Banishing Bugs with Bay Leaves

Boric acid kills roaches (among other creepy-crawlies). Which is great if you want to dispose of roach carcasses and enjoy crafting little tinfoil boats and filling them with white powder, gleefully placing them in enticing spots like kitchen cupboards, the insecticide version of a pederast stocking his windowless van with candy.

But what if you just want to keep roaches away in the first place?

Bay leaves. That's right. They're good for something other than soups.

Like boric acid, bay leaves are the kinder, gentler (at least to humans) and more natural way of keeping insects at bay. Pun intended. But they don't just banish roaches.

Bay leaves also keep weevils out of your flour, cornmeal, Bisquick and other cupboard products, and they deter ants, silverfish and a whole horde of other insects that are legion in the swampy Bayou City. Unlike insecticides, they're -- obviously -- totally safe to keep around food, and they cost a lot less money.

The bag of bay leaves above came from Georgia's. It cost $4. Add in the cost of a little Scotch tape and your home insecticide arsenal is well-stocked.

Simply tape fresh bay leaves inside cabinets or under appliances to ward off insect invasions. You can also stick the leaves themselves into your canisters or bags of flour, cornmeal, etc. The flavor and scent of the leaves won't leech into your dried goods, so don't worry about that. The scent will, however, drive bugs crazy and keep them far away from your pantry.

The only worry: Changing the leaves every few months when they get stale.

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Katharine Shilcutt