I live in the tropics and love plants, esp. those that have air-purifying qualities and those that are edible. However, I have a fear of insects. My home right now has been free of ants, mosquitoes, cockroaches, rats because I have no plants at all, both inside and outside. But I’m building a new home and with larger land size, I hope to have a garden. With so many advances in science, are there truly effective ways to avoid insects, worms and rats? (I do know some can be beneficial to a garden)

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    Yes, but you need to sanitize everything going in and out, except for what you want to be there. look up bottle gardens. Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 15:01
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    This question inspired me to ask Are there free insects in the ISS? I don't know what the answer is yet, but I suspect either way it will be interesting to you. Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 16:37
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    I don't mean to sound crass, but you would be better off overcoming your fear. It will take time and effort, but it will be worth it. You may feel that the fear is stronger than you, but with some exposure therapy ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposure_therapy ), you should be able to lower it to manageable levels which will not impede your gardening.
    – JohnEye
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 18:54
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    Without getting you too squeemish, what is your definition of "free from insects?" Is it measured as a maximum number of insects per square meter? Is it measured as mean-time-between-insects? Insects are everywhere! (Even the great question asked by @James Jenkins has an answer suggesting that insects may have piggybacked to the ISS, but failed to thrive because the environment is too clean). As Ian Malcom put it in Jurassic Park: "Life, uh, finds a way!"
    – Cort Ammon
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 15:35
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    No plants are air purifying. They all contribute to make indoor air worse, not better. They produce copious amounts of dust, fibers and worse; yeast and bacteria to boot. This does not matter, but stop fooling yourself. Have plants because they are nice - not because they purify (and have them despite the pollution...it is not that important)
    – Stian
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 18:02

5 Answers 5


A huge loud no. Part of you wants to garden. The other part is afraid of insects. There is no way you can do both. And you live in paradise.

I wish I could just give you what I know about insects...they are so dang amazing, very cool and we humans could not survive at all without them.

Very few insects are 'bad' guys. Seriously. There is not one insect species if I had the power would I exterminate. Insects are part of the structure of this life. Without them again, we will die.

What caused this insect fear? If this continues you will never go out of doors, you do know this yes? Agoraphobia? Something like that. Fear of insects will ruin your entire life. What have you done to ensure no mosquitoes, rats, ants, cockroaches is in your world? Did you use any pesticides I should know about?

You are telling me you want to garden. You NEED to garden! I can not imagine a world without dirt under my nails and the smell of wet soil. Preserving food; canning (oh so pretty), dehydrating (oh so easy) and storing potatoes, onions, garlic, carrots in a 'potato cellar'...just need to build one.

If you are this fearful about insects I would check out some great shrinks that can help you get over insects! Your problem is Entomophobia. Fear of insects. Sending a site to get you started. I want you to be able to get out of doors and garden and there is not one other gardener that will tell you otherwise.

Insects are brilliant creatures. Find a great entomologist. Learning about insects is the first step the most necessary step towards conquering this fear that if not checked will keep you isolated in the house.

Did I say that you will never be able to garden in the dirt out of doors without insects. They are a critical part of the soil, plants, this world! Perhaps, hydroponics in a sterile room if you don't want to go through the process undoing this fear.

I am hoping I am helping. I am not Ms.Tactful. I want you to be able to enjoy dirt and plants and sunlight and rain and well, insects are part and parcel a garden. Entomophobia

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    – Niall C.
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 14:28

In short, no. Insects and other life forms within the soil (and there are billions, many of which you cannot see without a strong microscope, such as bacteria) are an essential part of an eco system, and life cannot exist without them. No one wants rats near or in their houses, or even in a garden, but insects are a critical part of bio diversity. Some, in large numbers, can become major pests, but its all about balance. Worms are particularly critical in soil, and may even occur in pots. Human beings are just part of the panoply of life forms on the planet, and without all those others, we would not survive.

Where you live, you likely have some very unpleasant and undesirable insects and other life forms; I have a phobia about spiders, but it doesn't stop me having a garden or pot plants both in and outside the house. In my experience, even without any plants, spiders appear inside the house anyway and must be dealt with, quaking with terror or not. And having to deal with them down the years has reduced my phobic reaction, although I daresay, were it possible in the UK, having a tarantula running about would be something I'd find very difficult to cope with, but it does seem, if you have to steel yourself to deal with a phobic reaction, it can be done, over time with controlled or limited exposure.

There may be certain plants which are known to be attractive to certain creatures that you could avoid, but since the spectrum of smaller life forms that you are afraid of is so broad, some tolerance of the more harmless and beneficial ones would be necessary. Perhaps some therapy for your phobia about these things would be the way forward; phobic, fearful reactions to certain things (spiders, snakes, large or small flying insects, vermin) are part of a normal, primal protective mechanism in humans, but when it's so wide ranging, it's a problem.

  • I went to the Pet Store and purchased a Rosy Toed Tarantula. I learned so MUCH. They are a tree tarantula. The HAMMOCK they weave holds water better than a ceramic bowl. I ONLY ONCE got drunk enough to hold this beautiful black spider with rosy toes in the palm of my hand. Spiders are fascinating, brilliant and BENEFICIAL. One day I saw in the little terrarium a SECOND spider. I was flummoxed. I had forgotten exoskeletons are shed. This spider popped it's little carapace and crawled out of its old skeleton leaving behind a perfect tarantula. Guess what I did with that? Grins!!
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 22:06
  • @stormy well, each to his own - I'm about as likely to deliberately introduce a tarantula to my living area as I am to remove my eyeballs with a fork... but have no problems with rats, mice, snakes, worms. Everyone has something that makes them want to hotfoot it away...
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 9:07
  • HA HA HAH!...You better believe it! Oh, oh, my tummy!! Mine are spiders but I KNOW they are the good guys and I'd better get over it! I am a little weirder than most but caring for that tarantula (having kids atst) was a wonderful experience. Talking to entomologists also soothes the fears away. Have I told you about Tangenaria aggrestice? They changed the name since but simply the aggressive house spider. I've got some fun stories living in a home only occupied by this spider for 2 decades before I moved in. That video I saw where the homeowner was smashing a mommy spider trying to
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 1:01
  • I was lucky to be raised on a cattle ranch by my 'chosen' family for my teenage years...
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 1:02

While the two existing No answers are generally correct, there is a Yes answer, here it is.

Yes; but it is not simple. You have to have a place to grow the plants that is insect free, then you have to add plants that don't have insects on them. The easiest way to do this is growing from seed in a Hydroponic Garden. Many plants depend on insects for fertilization (to make more plants), if you exclude insects you will need to manually assist the "fusion of gametes to initiate the development of a new individual organism".

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    I was considering this--but even commercial clean rooms have the occasional insect contaminant, and the difference is that a clean room typically has easy to sterilize surface. If you get one fruit fly in there, you're going to have to take all the plants out and start over from scratch. Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 16:42
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    Hydroponics take place inside, not outdoors, and by no stretch of the imagination could it be called a 'garden' in the full meaning of the word.
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 19:28
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    @Bamboo See one of lots of references Starting an Outdoor Hydroponic Garden the problem with outdoors is making it insect free, pretty hard to do on this planet. Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 20:16
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    Rather defeats the object then...
    – Bamboo
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 20:23
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    @stelle specifically, in North America, you can purchase live ladybug larvae and 'paint' them on your plants with aphids. In order to keep population of predatory insects, they need a food source so there will always be a few pests around but when in balance they do not present an issue. When you try to eliminate every bug, the result can be an infestation of this kind. Invasive species can be a major issue especially if they have no natural predators where you live. BTW Spiders are rarely (never?) a threat to plants. They are predatory and will eat insects.
    – JimmyJames
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 16:19

Australia has a large number of indigenous species of spiders with fatal bites and in my limited experience the spiders are accepted as a fact of life. It's also affluent enough to afford whatever technologies it deems it needs. The fact that Australians don't generally do what you're considering makes me think it's either not possible or not practical. But there may be something out there so take a look at Australian spider control techniques.

  • I am not sure this adress the question, given that spiders are not insects.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 16:36
  • ha ha ha, you are correct Evargalo! But reading between the lines the OP imagines all insects to be arachnids...
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 23:20
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    There are only a few spiders to even worry about. Tarantulas would be last. If we had thinner skin, Granddaddy Longlegs would be the first. I never kill spiders, if they don't belong in the house I take them outside and let them go. These are major major insect control ROBOTS. The aggressive house spider is one to learn about and move from inside to outside. Spiders are a gardener's best friend.
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 23:23
  • @Al Maki There are life forms in Australia and New Zealand that are found no where else in the world...yet. They evolved right there...what are some of the names of these spiders that can kill humans? Even Ms. Black Widow doesn't really have a fatal bite. Nor Tagenaria aggresstice spelling and I know they've changed the genus for this spider. Those bites become infected, gangrenous and if not treated then death is possible. I wish I could be in Australia or New Zealand...right now.
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 25, 2018 at 23:29
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    @stormy Exactly; spiders are the ultimate "bad insect" killer. Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 15:17

Yes, move upstairs:


A more down to Earth solution is a plant growth chamber.

Plant Growth Chamber

In your area new homes ought to be built to standards that take local conditions into account.

Along with watertight they should be pest-tight also. I rarely get bugs in my home, when I do I attempt to live-capture them and take them outside. If you like the exercise locate your garden in the back corner of your property, away from your home. If you want nothing to do with tiny pests move to Alaska.

  • I am sorry, Rob, I am laughing. Sorry. Sorry. Your comment, "move to Alaska if you don't want bugs"...excuse me for another moment. Oh my. I KNOW you've never been to Alaska or the Alpine Wilderness. Mosquitoes are far more prolific up there than in the tropics. Know why? Fewer predators of mosquitoes. Starving mosquitoes become very very aggressive. I love you that you live capture them and release out of doors. This level of discomfort usually makes others poison or squash indiscriminately. Not you. I watched a video of a momma spider carrying her brood trying desperately to get
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 21:34
  • ...out of this house, this kitchen. The owner smashed her and her babies with a broom over and over again. I have never seen something so I - IT in my life and will be disturbed by that video forever. I might be too empathic but oh well. Insects are part of us, life and critical for gardening. Entomophobia is worse than becoming a paraplegic.
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 21:37
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    @stormy - It was intended as a useful, helpful answer, that actually does answer the question, whether it does have have an amusing element or not; the subtle underlying idea being that there are fewer bugs, and starving polar bears, which are certain to eat you - less to worry about than in the tropics. Glad your day was improved.
    – Rob
    Commented Jun 27, 2018 at 0:23
  • There aren't fewer bugs in Alaska. That was what I was trying to elucidate. There are hardier insects for sure, larger flies, biting flies and bigger more desperate mosquitoes. I certainly did not mean any type of any put down. You do read these words yes? btw, Starving Polar Bears? In just this last half decade they went up from 1500 to 25000. I still love you for capturing spiders and releasing them!
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 1:08
  • Polar bears aren't in Alaska...unless WAY WAY NORTH where they have ice and sea. As much a marine mammal as whales and seals.
    – stormy
    Commented Jun 28, 2018 at 1:10

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