Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Managing House "Bugs"

"J" recently asked me, "I saw your post a while back about insects. Have you found any permanent solution for managing them, especially centipedes?" I've covered most of this info before, so I'll just update it and post it in one spot. 

What's your definition of a permanent solution for managing them? Do you mean 100% permanent eradication? That pretty much won't happen in the tropics because we don't have winter freezes. And besides,  insects can easily travel from the neighbors properties to your own year around. Since I'm not willing to soak my property with insecticides, I will see insect populations increase at times. Depending upon the insect, I may or may not take action. Why no action? Because I host several natural insect eaters on the farm. In order to keep those around, they need to eat year around. Skinks. Anoles. Chameleons. Tree frogs. Mice. Assorted birds. They all help keep things in balance. 

There are some insects I have little tolerance for having around....
...vinegar flies. I have no objection to them outdoors, but I don't want them in the kitchen. Foremost for control is not to have any unprotected fresh food sitting around, especially fruits. Things get stored in the frig or outside. Outside they need to be protected from rodents and birds. That is all sound advice, but I don't always listen to myself.....thus the reason for the saying "do as I say, not as I do" evolved. Therefore I keep a fly strip in the kitchen near the counter where I tend to sit fruits. I've used other sorts of traps and controls, but for me the old fashion flypaper works best. 
...flies. We have very little problem with flies around the house. Outdoors I keep fly traps, especially in the pasture areas. This helps protect the sheep against flystrike. I have traps by the dog kennel, plus I pick up dog poop as soon as I notice it. This poop is buried to prevent any lain eggs from developing into more flies. The house is protected with screens, letting very few flies into the house. The occasional fly usually gets captured by the flypaper in the kitchen.  
...mosquitoes. I have dozens of mini ponds that are stocked with small fish to eat mosquito larvae. And I use bt ( mosquito dunks or granules) in the rain gutter system where I can't flush out the larvae. That also treats the catchment tank, which I keep covered but is not 100% mosquito proof. 
...ants. They are fine outdoors, though I discourage high populations of them in the garden areas. But I don't want them indoors. Whenever I see them,  I use a boric acid solution to kill them. They drink it up and take it back to their nests, killing the ants. 
...cockroaches. Living in the tropics cockroaches are a given. I use boric acid powder under the frig, freezer, and range. Plus when we closed up the house walls, we sprinkled boric acid powder between the upright 2x4s. I also have a bit of boric acid powder inside the electric receptacle boxes in the kitchen by the range and sink, two very enticing spots for roaches. So far this is controlling most of the cockroaches that get into the house. Occasionally I'll spy one in the bathroom, whereupon I'll dust some boric acid powder into crevices behind the sink and around the toilet. 
...centipedes. Happily I don't have lots of centipedes on the farm. Since we've lived here I've only come across 2 adult red ones and perhaps 6 adult blue ones. All were killed immediately. I think the red ones arrived on equipment. I don't know how the blue ones arrived. All the blue ones were found in the same area -- under items stored in an outdoor storage shed. I set up traps (nice hiding places for them) after finding the first two when I moved some lumber. The traps lured four more. Since those initial ones, I haven't seen any others but I check occasionally. 

Centipedes.......some people will routinely apply a perimeter spray around their homes. I really don't know if this makes any difference, but I don't plan to ever use it. I tend to avoid applying toxins around my house. Some people will apply the pesticide just to their doorways in hopes of deterring centipedes from entering into the house. Some other tricks include...
...(especially during dry spells) leaving a rag soaked in boric acid solution just beside the doorway. This is to entice the thirsty centipede to drink it. Since centipedes are often found in the bathroom, they seem to be attracted to moisture. Pet owners teach their pets to leave the rag alone. 
...keeping bed linens, sofa & chair material up off the floors. Centipedes will climb right up into bed if the bed has a dust ruffle close to ground level.
...storing shoes up off the floor. No fun finding a centipede when you slip you feet into your shoes. My mother had scorpions and centipedes where she lived and would find them in her shoes occasionally. So she took to hanging her shoes on a hook up off the floor. 
...keep dirty laundry and used bath towels off the floor. Centipedes will nestle inside, attracted to the moisture and darkness. 
...keeping a rubber mallet handy to whack the centipede to death. A long handled pancake turner works well too to chop them in half. 
..having a centipede finding dog. My friend had a dog that was a super great centipede hunter, alerting them to any centipede in the house. Just a couple of weeks ago my own dog, Noodles, alerted me to a centipede while I was visiting a friend. He found it in a doorway and was highly interested. I praised his actions and hope he does it again. I'd love to have him alert us to centipedes! Perhaps the next time I'll be prepared to capture the centipede to use it as a training tool for Noodles. 
While living with centipedes may sound scary, it's not a big deal. Really. Even in areas where they are common, you don't see them very often. Usually you will come across one if you are out working in your gardens moving rocks. Just don't touch it, for they will quickly bite. If bitten, a quick application of ammonia followed by ice (hold an ice cube to the bite for 10-15 minutes) will take care of most of the discomfort. I have been bitten twice now, on the finger, while working on clearing land down on my seed farm. (I now wear gloves while working there.) I keep an "afterbite" stick in my truck for such occasions. That, plus an ice cube from my cooler (I bring something cold to drink while I'm working there), takes care of the bite. 

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