How to keep bugs at bay in rural French homes

A French man who blew up part of his home trying to swat a fly has inspired us to search out the best ways (without pesticides if possible) to handle common pests in the home or garden. 

8 September 2020
Mosquitoes are a common annoyance for people during French summers
By Thomas Brent

France’s surreal story of last week was the case of a pensioner who caused an explosion at his home while trying to kill a fly. 

The 82-year-old from the village of Parcoul-Chenaud in the Dordogne became irritated by the pest as he was sitting down for dinner, and so took out his electronic fly swatter in order to kill it, the BBC reported. 

Unfortunately, there was a gas canister leaking in his home and this reacted with the device, causing an explosion that destroyed the kitchen and a part of the roof. 

The man sustained only minor injuries. 

Inspired by this man’s troubles, we look at different ways that people can get rid of pests bothering them at home - in non-harmful ways. 

Mosquitoes

François de Beaulieu, vice president of the association Nous Voulons des Coquelicots, a group that lobbies against the use of chemical pesticides in France, said the first thing people should do is change their “logic”. 

“You are already in the logic of ‘getting rid of insects’,” he told Connexion when asked about how people can rid their homes of pests. 

“You should have the logic of ‘living with insects’,” he said. 

He said people should strive to create a balanced environment. 

“For example, birds will rid us of insects, spiders will too. We should not, every time, react with a reflex of elimination,” he said. 

“There are obviously situations where it is just insupportable. For example, someone is getting bitten all night by mosquitoes. But there are ways to repel them or ways not to attract them,” he said. 

He said that people can close their windows before turning on lights, or use natural repellents such as citronella. 

There are a range of different plants that people can grow that naturally repel mosquitoes, which you can read about here

Mr de Beaulieu also said there are non-harmful repellents that people can buy in stores. 

In our August print edition we wrote about which mosquito repellents are the most effective

Dr Paul Henri Consi­gny of the Institut Pasteur’s medical institute did say, however, that he recommended products made with chemical active ingredients, not essential oils or vitamins. 

Mr de Beaulieu said that in any case, people should remember that, “unfortunately, we cannot escape. We cannot dream of a world without mosquitoes.” 

Wasps

Wasp populations have been on the rise in France this year, a phenomenon we explain here

Entomologist (insect expert) Quentin Rome, from the natural history museum le Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (MNHN), said that despite their menacing appearance, wasps are important for biodiversity. 

He told Connexion: “We often hear about bees, because they are pollinators. But many other insects do this too, including wasps. They are also insect predators, and tend to focus on those most abundant, such as tree caterpillars. In this way, they help regulate [the environment].

“I am therefore not in favour of a major destruction of wasps that annoy us. Of course, a nest can be dangerous - when it is in a passageway, for example - and we should call a professional to get rid of it.

“But the solution to wasps flying around our table is to give them part of our meal. A quarter of an hour before eating, place some fruit or meat around three to four metres away from your table, and then they will usually leave you to eat in peace [after].”

Flies

There are many ways to avoid attracting flies or to naturally repel them from your home - no need to blow them up! 

Houseflies are attracted by any material in which they can lay their eggs, including rotting material such as food waste, rubbish or animal faeces. They can also be attracted by bright lights at night, according to health information provider Healthline.

To repel them, people can use natural products such as basil - an odour that flies and gnats do not appreciate, French health advice website Doctissimo states. 

“For a more concentrated method, use a few drops of basil essential oil (to be avoided if you are pregnant and/or have children under the age of three), with a little white vinegar and water. Then spray some in strategic places (doors, windows).”

Aside from that, there are also Venus fly traps, which act as natural predators to flies. 

Natural balance

Mr de Beaulieu said that all these insects are important because they participate in the natural balance of life which is based on predators and prey. 

He said people should not “break the food chain” by killing predators (such as wasps), who then will not be around to kill their usual prey. 

“It is not an individual problem, it is a collective problem,” he said. 

“Rather we need to arrive at a collective solution to ban synthetic pesticides which are bad both for nature and humans.”

Read more about insects in France: 

France to introduce bug that eats harmful ragweed plant

Farmers can spray pesticides within 5m of rural homes

Join battle in France to stop butterfly extinction

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