Pest Management Tips


Common Pests
Ants     | Spiders   |  Snails and Slugs


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Common Insect Pests

Argentine Ants  Back to top

In Sacramento, if you’ve got a swarm of ants in your home, it’s most likely Argentine ants. Don’t reach for a can of bug spray! Instead, use the tips and references below for effective, safer control of these common pests.

  • Soap and water is the best method for immediate relief from the swarm in your kitchen. A spray of ordinary dish soap mixed with water kills ants on contact, and helps with cleanup.
  • Don’t use bug spray! Aerosol insecticide sprays don’t work any better than soap and water for killing ants in your kitchen, so they pose an unnecessary risk to you and your family. Sprays around the perimeter of your home are overkill, and result in water quality problems as well as
  • Clean up food sources that are attractive to ants. Ant scouts are very effective at finding food scraps and leading a column of workers to them.
  • Seal cracks. Exclude ants from your home by finding and sealing the cracks and holes where the trails are coming in. They will look for alternate routes, so this may take some patience and persistence.
  • Trim back branches that contact your house. They provide a highway for ants looking for a way in.
  • Keep ants away from pet food. Buy or devise a water or Tanglefoot barrier to keep them away from pet food.
  • Reduce habitat and food sources outside your home.
    • Keep mulch away from the house. Mulches can be great for plant and soil health, but some are also a favorite nesting site for Argentine ants, so avoid having mulching right next to the house.
    • Reduce aphid populations. Argentine ants “farm” aphids and other insects (scales, mealybugs) that produce honeydew. They actually move aphids around and protect them from natural enemies, in exchange for sugar-rich honeydew. To reduce populations of honeydew producers:
      • Supporting and attracting populations of aphid enemies by planting insectary plants, and avoiding any application of broad spectrum insecticides. By killing natural enemies, insecticide applications in the garden often induce outbreaks of pests like aphids and spider mites.
      • Exclude ants from trees and shrubs with Tanglefoot (super-sticky gooey stuff available at some nurseries) can reduce access to honeydew producers, which will help limit the size of the colonies in your yard.
      • Avoid quick release fertilizers that stimulate an overabundance of succulent growth that aphids love.
      • Consider replacing susceptible plants that are chronically
    • Argentine ants need fairly moist conditions, so in Sacramento, low water use plants in your landscape will help reduce the amount of suitable habitat available to them.
  • Containerized baits. Some people choose to use insecticidal baits that are designed for ants, and they can be very effective while using a small fraction of the amount of pesticides that a spray would contain. Baits with boric acid work well and are a least-toxic choice. Properly formulated baits work on a delayed action so that the workers carry the pesticide back to the nest and spread it among the colony before they die. Baits must be placed in out-of-the-way places. Properly placed, pre-containerized baits will also reduce the chance of people coming in contact with the pesticide, or the pesticide being washed away down the storm drain.

These methods do take some time and effort to be effective, but the end result is longer term control with less pesticide use.

For more details on effective ant control, go to these online resources:

Spiders  Back to top

Spiders are generally considered to be beneficial because they eat large amounts of insects. 

Bites from black widows are painful and serious. The most important thing for reducing the chance of being bitten is to avoid or remove their habitat (such as debris piles). See the Our Water Our World spider fact sheet for more information.

Other types of spider bites in Sacramento can sometimes cause a significant adverse reaction in humans, but generally spiders in the our area are not a much of a threat, and are primarily a nuisance through excessive webbing on houses or when they wander indoors.

For more details on effective spider control, go to these online resources:

Snails and Slugs  Back to top
  • Don’t use highly toxic snail baits that contain metaldehyde, which pose an unnecessary threat to children, pets, wildlife, and water quality.
  • Iron phosphate baits are an effective least-toxic alternative.
  • Reduce snail habitat and moisture.
  • Exclude snails from planting beds (this is really only practical for raised beds where copper strips can be readily mounted)
  • Trap or handpick snails, and smash them underfoot. To avoid flies that will feed on dead snails, make sure you either bury the dead snails, or bag them up and put them in the trash.

For more details on effective snail and slug control, go to these online resources:

Lawns  Back to top

A chemical-free lawn is safer for children and pets, and the environment.



You can have a beautiful healthy lawn without toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, (and conserve water and energy at the same time!)

Here are a few resources to visit online

Post a ladybug sign showing your neighbors that you’ve eliminated pesticide use in your lawn.

Argentine ant. Photo © Alex Wild

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