June 22, 2010 — Today’s Way: Okay, I have a very liberal attitude toward wildlife and even insects. I feel that we are all here for a reason, and that we should be able to share this planet as part of a harmonized ecosystem. I do not kill spiders in my house. Instead, I enter them into them into the Witness Relocation Program, and move them safely outdoors. I have been known to relocate many creatures and critters that most other people would think nothing of dispatching, but sometimes, a line is drawn and preemptive action must be taken.
For instance, in the case of yellow jackets building their nest in the gas tank door of my car. Usually, I’d wait until it’s cool and they’re lethargic enough to knock the nest away with a stick, but in the summer, they stay too active to mess with. Rather than using a chemical insecticide sprayer, I have discovered a totally safe and effective alternative. Dish detergent and water. Yup, that’s it. Add about 1 part ordinary liquid dish detergent (or better yet, a nice organic castile liquid soap) to about 10 parts ordinary tap water, mix well, and put into a bottle with a sprayer that can be adjusted to a fine stream. Alternatively, a squirt gun works, too. Good aim is necessary.
My technique follows thusly: Get within a safe but accurate shooting distance, take aim, and fire. Then run away.
Although dish soap is safe for us, it sticks to the insects and disrupts the permeable membranes of their respiratory systems located on the shells of their bodies, killing them quickly. I should point out that this is a very concentrated formula to ensure that dangerous stinging insects are disabled immediately, but it could burn plants if your aim is not on target.
If you want to eliminate other soft bodied pest insects, such as aphids, spider mites, white flies or mealybugs in your garden plants, you will want to use a higher dilution of about 5 tablespoons liquid soap or detergent per gallon of water, and cover the entire plant with the broad mist of the sprayer. This will kill the offending bugs and their eggs. However, once the soap solution dries out or if it is rinsed away by rain, you may need to reapply once or twice to ensure total annihilation. Be sure to rinse the entire plant after about 24 hours. This solution will keep indefinitely, and it is much cheaper and safer for both our health and the health of our planet than the chemical alternatives.