Tuesday, March 30, 2010

They're Ba-ack!

Yep, it's as if the bugs know Spring has sprung! On the 23rd of March I saw my first palmetto bug in four months! And one flea turned up in the ritual cat-combing! It's a combination of sunlight time and warmth that alerts both the beautiful blooms and the not-so-beautiful bugs that it's time to wake up!

So here are some time-tested eco-friendly tips for bug control in the home.
  1. Diatomaceous Earth kills fleas mechanically
    1. Basically it is microscopic broken glass, that's simplifying it, but that's how it works. We feel nothing but an almost talc-like fineness, but for the flea, it's like walking on shards of glass. It cuts their exoskeleton and they die by dehydration pretty fast. It only works when dry and is dangerous only if inhaled, so use appropriately.
    2. I use it several ways.
      1. I put it on the carpet overnight and then vacuum in the morning.
      2. I put it on the bottom of my ferret's cage where the litter box is and cover it with fluffy bedding. The ferret doesn't spend much time down there, but the eggs drop and it seems to help. 
      3. I also sweep it across my wood floors and let it sit there at least a few days - once I mop or vacuum it is gone.
  2. Boric acid does wonders keeping the Palmetto bug population down
    1. I have cleaned out all my cupboards and put down boric acid around the perimeters. You can blow in a thin stream of it. I push it down into the spaces between the shelves and the sides as well as packing it into any holes.
    2. Sprinkle it around the pipes under your sinks. Boric acid works wet as well as dry. The only precaution is to keep it away from food and pets. So keeping it in the hidden pipe areas is best.
  3. Containers with water and some dish-soap trap and kill both bugs.
    1. Now this is a fun experiment for kids over say 6 or 7: Put down a shallow dish with about an inch of water and a couple squirts of dish washing liquid in it. For palmettos, place it near a place you've seen them in the past for an over night. For fleas, place it in a spot on the floor where pets frequent, but keep the pets out of the room for the night. Add a small desk lamp over it for heat (so use incandescent light bulb, NOT florescent!).  In the morning you'll find some dead bugs...but only if you have bugs. If you use chemicals, this is all moot.
    2. I use a wide-mouth mug with water and dish soap when I comb my pets. That way I can flick the fleas right into the soap-water and they sink immediately.
  4. Try not to kill all your house spiders. Leave a couple in hidden spots and you'll be amazed at how many fleas and baby palmettos they catch!
    1. This has been a great learning tool for kids! I have picked fleas off my cats and dropped them into the tiny webs of the harmless house spider and we've watched the spider run right to the flea!
  5. If you have a bad flea infestation, judicious use of topical flea treatments on your pets might be the only way to get them under control. Use all chemicals strictly according to the label instructions and NEVER use dog products on cats!
    1. One tip, use one brand for two cycles and then switch to another brand for two cycles. These meds kill 99% of the fleas within 24 hours. This means 1% lives to breed "super fleas" that are immune to that chemical. In the decades that these products have been in use, there have evolved some fleas that are immune. By switching up the chemicals you have a better chance of stopping the immunity.
  6. Vacuuming every carpeted area every day.
    1. Vacuum the furniture weekly.
    2. Use cheap throws on the furniture if pets get up there so they can be washed.
    3. Put boric acid and D.E. in the vacuum bag or canister.
    4. Sweep D.E. and Boric acid onto wooden floors so it gets between the slats. If your wood floor is sealed, this isn't necessary.
    5. Empty the vacuum bags/canisters and take the garbage out of the house.
  7. Put stopper in sinks over night when not in use.
    1. I've found this very helpful. Most palmetto activity is at night. Sneak into your kitchen around 2 AM and flip on the light - if you have palmettos, you'll see 'em then! Mostly around the sink. There were many fewer in my traps when I started plugging the drains.
    2. If you get an infestation in your dishwasher, pour about a galleon of water into the bottom when not in use. Most families won't have this issue. But if you're like me and only run the dishwasher once every other week or so, then this is another drain they can enter.

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