Monday, December 9, 2013

Insects in the House - Not!

Moving to the tropics, I quickly learned that insects are a year around fact of life. And keeping them totally out of the house is next to impossible. But there are a few steps that I take that seem to help. 

Screens on the windows help keep out the flies, mosquitos, and other fliers. But screens are normal just about anywhere in the USA. Nothing special, but they work pretty well. 

Ants! Ants are everywhere, even in the posh condos and hotels. We've got giant ones here and itty bitty ones the size of large dust specks, and a multitude of in-between ones.  Newcomers to the islands always complain about the ants. You never can completely rid yourself of them. I'm happy to just keep them out of the house. Luckily our place is up on foundation piers, so I can put ant bait at the base of each pier. Normally I'm not a big proponent of toxic stuff, but Amdro is the only thing that is really effective as a barrier attack. I've also used liquid boric acid baits, but Amdro is superior. I don't put out the baits unless I see ants, and so far I haven't had many problems. Now my mother's place is on a concrete pad, so the ants have easy access. Keeping the ants out at her place is a constant battle. Mom's goal is to just keep their numbers down to an acceptable level. She has had good luck using the liquid boric acid much of the time. But sometimes a new species of ant shows up that over populates, so then the Amdro gets used. 

Ants are a real hassle in the gardens. They bring in mealy bug, scale, and aphids. Thanks guys! Just what I want! So from time to time I have to take steps to reduce their numbers. Again, Amdro or boric acid baits work. I just have to protect the baits from the rain. For some ant species I will mix sugar in the bait, while for others peanut butter works better. In the house I don't have to use either, but outside  these baits work better. 

Cockroaches, we grow BIG ones here! In polite company, we refer to them as palmetto bugs. But let's get real, they're cockroaches. The hardware store carries a trap from Japan that uses sticky paper and a lure. They work fairly well, but I think they only catch one out of ten. There always seems to be cockroaches that the traps don't get. So my approach is boric acid powder. If I get cockroaches in the house, they're invariably in the kitchen range. So I'll pull out the range and dust underneath with boric acid powder. I'll also dust under the burners. That usually does the trick. My mother gets cockroaches in her dishwasher, so when that happens I'll pull out the washer and dust behind it. 

As a general house preventative I've been dusting boric acid powder behind the walls as we build the place. Any cockroaches, or any other bug, that tries to hide in the walls will eventually meet up with the boric acid powder. This method works really good! 
Little moths and millers sometimes become a problem. The quickest way to get rid of them is to zap them with one of those electric shock "tennis rackets". It's easy, quick, and very satisfying to hear the buggah explode. 

Centipedes. Just saying the word sends shivers down the spines on many people around here. These centipedes are giants, often 6 inches long ir more! And their bite is incredibly painful, sending plenty of people to the hospital emergency ward. Although they are easy to incapacitate once you see them, your first warning that they're around is usually the searing, burning, excruciating pain at wherever spot they got you. It's too late then. At that stage once you've dispatched the centipede, you're running for ice and ammonia to try to stave off the worse of the pain. Keeping centipedes out of the house is tough. Having your house up on piers helps because you can put aluminum collars on each pier to deter the centipedes. But they will climb up stairs, bushes and trees touching the house, or anything else that bridges the gap. And if your house is on a concrete pad, well forget it. You'll just have centipedes. People will douse insecticide along door sills, trying to deter centipedes. Some people believe that it works, others aren't so sure. My mother faithfully uses various insecticides but so far the centipedes aren't impressed. Fresh sticky tape catches them but within 24 hours the tape no longer is sticky enough. Mom keeps glue traps beside the door entrances and from time to time they catch a centipede. Ah, one less in the house, thank heaven. 
Photo taken from 

Outside there are all sorts of interesting looking insects and critters. Most don't bother people, but some bite and sting. Wasps. Yellowjackets. Crab spiders. Scorpions. Most of the time these don't make it into people's homes. 


  1. Ah, yes, the ants and roaches challenged us to keep putting out baits, and we became good pet food bowl cleaners. The ants were trying to herd aphids onto the citrus, but I used plastic wrap bands around the trunks, with a 3-inch belt of Tree Tanglefoot to block the parade. They were adept at finding a stray drooping branch or leaf to bypass that goop, and sometimes it needed a new coat when the winds brought too much dust or cane burn ashes. I learned from my hanabata days in the Caribbean to watch out for centipedes, especially when foraging for seagrapes, guavas, and da kine. I worried that mosquitos might spread he dengue virus (one of my classmates got that, but thankfully had no complications. He could attest to the break-bone symptoms, though! My personal most detested buggahs anywhere are ticks. I never tried dosing myself with Frontline [prolly a bad idea], but it was tempting. Just before we set sail for the Oregon coast, I was researching how to make a fan-powered skeeter and fly trap, but so far I haven't needed it.

  2. Living in the tropics exposes you to different types of insects. It’s important to have efficient insect control systems to make sure they won’t damage your house. At the same time, keep insect repellants in your home for your family’s safety. How are you now? :)

    Christian Lewis @ BeelinePestControl

  3. Hi Christian! I find that most insects are just a nuisense, but the one that can cause significant damage is the termite. I didn't address termites in my post because I feel they are an altogether subject unto their own. Besides, I don't have them on my property...YET. Eventually they will arrive.