterior doors to make it harder for ants and cockroaches to enter. Make sure the sweep brushes the floor to keep insects out.
  • Ants and cockroaches often enter a home looking for water, especially during dry spells. Seal gaps and openings around pipes with expanding spray foam to eliminate these entry points.
  • Regularly empty standing water in flowerpots, tires, outside toys, and other containers to cut down on mosquito larvae.


  • Wash dishes immediately after use.
  • Wipe counter tops regularly, especially after food preparation.
  • Keep small and large appliances clean and free of crumbs and other debris. Don’t forget to clean around them, too.
  • Store food in sealed packages or containers or in the refrigerator.
  • Close garbage container lids, empty garbage regularly, and keep the container and area clean.

Chemical control
Baits are most highly recommended because of their effectiveness and targeted application, while decreasing unnecessary pesticide exposure. They come in granular forms, in plastic stations, or in large syringes for gel application and in formulas targeted specifically for ants or cockroaches.

  • Apply granular formulations outside in plants and mulched areas.
  • Use bait stations around corners where you suspect cockroaches or ants are hiding or entering your home.
  • Apply gel baits in cracks and crevices around windows, doors, behind the range, and any other suspected harborage areas.
  • Pest control operators have other baits in different forms that also provide long-lasting control.

Simple, everyday habits can go a long way toward eliminating an inviting environment for pests.

For more information about pest management, check out these resources or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office:

Cockroaches and Their Management


Pantry and Stored Food Pests

Rat and Mouse Control

Urban Pests and Pest Management

Using Pesticides Safely In and Around the Southern Home

Source: Cockroaches and Their Management

An Equal Opportunity Institution.

Are You Considering Homeownership?

Are You Considering Homeownership?

Tired of renting and thinking about buying a house? Not sure where to start? Let’s talk about some of the first steps in the path to homeownership.

Many people don’t realize that making the decision to buy a home and the process to buy one isn’t a one-size-fits-all step. There are many emotions and considerations that go into it. Here are some of the first questions to consider.

Do you have a budget or spending plan that you can live on?

Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Tyler Jones

Having a spending plan or budget that you can live on means that you’ve reviewed your income and expenses and either have a balanced budget or one with money left over. You may adjust that budget each month as expenses and/or income change but you don’t end the month in the negative. If you’re just getting started, try checking out our Money Management Calendar. It will take you through the six steps of building a spending plan and serve as a tool to help track your money each month. Knowing your financial situation before you begin the process to buy a home is important, as there are out-of-pocket costs that you’ll encounter when buying a home such as appraisal fees and closing costs, in addition to costs associated with homeownership, like maintenance, repairs, and insurance.

How does your credit report and credit score look?

Lenders use your credit score to help determine whether or not to approve you for a mortgage loan and, if approved, at what interest rate. The higher your credit score, typically, the lower your interest rate and the less you’ll pay for your home. Different loan programs may also have a minimum credit score requirement you’ll have to meet. Start by checking your credit report at the three different credit reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Look for any errors or mistakes that could negatively impact your score. The three national credit reporting agencies permanently extended a program allowing individuals to check their credit report for FREE once a week at each agency. Visit access the free copies of your credit reports. Improving your credit score can take time so starting early is helpful.

How much debt do you have?

Photo Credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Thomas Wright

Debt is another factor that lenders consider when you apply for a mortgage loan. Having too much debt can cause you to be turned down for a mortgage loan. The amount of debt you have can also significantly impact how much a lender is willing to lend you toward a home purchase. You can calculate your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio by dividing your total monthly debt payments by your total gross monthly income and multiplying it by 100 to convert it to a percentage. For total monthly debt payments, you should include any loans, credit card payments, child support, alimony, medical payments, and similar items. Do not include things like groceries, utilities, etc.

Each lender and loan program will have a different maximum limit, but many are in the range of 35-41% of your income going for debt repayment.

These are just a few of the initial questions to consider if you’re thinking about buying a home (and can be ones to think about even if you’re not!). Saving money, paying down debt, and repairing or raising your credit score all take time. Starting today can help you to be in a better position when you are ready to take the next step. If you want to learn more, UF/IFAS Extension offers classes for first-time homebuyers (returning buyers are welcome, too!) that go more in-depth for each of these questions and much more. Contact your local Extension office to find out about class schedules.


My Florida Home Book: A Guide for First-Time Homebuyers in Florida, University of Florida/IFAS Extension

Consumer Alert: You now have permanent access to free weekly credit reports, Federal Trade Commission

April is Fair Housing Month

April is Fair Housing Month

National Fair Housing Month supports affordable housing by helping make affordable housing a reality for many working families, representing many backgrounds, races, and colors. The Fair Housing Act was enacted into law in 1968 to protect Americans from discrimination when selling or buying houses, including rental properties and mortgage financing, based on color, race, and even gender. According to the Fair Housing Amendments Act, it is illegal to discriminate against any person because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status, or national origin.

The Fair Housing Act protects consumers from following unlawful, discriminatory housing practices in:

The Fair Housing Act protects buyers and renters from discriminatory housing practices. Photo Credit: Pam Tribue, UF/IFAS Extension Gadsden County.

  • the rental or sale of housing properties, including residential lots
  • the establishment of real estate brokerage services
  • the marketing or advertisement of properties for sale or rent
  • the appraisal process of housing properties
  • the housing finance process

Marcia L. Fudge, Secretary, Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), states that “Fair Housing Month is a time to recommit to our nation’s obligation to ensure that everyone has equal access to safe, affordable housing. Unfortunately, housing discrimination still exists, from individuals and families being denied a place to call home because of the color of their skin or where they come from, to landlords refusing to allow persons with disabilities to keep assistance animals, to individuals being denied a place to live because of who they love.”

Are you a victim of unlawful housing discrimination?

Anyone who believes they have suffered unfair housing practices or discrimination can file a complaint with HUD’s Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity at (800) 669-9777.  You can also report housing discrimination online by using the following link:

To learn more about Fair Housing, contact UF/IFAS Extension Gadsden County at (850) 875-7255.


HUD Commemorates National Fair Housing Month 2022 | / U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Preparing for the Storm – Home Safe Home

Preparing for the Storm – Home Safe Home

Next to ensuring your family’s safety and well-being during a hurricane, having a game plan to protect your largest investment – your home and property – is essential in preparing for a major storm or other disaster. Many of these tasks can be done as part of routine home maintenance well before a storm is on the horizon.

Mow your yard before a storm to make clean-up easier. Photo credit: UF/IFAS Photo by Camila Guillen

Let’s start with the outside:

  • Trim back limbs and branches hanging over the roof and any dead limbs elsewhere in the yard. These can break off in high winds, causing roof and siding damage.
  • Clean valleys, gutters, and downspouts of leaves and debris. This will improve water flow off the roof, reducing the risk of leaks.
  • If a storm is approaching, move trash cans, lawn furniture, grills, decorative items, potted plants, and toys to the garage, shed, or other secure storage area. These items can become flying missiles in high winds!
  • Protect windows with plywood or roll-down shutters. These protective barriers can:
    • keep wind pressure from building up inside, leading to roof loss
    • reduce the chance of glass breakage
    • reduce the risk of wind-driven rain damaging your home’s interior
  • Be sure to install plywood before wind speeds increase!
  • Do NOT apply tape to windows. Tape will not protect against breakage from flying debris and wastes time and resources. Plus, the adhesive can be very difficult to remove from the glass.
  • Protect the garage door with vertical bracing. You can install wooden columns or purchase a kit. For more information, check out Protecting and Securing Garage Doors.
  • Check doors, windows, and walls for openings where water can enter. Use silicone caulk to seal any gaps, cracks, or holes – pay special attention to cable and pipe openings into the house.
  • Test and service your back-up generator to make sure it’s working properly and check your fuel supply. To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, use your generator only outside and at least 20 feet away from doors, windows, and vents.
  • Mow the yard. This makes post-storm clean-up much easier.

Now, we’ll move inside:

  • Check your flashlights and stock up on batteries as needed. Plan on a flashlight for every person in the house plus additional lighting for bedrooms, bathrooms, and common areas.
  • Check your weather radio to ensure it’s working properly.
  • Check smoke detector and carbon monoxide alarm batteries and replace as needed. Hard-wired alarm systems will operate on the battery backup during a power outage.
  • Keep your cell phone and other devices charged when a storm is forecast. Purchase backup charging devices for your electronics.
  • Gather disinfectant supplies, trash bags, toilet paper, paper towels, paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils.  Put these items in a waterproof/water resistant container to keep them clean and (hopefully) dry in case of flooding.

    A 5-gallon bucket with a liner can serve as a toilet. Photo credit: Annette Lanham

  • If you might be unable to flush the toilet during/after the storm, place a heavy-duty contractor trash bag in the toilet bowl to hold waste. Tie with a plastic tie and dispose of when full or as needed. Another option is to place the bag in a five-gallon plastic bucket. For added comfort, slit a foam pool noodle on one side and slip over the bucket edge for a “seat”; cut to fit. You can have two buckets – one for liquid waste and the other for solids.
  • Before the storm arrives, wash dishes, catch up on laundry, clean the kitchen and bathrooms, and empty wastebaskets. This reduces clutter and promotes a clean environment in which to ride out the storm. It also reduces extra work and stress after the storm when water and electricity may be limited or unavailable.

For additional preparation tips, visit Homeowner’s Handbook to Prepare for Natural Disasters


Goodbye, Mold!

Goodbye, Mold!

Removing the moisture source is the first step in combatting mold. Photo source: UF/IFAS Extension Pinellas County

Have you seen black, gray, white, or orange stains on your bathroom tile’s grout? Does it look slimy or cottony? Well, you guessed it—that’s mold. There are good molds – yogurts, cheeses, and antibiotics – and bad molds, like the kind that grows in the bathroom.

Mold and mildew refer to a fungus that flourishes in warm, humid, indoor environments. Florida’s heat and humidity supply the ideal habitat for molds of all kinds. Because mold reproduces by releasing spores into the air, mold can go undetected until it has grown into a colony, as in our grout example. Certain molds really are toxic, however, and not only cause health problems, but also damage building structures, furniture, books, and other items.

Health Impacts of Mold

Exposure occurs by touching mold or inhaling air containing its spores. Exposure may cause allergic symptoms and health problems, ranging from sneezing, coughing, or a runny nose to chronic sinus problems, nosebleeds, asthma, skin and/or eye irritation, headaches, difficulty concentrating, and even memory loss.

How to Prevent Mold

Mold is a part of nature and there is no way to keep it entirely at bay. However, we can limit its growth by keeping our house:

Cool – Keep the temperature below 77°F inside your home if you think mold might be an issue.

Dry – Keep the relative humidity below 60%. You can purchase an inexpensive humidity meter (hygrometer) from a hardware store.

  • Dry wet surfaces or items as soon as possible. Do not leave anything wet for more than 24 hours.
  • Wipe down shower walls with a window squeegee or towel right after showering.
  • Fix leaks.
  • Pull the shower curtain across the tub/stall to allow the curtain to dry.
  • Run the bathroom exhaust fan while you are showering and up to 15 minutes after you finish or open the bathroom window to allow moisture to escape.
  • If bath towels remain damp in your bathroom several hours after bathing, hang them in the garage or outside to dry. This reduces moisture in the bathroom and keeps towels from souring.

Clean – Keep your house clean to minimize nutrients for mold.

  • Wipe countertops to remove any food residue.
  • Refrigerate perishables. (This also reduces foodborne illness risk).
  • Clean bathrooms – pay special attention to the shower/tub area and sink to remove soap scum and dead skin cell residue that some molds feed on.
  • Change the air conditioner filter monthly.

Mold Removal

When you find mold inside your home, it means there is a moisture problem – leaky plumbing, a roof leak, or water entering around a window or door. Fix the source of the problem or mold will continue to be a problem. If you cannot find the source, if there has been a lot of water damage, or the moldy area is larger than 10 square feet (about a 3 ft. X 3 ft. square), it is recommended to get professional help.

To clean small areas, scrub the moldy surface with a solution of dishwashing or laundry detergent and water, or a mild solution of bleach and water. Wear waterproof gloves and protective goggles to protect your skin and eyes from direct contact with the mold. Wear an N-95 respirator (available at most hardware stores) to avoid inhaling the mold spores. After cleaning, dry the wet area thoroughly to prevent further mold growth.

For more information on controlling mold and mildew, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Resource: Keeping It Clean: Controlling Mildew

Source: “Keeping Your Home Healthy,” Taking Good Care of My Home, UF/IFAS Extension.


8 Fall Home Maintenance Tips

8 Fall Home Maintenance Tips

Ahhh…Fall! I love this time of year – changing leaves, cooler temperatures, and lower humidity make it a joy to be outside. It’s also the perfect time to give your house some TLC after the summer heat and before the cold winter winds blow. Regular maintenance keeps your home healthy, can lower your power bill, and saves you money on costly repair jobs as you catch them early on.

Clear roofline “valleys” of debris to reduce the risk of leaks. Photo source: Judy Corbus

Here are eight things to check inside and outside your home this fall:

Check weather-stripping and caulking around windows and doors. Check for signs of leaks, then repair or replace as needed. This keeps your heated or cooled air in and pests out.

Paint exposed wood. Check eaves, doors and frames, and other wood surfaces for chipped or flaking paint and touch up with a fresh coat to protect against rotting.

Check windows and doors for smooth operation. Install or patch screens, lubricate window tracks and door hinges, and repair as needed.

Clean gutters and downspouts. Use gloved hands or a trowel to scoop out debris from gutters. Flush downspouts with water or use a drain “snake” to clear blockages. Make sure they discharge water 2-3 feet away from the house to protect the foundation; a downspout extender can funnel water further away from the house. Clear gutters and downspouts allow water to drain properly from your roof to reduce the risk of leaks.

Clean roofline “valleys.” The V-shaped area where two roof slopes meet is the perfect catch-all for leaves, pine straw, and other debris. If allowed to accumulate, this debris can trap moisture, leading to a breakdown of the roofing material and eventual leaks. Use a leaf blower to clear the valleys to keep your roof dry and water flowing freely off it.

Clean the chimney. If you plan to use your fireplace, have it inspected and cleaned by a professional chimney cleaning service before you light the first fire of the season. This will remove creosote, an oily by-product of burned wood that builds up inside the chimney and increases the risk of chimney fires.

Change the batteries in all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This ensures the batteries are fresh, whether your detectors are hardwired, with a battery backup, or completely battery-operated. Test detectors regularly to ensure they are operating properly.

Have your heating and cooling system serviced. Your service professional will make necessary tune-ups, so your system operates efficiently for a comfortable environment and lower utility bills.

For a complete home maintenance checklist, click here.

Adapted from: