I can remember as a teenager when my family first heard that a minor league baseball team was coming to Mobile. We began to discuss what the mascot should be. I said, “It should be something intimidating that Mobile is known for.” It didn’t take long for the brainstorming to start. My mom said, “The Mobile Mosquitoes.” My sister chimed in with a mascot that to her was, and probably still is, the most intimidating creature on Earth, “The Mobile Cockroaches.” I’m sure if the family dog Gretal could have had a say, she would have argued for, “The Mobile Fleas.” Why were all of our suggestions insects? When you think about it though, insects really are the most prevalent terror in our city. As we enter into our hottest and most humid months, the environment becomes so inviting to these prehistoric creatures that we begin to wonder whether we humans actually belong here. Until we are ready to surrender this Earth to the insects, here are some useful tips to keeping their population to a minimum around your home.
If money is not an object and you like the warm fuzzy feeling you get when a uniformed, almost officer-like, man arrives at your home in a truck that looks like it could belong to law enforcement; then you should call a pest control service. He will pull equipment out of his truck that could have belonged to the Ghostbusters. He will size up your yard and home as if he is using his education from years at Arachnid University to determine exactly where he should spray his ectoplasm. In an official manner, he will administer the answer to your fears before tipping his hat, handing you a bill, and wishing you good day. This is a perfectly effective option that only ranks low when it comes to the level of necessity.
If you prefer stretching your dollar, and are a little skeptical of how Officer Pest Control earned the stars on his uniform, there are options for you at your local do-it-yourself hardware store. Extermination techniques vary slightly from insect to insect, but you can execute any of them yourself. In this article, I will focus on the most prevalent and annoying insects in our area: Mosquitoes, Fleas, Roaches, and Flies.
Mosquitoes are the most difficult to control for a significant length of time. They are attracted to standing water because that is where they breed. Anything that catches and holds water during and after a rain is going to attract mosquitoes. An old pond without running water, the spare tires your hoarding neighbor keeps in their back yard, or a depression in your yard that holds water for days after a rain; these are all guaranteed breeding grounds. Even though you can reduce the amount of standing water in your own yard, you can’t control the standing water in your neighbors’ yards and in nearby marsh lands. Because mosquitoes can travel for miles, it is impossible to keep them out of your yard.
There are effective remedies for short term mosquito deterrent within a given area. These are most popular before a lawn party or barbeque and work well for keeping mosquitoes out of your yard for a day or two. It is a mix of oils that you can buy in granulated, liquid, or aerosol form. Simply spread or spray the product in the area you want clear of mosquitoes a couple hours before your party and you should be good for a day or two.
As far as long term control, the only effective remedy of which I am aware is to buy a fogger and spray your bushes at least once a week during the day. A fogger is a sprayer that blows mosquito killing chemicals in a mist. Bushes are where mosquitoes lay dormant during the hottest parts of the day. Spraying the bushes during the day will catch them in their sleep and destroy a large part of their population.
Fleas and Roaches
The methods for treating your home for fleas and roaches are similar. The main difference is that fleas are attracted to and live on your pet, whereas roaches like trees and areas concentrated in organic debris. For either insect, the best place to start is your yard. If you kill all the bugs inside your house first, the bugs outside will quickly replace them. Invest in your own Ghostbuster proton pack (aka plastic pump-up sprayer for $11.99) and a bottle of the appropriate chemical. It is important to periodically change the chemical you use as insects can grow a tolerance to the same chemical. Your local hardware store should be able to tell you which chemical is working best for people at the moment. Mix the chemical in the correct proportion with water in your sprayer and administer to your yard. For fleas, focus on the grass. For roaches, focus on flower beds, under and around your house, and any other areas of heavy yard debris such as dead leaves, fallen tree branches, and yard clippings. It will usually take a few applications of the chemical to get the insect population under control. For fleas, adding an insect growth regulator to your chemical mix can speed up the process. While the flea killing chemical kills all living fleas, it can leave eggs and larvae unharmed to hatch weeks or even months later. An insect growth regulator will destroy the eggs and larvae during the initial spray.
Now that you have cut off the supply of insects coming into your home, it’s time to eliminate the population that is already inside. The chemicals used outside can be used inside, but I don’t recommend it unless the home is vacant. Instead, purchase chemicals that are made for indoor use in spray or aerosol form. If you have a bad infestation, vacate the house for a few hours after setting off insecticide foggers in each room. Then apply the spray to areas that bugs frequent but people do not; behind major appliances, under and behind cabinets, and along floor boards. The foggers destroy most of the population while the spray continues to kill any survivors who come in contact with the poison.
You should rid your pet of fleas simultaneously with ridding your home. There are many options for your pet. First, kill the fleas that are on your pet now. Give them a flea bath or a Capstar pill. Then use a monthly flea preventative. There are many options that can be purchased from a local hardware/pet supply store or your vet. Effectiveness varies so find what works best for you. Don’t stay with the same one too long as the fleas may develop a tolerance to it.
There are natural solutions for treating your home for fleas and roaches. Diatomaceous earth, sulfur, and hydrated lime are known to affect insect populations. They are powders that you simply spread in your yard. You could use them inside but it would be messy; and smelly if you use sulfur. Inside, try natural insecticide sprays. They are made with a mix of oils such as clove, lemongrass, cedarwood, and cinnamon. They smell good and are safe to use on your pet.
For a long time, people have enjoyed killing flies with a fly swatter or an electric fly trap hanging on the porch. They even make electric fly swatters now. Though these methods may be more fun, they are less effective.
Fly baits are the best way to extinguish a large population of flies outside of the home. They are made with an attractant and a poison. You can buy them in a granulated spread, liquid spray, or trap form. They are very effective, but be careful using them around areas where people spend a lot of time. Do not place in the middle of a barbeque or directly on your porch. The reason flies seem to come from miles around to die at the hand of this poison is the attractant smells like a dead animal. You’ll want to place it off to the side of where everyone is eating or hanging out. The bait will attract the flies away from you.
Because of the smell, you will not want to use fly baits inside. Use fly tape or fly ribbons. They use a non-fragrant attractant and adhesive so the flies are permanently stuck to the tape or ribbon once they land on it.
I was trying to decide how I should end this article when divine intervention decided for me. A salesman from a pest control company dropped a quote and service contract on my desk for the hardware store; literally while I was writing this article (I am not making this up). The proposal: $2,110 installation fee with a $652 annual renewal to treat for all rodents and insects AS NEEDED. I cannot testify as to the quality of these services, but I can say for that price, I’m going give doing it myself a try.