Are Essential Oils effective for pest control?
Every time someone asks about how to get rid of this pest or that pest someone invariably recommends the use of essential oils. Everyone wants to protect little Johny and Fido but how safe is it and does it even work? Let’s take a look, but I warn you, if you are an essential oil junky, you are not going to like the truth.
Natural is not safe
For starters let’s dispel a dangerous myth most people have. Just because something is natural, green, or organic does not mean they are safe. The best example of this is D.E. (diatomaceous earth). D.E. dust may be natural and even labeled “food grade” but when you apply dust out in the open you are breathing it in. We would consider flour or corn meal as safe but it definitely would not be good to breathe in the dust. The appeal of essential oils is rooted in it’s natural status. What they don’t tell you is it is highly concentrated. There are natural plants that are safe to be around but if you concentrate them you get narcotics. Perspective is important here. A tiny drop of peppermint oil is roughly equal to 26 cups of peppermint herbal tea. How do you think you would feel if you chugged 26 cups of tea like a frat boy? Care must be taken even if the product is supposedly safe. One aspirin will kill your headache, a handful will kill you. Remember, the dosage is the poison.
There is currently no national standard considering anything essential oil related. Remember the old stories about snake oil salesmen? They would come into town claiming to have the miracle cure for what ails you, promise the world, take your money, and leave town. They got a bad reputation for a good reason in a time when OTC medication contained opium,heroin and cocaine. The same scam is now in the modern age online. Essential oil proponents make large claims but can’t back any of it up. Research has shown minimal effectiveness in many areas and most of the claims don’t even make sense. The marketing is guerrilla at best causing the FDA in 2014 to send out warning letters to companies for making unsubstantiated claims of curing herpes and ebola.
But will it get rid of my pests?
The short answer is no. I read all the time people suggesting to soak cotton balls in essential oils or spray them on surfaces to get rid of bugs or rodents. The truth is it doesn’t work. These are suggested on the belief that insects smell the strong odor and avoid it. Well, for starters that is not fixing the problem even if it were true. Repelling them from an area will just force them to find another entry point and if you think you can spray every single entry point I would love to watch you try. Even if it did repel them, it would wear off quickly. It could even attract some species looking for food therefore making your problem even worse. Let’s do an experiment. Put a drop of anything with a strong odor on a small piece of paper and set that aside for a couple days. Then come back and see if the odor has dissipated at all. That loss of pungent odor can be equated to its level of repellency. If essential oils were so effective don’t you think the professionals would be using them? I’ll give you one guess why we don’t. So why have they exploded on to the market with such voracity? This is the cycle, every couple of years some wonder product comes on the market and promises the world. Several years ago it was D.E. You should now know what we in the industry knew in the beginning, that it was not the bug nuke everyone thought it was. The same happened with Borax powder, moth balls, and those plug in pest repellers. All junk, but they sold billions of dollars worth and still do because of word of mouth and that American DIY spirit. We also hate to admit when we get duped.
Is it safe?
What happens if you slather your walls in essential oils and your dog (attracted to the smell) or your window licking toddler decide they want a taste? Some of these can be downright toxic. There are numerous stories of injury due to ingesting essential oils. So what if you soak that cotton ball and put it out to fight the ants? What is to stop the child or the dog from consuming the entire thing? How can you ensure that it will stay where you put it? Exposure to these concentrated oils can cause several issues including photosensitivity (sunburn), irritations, allergic reactions, and medication reactions. Also the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA) recommends that pregnant women avoid many essential oils all together. Another group of aromatherapists concerned with misuse started tracking injury in 2013 and reported 229 incidents ranging from rashes, chemical burns, and anaphylactic shock. Joie Power PhD says “Essential oils are very safe and effective if used properly for addressing routine health challenges. But there is so much misinformation out there right now, it really concerns me.” Remember the minimal amount of research that has been done was done in the medical side of it’s use, not pesticide. Even then Dr Power calls these uses “routine health challenges”. That is a round about way of putting them at least medically on the level of OTC drugs rather than curative. Not appropriate for the treatment of anything serious, except for a placebo.
Now some of you are screaming “He’s a pest control guy afraid of loosing business to essential oils.” No ma’am, I have just seen this silly grasp for solutions take way too much money from people. Besides, if you are one of the hard corps DIYers then you wouldn’t be calling me anyway, at least not till you have tried, failed, made it worse, and surrendered. Customers tell me all the time that they have spent more on home remedies that didn’t work than what I charge. I am not doctor, go see him for medical advice, but with these warnings and dangers, not to mention they don’t work for pest control anyway, why bother? Try cleaning and sealing entry points before breaking out that bottle of snake oil. The whole essential oils for medical uses is sketchy at best. When it comes to pest control it is even worse. Click HERE for more information as to why so many believe these miracle cures. Then call a professional who isn’t selling you a an ARVN rifle that has “never been fired and only been dropped once.”