Can you get rid of bed bugs on your own?
Treating bed bugs is complex. Your likelihood of success depends on many factors, including:
- How many bed bugs you have;
- How much clutter is available for hiding places;
- Whether your neighbors have bedbugs; and
- Whether all residents of a house or building will participate.
Getting rid of bed bugs completely can take weeks to months, depending on the nature and extent of the infestation. To be successful, everyone will need to cooperate and do their part.
The following steps will help you begin:
You may have to follow these steps more than once to kill all the bugs and their eggs.
Identify the Problem
- Identify the pest:
- Collect a sample of the pest to show an extension agentExitor other insect expert.
- Extension agents can identify the pest at no cost to you. They are trained in pest control and know your local area.
- If an extension agent or other expert says the pest is a bed bug, notify your landlord if you live in an apartment. The units near yours should be inspected.
- Landlords may have a responsibilityExit to participate in treatment.
- Check the housing codes and laws in your area.
- Inspect all areas that may have bed bugs, plus surrounding living spaces, to find out the extent of infestation.
Develop a Strategy
- Make a schedule for completing the steps below. Be sure to include any personal plans, such as vacations.
- Keep records through the whole process. Note the dates and exact locations where pests are found. This will help you track progress and better know where to target your work.
- Keep checking for at least a year after you’re done to make sure all the bed bugs are gone.
Keep the Infestation from Spreading
- Remove infested items. Place them in a sealed plastic bag and treat them. Learn more about treatment methods in the sections below.
- Items that cannot be treated should be placed in a sealed plastic bag and left there for up to a year to ensure any active bugs are dead.
- Empty the vacuum after each use. Seal the bag as tightly as possible and immediately throw it out in an outdoor trash container.
- Discard furniture responsibly if you can’t safely eliminate the bed bugs. Destroy it so someone else won’t be tempted to bring it into their home. For example:
- Rip covers and remove stuffing from furniture items.
- Use spray paint to mark furniture with “Bed Bugs.”
- Have infested items picked up as soon as possible by the trash collection agency.
- Don’t discard furniture if you can safely eliminate the bed bugs from it.
Prepare for Treatment
Preparing for treatment is very important; it will make it easier to monitor for bed bugs that haven’t been eliminated. This preparation should be completed whether you are doing the treatment yourself or hiring a professional.
Kill the Bed Bugs
- Make sure the methods you select are safe, effective and legal. See What’s Legal, What’s Not.
- Consider non-chemical methods of killing bed bugs. Some will be more useful than others depending on your situation. These and other methods can be helpful, but they might not get rid of the infestation entirely:
- Heat treatment: You can use a clothes dryer on high heat. You can also use black plastic bags in a hot, closed car in the sun, but success depends on your climate and other factors. Do-it-yourself heat treatments might not work. Professionals have access to more intensive and proven methods that can even treat whole houses with heat. You may also purchase a portable heat chamber, which is usually quite effective.
- Cold treatment can be successful in the home environment if the freezer is set to 0 o F. You must leave the items in a sealed bag in the freezer at that temperature for four days. Always use a thermometer to check the temperature, since home freezers are not always set to 0 o .
- Steam cleaners (wet or dry) can get into cracks and fabrics to treat carpets, baseboards, bed frames, and other furniture. The steam temperature must be at least 130 o F but should not have a forceful airflow, or it may cause bed bugs to scatter. Use a diffuser to prevent scattering.
- If needed,hire a pest management professional or use pesticides carefully according to the label directions:
- Look for EPA-registered pesticides that have bed bugs listed on the label.
- Use foggers (bug bombs) only with extreme care and only if bed bugs are listed on the label. Improper use can harm your health or cause a fire or explosion. Foggers should not be your only method of bed bug control. The spray will not reach the cracks and crevices where bed bugs hide. See Should I Use a Fogger? for more information.
- Carefully look for any evidence of bed bugs every few days after you complete your initial cleanup and control processes. If you see bed bugs, either the initial cleanup missed some bugs or eggs have hatched. Retreatment may be needed.
- Consider using different types of pesticides if repeated treatments are needed. Desiccants (chemicals that dry things out) can be particularly effective in some situations since they work by drying out the bug (which means the bed bugs can’t develop resistance).
- If using desiccants, be sure to use only products registered by EPA as a pesticide.
- Do not use pool- or food-grade diatomaceous earth (made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms). This type of diatomaceous earth can harm you when you breathe it in. The pesticide version uses a different size of diatoms, which reduces the hazard.
- Desiccants can be very effective but may take several months to work.
Evaluate and Prevent
- Continue to inspect for bed bugs, at least every 7 days, in case any eggs remain. You can use interceptors, traps or other monitoring methods. Interceptors are placed under the legs of furniture to catch bed bugs and keep them from climbing the legs. Commercial and do-it-yourself interceptors are options.
- Continue to protect your home from bed bugs.
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In this Article
- Where Bed Bugs Hide
- When Bedbugs Bite
- Signs of Infestation
- Bedbug Treatments
- Bedbug Extermination
Bedbugs are small, oval, brownish insects that live on the blood of animals or humans. Adult bedbugs have flat bodies about the size of an apple seed. After feeding, however, their bodies swell and are a reddish color.
Bedbugs do not fly, but they can move quickly over floors, walls, and ceilings. Female bedbugs may lay hundreds of eggs, each of which is about the size of a speck of dust, over a lifetime.
Immature bedbugs, called nymphs, shed their skins five times before reaching maturity and require a meal of blood before each shedding. Under favorable conditions the bugs can develop fully in as little as a month and produce three or more generations per year.
Although they are a nuisance, they are not thought to transmit diseases.
Where Bed Bugs Hide
Bedbugs may enter your home undetected through luggage, clothing, used beds and couches, and other items. Their flattened bodies make it possible for them to fit into tiny spaces, about the width of a credit card. Bedbugs do not have nests like ants or bees, but tend to live in groups in hiding places. Their initial hiding places are typically in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards where they have easy access to people to bite in the night.
Over time, however, they may scatter through the bedroom, moving into any crevice or protected location. They may also spread to nearby rooms or apartments.
Because bedbugs live solely on blood, having them in your home is not a sign of dirtiness. You are as likely to find them in immaculate homes and hotel rooms as in filthy ones.
When Bedbugs Bite
Bedbugs are active mainly at night and usually bite people while they are sleeping. They feed by piercing the skin and withdrawing blood through an elongated beak. The bugs feed from three to 10 minutes to become engorged and then crawl away unnoticed.
Most bedbug bites are painless at first, but later turn into itchy welts. Unlike flea bites that are mainly around the ankles, bedbug bites are on any area of skin exposed while sleeping. Also, the bites do not have a red spot in the center like flea bites do.
People who don’t realize they have a bedbug infestation may attribute the itching and welts to other causes, such as mosquitoes. To confirm bedbug bites, you must find and identify the bugs themselves.
Signs of Infestation
If you wake up with itchy areas you didn’t have when you went to sleep, you may have bedbugs, particularly if you got a used bed or other used furniture around the time the bites started. Other signs that you have bedbugs include:
- Blood stains on your sheets or pillowcases
- Dark or rusty spots of bedbug excrement on sheets and mattresses, bed clothes, and walls
- Bedbug fecal spots, egg shells, or shed skins in areas where bedbugs hide
- An offensive, musty odor from the bugs’ scent glands
If you suspect an infestation, remove all bedding and check it carefully for signs of the bugs or their excrement. Remove the dust cover over the bottom of the box springs and examine the seams in the wood framing. Peel back the fabric where it is stapled to the wood frame.
Also, check the area around the bed, including inside books, telephones or radios, the edge of the carpet, and even in electrical outlets. Check your closet, because bedbugs can attach to clothing. If you are uncertain about signs of bedbugs, call an exterminator, who will know what to look for.
If you find signs of infestation, begin steps to get rid of the bugs and prevent their return.
Getting rid of bedbugs begins with cleaning up the places where bedbugs live. This should include the following:
- Clean bedding, linens, curtains, and clothing in hot water and dry them on the highest dryer setting. Place stuffed animals, shoes, and other items that can’t be washed in the dryer and run on high for 30 minutes.
- Use a stiff brush to scrub mattress seams to remove bedbugs and their eggs before vacuuming.
- Vacuum your bed and surrounding area frequently. After vacuuming, immediately place the vacuum cleaner bag in a plastic bag and place in garbage can outdoors.
- Encase mattress and box springs with a tightly woven, zippered cover to keep bedbugs from entering or escaping. Bedbugs may live up to a year without feeding, so keep the cover on your mattress for at least a year to make sure all bugs in the mattress are dead.
- Repair cracks in plaster and glue down peeling wallpaper to get rid of places bedbugs can hide.
- Get rid of clutter around the bed.
If your mattress is infested, you may want to get rid of it and get a new one, but take care to rid the rest of your home of bedbugs or they will infest your new mattress.
While cleaning up infested areas will be helpful in controlling bedbugs, getting rid of them usually requires chemical treatments. Because treating your bed and bedroom with insecticides can be harmful, it is important to use products that can be used safely in bedrooms. Do not treat mattresses and bedding unless the label specifically says you can use them on bedding.
Generally it is safest and most effective to hire an experienced pest control professional for bedbug extermination.
University of Kentucky College of Agriculture: “Bed Bugs.”
Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet: “Bed Bugs.”
The New York City Department of Heath and Mental Hygiene: “Stop Bed Bugs Safely.”
University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension Lancaster County: “Managing Bed Bugs.”
Gnats are one of the most common pests that homeowners encounter especially during late spring and summer. We cover six ways to help you get rid of gnats quickly.
1. Trap the Gnats with Vinegar or Rotten Fruits
All you may need is some good old vinegar and dish soap to wipe out the gnat population at home. Stir together a bowl consisting of a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar and a few drops of dish soap (see our video for visual instructions).
Place the bowl in areas of the house, such as the kitchen and bathroom, where gnats are likely to dwell. You could also purchase ready-made traps. The Terro Fly trap, for example, is known to be super effective at trapping and eliminating gnats.
Don’t have vinegar at home? You can achieve the same result by creating a trap consisting of rotten or decaying fruit (gnats just love fermented stuff). We would suggest covering the bowl with saran wrap (poke a few tiny holes) to prevent the gnats from escaping.
2. Clean the Drains and Pipes
There are actually several types of gnats with the most common ones being fungus gnats and drain gnats. If you see a lot of gnats around the bathroom then you could be dealing with drain gnats.
You can get rid of these gnats quickly by cleaning the kitchen and bathroom pipe on a regular basis. The simplest way is by pouring boiling water down the infested pipes at least once a day (assuming the pipes are not clogged).
A bio-based cleaner, such as the Bio Drain Gel, will also help clean the inner pipe surface and suffocate any gnats inside due to its thickened formula.
3. Place Yellow Sticky Traps Around the House
The yellow sticky traps work especially well for fungus gnats, which typically appear from poor-quality soil in plant containers. The bright yellow color will attract the gnats and the adhesive surface will capture them as soon as they make contact.
You can grab a pack of yellow stick gnat traps such as the Garsum sticky trap at a very affordable price. It’s also pet and children-safe as long as you grab the non-toxic products.
4. Replace the Potted Soil
Sometimes, some plant containers may be beyond saving. If the gnat infestation is too heavy, we would suggest replacing the infested soil completely. There is a greater likelihood of this happening when you over-water indoor plants so be careful with how much water you give to your plants.
5. Clear the Kitchen Trash
Gnats can often be confused with fruit flies. If you are dealing with the latter then it’s important to throw away the trash on a regular basis. Fruit flies typically appear from decaying matter in warm, humid conditions.
6. Create a Trap Using Leftover Wine
Some people have found wine to be a more effective lure than apple cider vinegar. You can create your own gnat trap at home by swirling some cheap, leftover wine with a few drops of dish detergent. Pour the wine mixture into a small bowl then wrap the top with saran wrap. Poke a few holes along the saran wrap surface to allow the gnats to enter and eventually fall into their demise.
Ultimately, the best method for getting rid of gnats is prevention. This can be achieved by cleaning your house on a regular basis. Make sure there’s no organic debris or leftover foods for the gnats to feed from. Take out the trash on a regular basis and maintain the water pipes.
Check out this infographic for more effective methods for getting rid of gnats in the house. Always start with the source when you are dealing with these annoying flies.
The first thing to know is that there are many reasons why small black flying insects decide to enter your home. If, for example, you leave spilled sugar in your kitchen or garbage spread for several days, it is most likely that in less than you imagine, you will have a visit from these insects.
The good news is that there are many options and products that you can use to get rid of the little black flying insects. If you are suspicious of chemical-based products, you can choose natural methods to say goodbye to these types of insects.
Types Of Tiny Black Flying Bugs In House
Among the types of small black flying insects that you may commonly see in your home are:
If you notice small flies flying around plants in your home, they are most likely mushroom gnats. These types of flies are the small ones you can get in your home and black. They generally have a very weak flight, and during their first stage of life, they resemble worms.
These flies with dark brown heads have a preference for living in the soil of plant pots. During its immature stage, it can feed on organic matter in a state of decomposition, and the good news is that it does not usually damage the roots of plants.
It is common to see the larvae of these flies in wet soil, so there is a greater presence during the fall season. This is because the plants are brought inside to protect them from the cold during the winter, or it can also be an excess of watering the plants.
Foridas flies can be distinguished from the others because they are very small and tend to walk in a zigzag when they are on a surface. They are also known as sewer flies, and they look a lot like fruit flies.
While most flies are active during the day, they can generally be seen more often at night. This species of flies are found in places where there is a sewer line, so if you notice them in or near your home, you should have your septic tank or sewer system checked.
Fruit flies are also very small, and they are very attracted to cooking. If you leave fruits or vegetables in the kitchen area in a great state of maturity, the fruit flies’ larvae will begin to appear. When it reaches its adult stage, this fly can live for several weeks, and it is long enough for it to achieve an infestation.
As soon as you notice fruit flies in your home, you should find an effective method to get rid of them quickly.
Where Do They Come From?
Small black flying insects appear spontaneously, which is why many people wonder where they come from. Usually, these little black flying insects are some species of flies that head to your home is searching for items that they can feed on or survive on.
Flies can enter your home through windows, doors, or cracks in structures. Fruit flies, for example, are attracted to the smell of ripe vegetables or fruits. At the same time, other flies go to your house when they smell humid or plants.
What Causes Tiny Black Flying Bugs To Be In Your House?
Although black flying insects are very small, they can become quite a nuisance if you can’t get rid of them in time. If you do not maintain a thorough cleaning in your home, your house will likely be filled with mosquitoes or other insects that can even cause an infestation.
Over-watering plants can also be a factor that will quickly attract small flying insects. Although these insects do not harm humans because their mouth is not designed to bite, they can become pests, and you must get rid of them in time.
If you notice small black flying insects inside or outside your home, you should know that they can quickly take over your space if you do not take action in time. The good news is that there are many options you can use to get rid of these insects effectively, so they never come back.
How To Get Rid Of Tiny Black Flying Bugs In House Naturally?
Although vinegar does not kill small black flying insects, it can help catch them. You can cheat with apple cider vinegar, and you only need to mix two tablespoons of vinegar, one tablespoon of sugar, half a cup of warm water, and a few drops of liquid soap.
Place this mixture in a container and place it where you notice the greatest presence of these insects.
The wine trap can be very effective, and you only need to leave some expired wine in a bottle along with a few drops of liquid soap. The wine’s vinegary aroma will quickly attract small flying insects, and the liquid soap will trap them.
Setting a rotten fruit as a trap can also help eliminate small black flying insects. You can put any fruit that is ripe in a jar and add vinegar to it, and you will quickly see how these insects are attracted.
How To Prevent Tiny Black Flying Bugs In House?
To prevent small black flying insects from invading your home, you must take some steps that can be of great help. You mustn’t leave fruits or vegetables in your kitchen in a ripe state, since these insects will be attracted quickly.
If you have plants, watering them, try not to add too much water as the flies’ larvae can form. Humidity is also a condition that can attract these types of insects, so you should be aware of cleaning each space in your home regularly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are you getting a lot of gnats in your home?
Damp breeding grounds for gnats have moist potting soil, food spillage, overwatered plants or grass, leaking pipes under the sink, puddles inside or even outside the house of yours, trash cans, and condensation around vents and windows.
How can you eliminate small black flying insects that bite?
And Fill a bowl with a 1/4 cup of the dish soap and also one glass of murky apple cider vinegar. And place the bowl exterior in a location with gnats. Then, the tiny bugs are attracted to the mixture, and whenever they fall in, they will not have the ability to get out.
What repels the gnats from biting?
Burn torches, candles, or perhaps coils containing citronella or perhaps various other biting gnat repellents. And the smoke created by these things will reduce the bites.
What exactly are the small insects attracted to light?
Frequently mistaken for fleas, these little jumping bugs come inside your home during hot weather or after rain. While they are able to live in virtually any climate, springtails look for humidity, dampness, and moisture. They’re additionally attracted to light, in addition to these things may lead them into a house.
How can you eliminate small black colored flies in your bathroom?
You are able to get rid of the flies now inside with a rapid trap: Fill a jar or bowl with the equal parts sugar, white vinegar, and water, and then add five to ten drops of the liquid dish detergent. Leave the jar near the sink or perhaps shower drain overnight or perhaps as much as 7 days until the flies are away.
Although it’s below freezing here in NY, my thoughts are straying to a favorite warm-weather activity – collecting insects for my herp collection. Invariably, I find species that are new to me, and others that I wind up keeping alive in small terrariums. Drawing on a lifetime of collecting for my pets and the animals under my care at the Bronx Zoo, I’ve written articles on capturing, using, and breeding many invertebrates, including sap beetles, leaf litter dwellers, “meadow plankton”, earwigs, sow bugs, grasshoppers, and many others. In this article, I’ll summarize my favorite collection techniques and traps. Links to articles containing further information are also included. As I and other herp-keepers have barely scratched the surface of this topic, please be sure to post your own thoughts and experiences below.
The Best Method, Bar None
The best collecting tip I can provide is that you team up with a small child. As you can see from my photos, their enthusiasm cannot be out into words, and it is contagious. What’s more, a child’s curiosity, size and sharp eyesight will increase your catch – and your enjoyment of the experience – immensely. My little collecting partner has found invertebrates that I’ve never seen before, even in areas I’ve explored for decades!
The Zoo Med Bug Napper Insect Trap
The Zoo Med Bug Napper is a scaled-down version of the traps I used to collect food for the Bronx Zoo’s reptiles, amphibians, and birds. It is very effective at snaring moths, beetles, midges, and other flying insects. Along with field sweeping (see below), this trap has the potential to yield the greatest numbers and varieties of insects. Checking it each morning is a thrilling experience, and finding a species new to you – or even to science – is a real possibility.
This term is used by entomologists to describe the astonishing variety of invertebrates that can be collected by simply sweeping a net through tall grass. The accompanying photo was taken after collecting in a tiny, overgrown field in the middle of a busy park. Twenty minutes of “work” yielded 30-40 species, including spiders, leafhoppers, aphids, grasshoppers, mantids, bee flies, caterpillars and many others…and my nephew later spent hours poring over his books trying to identify our prizes.
Leaf Litter Invertebrates
A single acre of fallen leaves can be home to 3 tons (yes, tons!) of springtails, ants, beetles, spiders, millipedes and other invertebrates. Many are tiny, and readily accepted by Poison Frogs and other small herps that must generally make do with only 2-3 food items.
To sample what’s out there, simply place a handful of leaf litter into a funnel, suspend the funnel over a jar and position a 100 watt bulb about 6 inches above the leaves. Creatures seeking to escape the heat will move down the funnel and into the jar. A damp paper towel placed at the bottom of the collecting jar will assure they survive until removed. More information.
Termites feature heavily in the diets of animals ranging from tiny toads to huge monitor lizards. To make a termite trap, simply take a small plastic storage box and cut several holes of 2-3 inches in diameter into the 4 sides. Stuff the box with damp cardboard (a termite delicacy, it seems) and you’re all set. Search for termite nests beneath rotting logs, and place your trap about a foot away, buried so that the top of the box is flush with the surface. The termites will establish feeding tunnels to the box, and can be removed as needed (leave the box in place so as not to disturb the tunnels). More information.
A bewildering assortment of creatures will stumble into a jar or can buried flush with the ground, but you can increase your catch by adding bait. A bit of ripe fruit, molasses, honey and some tropical fish flakes will lure beetles, snails, sow bugs and other invertebrates. Be sure to keep some dead leaves in the trap to provide hiding places, and cover the opening with a board that is slightly elevated by small stones, to keep out rain. More information.
This simple yet effective collecting technique was developed by entomologists. To collect insects in this manner, place a white, un-patterned sheet below a bush or tree, and beat the foliage with a stick. That’s it!
For me, the biggest drawback to bush beating is the distraction factor – I just can’t resist closely checking the incredible assortment of caterpillars, beetles, ants, tree crickets, katydids, spiders and other tasty morsels that rain down. Your catch will consist largely of arboreal species, which are especially-relished by tree frogs, flying and day geckos, smooth green snakes and other tree-dwelling herps. More information.
By keeping a jar and net in my yard and near outdoor lights, I can easily add variety to my pets’ diets by collecting as time permits. I also turn over rocks, look among flowers and weeds, scatter cover boards about, smear honey on trees and try anything else that comes to mind – some invertebrate will show up.
Be careful when examining your catch, as potentially dangerous (to you and your pets) spiders, scorpions, hornets and other such creatures may be present. Have a good field guide on hand if you are unfamiliar with local species, and use feeding tongs to handle animals if in doubt.
Do not use fireflies, “hairy” caterpillars, or any brightly-colored insects that you cannot identify. Unless you are well-acquainted with local spiders, it is best to avoid them as well…harvestmen, or “daddy long-legs”, however, are harmless (and judging by my pets’ reactions, quite tasty!).
Please also see the articles linked below for information concerning possible pesticides and parasites.
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It would be tempting to think that with the cooler temperatures that come with autumn in Maine, there would be relief from pesky insects. But that would be wrong. Sure, you may no longer be annoyed by seasonal bugs outside, but inside could be a different story.
Here are three of the more common tiny insects that might be buzzing around inside your house and a few things you can do about them.
The common fruit fly, also known as vinegar flies, are attracted to overripe fruits in addition to yeast and cider-heavy products. This time of year, when there are lots of fruits in season in Maine the state’s fruit fly population spikes.
This is the time of year when people want to go apple picking and stock up on other end of the season produce like tomatoes and root crops. But storing that bounty on your kitchen counter can be a mistake. The flies get into your home hitchhiking on that fruit or through an open door or window if they detect overripe fruit.
The best way to keep fruit flies from taking over is to store your produce in the refrigerator or covered with plastic. You should also make sure your indoor trash is covered.
To get rid of existing fruit flies here are some ways to deal with them.
Spotted Wing Drosophila
The spotted wing drosophila is another kind of fruit fly that can make your indoor life miserable, in addition to having a major impact on any late season berry crops in your garden. Unlike the common fruit fly which is a simple nuscience, the spotted wing can destroy ripening berry crops.
The female spotted wing drosophila uses a sawlike structure on her body to cut into the ripening fruit. She then lays her eggs in this cavity. Once the eggs hatch the larvae start eating the berries, rendering them into mushy mess.
If the hatch happens to take place soon after the berries are picked, you can have a nasty surprise when your recently harvested or purchased berries turn to mush on your kitchen counter and there are larvae crawling out of them.
The best defense against the spotted wing drosophila is picking fruit a little earlier in the ripening process than normal. Once picked the berries should immediately be refrigerated to at least 34-degrees Fahrenheit to halt the development of any eggs or larvae.
Larger than fruit flies, cluster flies can be a major indoor annoyance. Cluster flies, also known as attic flies, resemble the common house fly, a dark grey or black fly that’s a little under a quarter of an inch long. Cluster flies are larger with yellowish hairs on the body. Their name comes from their behavior of amassing or “clustering” for warmth out of sight behind household siding, shingles or other cracks and crevices in attics, lofts or other wall voids.
Around the time Maine gets its first hard frosts, the cluster flies start gathering on sunny sides of houses. As temperatures cool, they sneak into any cracks or crevices they can to get inside.
Dormant while it’s cool inside, they will become active on warm days or if the heat gets turned up in a room.
The best defense is to keep them from getting inside in the first place. Seal up cracks and place screens over attic vents and soffits. Large indoor gatherings of cluster flies can be vacuumed up and released outside. You can also use commercial products like insect strips or sprays.
Whether you call them waterbugs, palmetto bugs, or cockroaches, you want them far, far away from your home. Get them out, and keep them that way, with these straightforward guidelines.
Photo: flickr.com via Insects Unlocked
When most homeowners refer to a “waterbug,” they’re actually employing a delicate colloquialism for an insect whose mere name induces squirms: the cockroach. (To be sure, there are actual water bugs—bugs that live in or on water. These true water bugs include insects of the infraorder Nepomorpha, some of which can grow to almost 5 inches in length. Be grateful you don’t see a few of those scurrying under the fridge when you turn on the kitchen light!)
Our standard-issue household cockroaches earned the nickname waterbug for their tendency to cluster near water sources. This predilection is entirely understandable: A cockroach can live for a month without food, but it can’t last more than a week without water.
While roaches (often also known as palmetto bugs) generally prefer to live outside, they are—much to the annoyance of homeowners everywhere—attracted to damp indoor environments, such as kitchens and bathrooms. Fortunately, a few key extermination practices and a few lifestyle tweaks might help you in the quest for how to get rid of waterbugs for good.
Before you begin launching weapons of mass insect destruction, be sure your adversary is actually a member of the roach family. Conduct a quick search online and in your state university’s insect database for “cockroach” and “palmetto bug” to be certain you’re not dealing with a case of mistaken identity.
As your waterbugs probably came in from the outdoors, search for nests and likely entry points into the house. This means you’ll have to poke around in those dark corners of the house that you rarely clean (and perhaps used only for long-term storage). Look for gaps around windows, doors, and pipes that penetrate the home’s exterior. Check for cracks in concrete floors and walls.
If you’re having trouble finding a nest, search at night in rooms that have been dark for a few hours, giving the bugs time to become active. Enter every room where you suspect they’re living, and turn on the light. If cockroaches are there, you’ll probably see them scatter. Watch where they go, and concentrate your eradication efforts there.
Once you’ve determined where your waterbugs are, it’s time to pull out the pesticide. One way that these chemicals work is by exploiting roaches’ natural habits. Interestingly, although we associate cockroaches with filth and disease, these insects groom themselves constantly—and that behavior is the ticket to their extermination.
If a waterbug makes contact with a pesticide, whether natural or synthetic, the insect will consume it while cleaning itself. In other words, whatever is on the roach will soon be in the roach.
Effective roach pesticidal treatments run the gamut from otherwise innocuous natural products to hard-core chemicals. Proper application and placement are critical to success, which is why some people choose to hire pros for the job.
Natural pest killers
These include concentrated distilled white vinegar; a mix of equal parts sugar and baking soda; borax and boric acid, which destroy the insects’ digestive tract; and essential oils like citronella.
Apply liquid products—usually labeled “eco” or “green”)—to the nests and to all drains (tub, toilet, laundry room, and dishwasher), using a spray bottle.
To apply powders (such as the longtime homeowner favorite Harris Boric Acid Roach Powder, available on Amazon), sprinkle the granules on, and near, nests and access sites. Hint: Use only a thin dusting, because these wily insects avoid large clumps.
Synthetic chemical treatments
Each features an active ingredient that targets the insect’s nervous system to kill them. Read and carefully follow the directions provided with any such product, because the ingredients may be toxic to people and indoor pets, as well as roaches. You can find chemical treatment marketed in the following forms:
- Gels like Combat Max Roach Killing Gel (view on Amazon), thanks to their syringe-like application method, make it much easier to get pesticide into those hard-to-reach places—under the fridge, say, or under the oven.
- Traps—the classic Black Flag Roach Motel product (view on Amazon), for example—lure and kill roaches out-of-sight.
- Sprays are perhaps the most commonly used type of roach killer in DIY extermination. SC Johnson, the maker of Raid Ant & Roach Killer Spray (view on Amazon), recommends sending pets and kids outside or otherwise away from the application area and sealing the space for at least 15 minutes before thoroughly airing it out.
Outside intervention by a professional exterminator may be necessary to get rid of waterbugs if you have a serious infestation or can’t find the nest or entry points.
After you’ve completed your chosen method of extermination, take steps to prevent future infestations. Obviously, you’ll want to caulk or otherwise seal all gaps and cracks that invite roach infiltration—but that’s just the beginning.
Make sure that roaches have no reason to enter your home, and nowhere to hide should they get in. You can reduce the risk of attracting waterbugs by incorporating these practices into your daily routine:
- Carefully seal and store your food; don’t leave any out overnight.
- Put tight-fitting lids on recycling bins, and empty them at least once a week.
- Remove garbage daily, if neighborhood covenants permit.
- Confine meals to one part of the house.
- Vacuum regularly to eliminate crumbs and other debris, and thoroughly clean the kitchen, including all appliances, with a disinfectant.
- Clean rugs and carpets annually with a steam cleaner.
- Fix leaky interior and exterior faucets, and repair basement walls where water is seeping in.
It takes commitment and vigilance to keep waterbugs from staging a counterattack, but it’s worth the effort to purge your home of this creepiest of all crawlies.
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- How to Get Rid of the Gnats Around My Indoor Hibiscus
- White Fuzzy Houseplant Bugs
- How to Keep Cats From Urinating in Planter Boxes
- Gnats on an Amaryllis
Gnats in and around your indoor and outdoor plants can be a real burden to deal with, especially when you’re dealing with dark-colored, 1- to 3-milimeter-long, biting gnats (Culicoides spp.), also known as sand flies or no-see-ums. The females feed on human and animal blood; their bites can trigger irritation and have been associated with the spread of parasites and pathogens. To prevent getting bitten by these warm-season pests, set up a battle plan to get rid of them.
Allow the soil in which you’re growing your plants to dry before you water it, because gnats are attracted to moist environments. Letting the soil dry also kills present gnats in the larval stages.
Hit any visible gnats with a fly swatter or use a vacuum cleaner to suck them up when you see them on windows or screens.
Place screens in front of doors and windows so that even if you leave them open, there’s always a barricade preventing gnats from coming in. Use fine-weave fiberglass screening so that the tiny pests can’t crawl through the openings in the screen. Also, screening off your patio will help maintain a gnat-free environment.
Fill a bowl with a one-fourth cup of dish soap and 1 cup of brown apple cider vinegar. Place the bowl outside in an area with gnats. The tiny bugs are drawn to the mixture and when they fall in, they won’t be able to get out. For small indoor gnat problems, pour one-half inch of brown apple cider vinegar in a glass and add about 3 or 4 drops of dish soap for a similar effect. Make several glasses of the mixture to eliminate gnats from different rooms in the house.
Clean wooden indoor areas with pine oil, because gnats dislike the smell and will stay away. Alternatively, hang cloths moistened with pine oil in your home to deter gnats.
Things You’ll Need
- Fly swatter
- Vacuum cleaner
- Fine-weave fiberglass screen
- Gnat repellent
- Dish soap
- Apple cider vinegar
- Pine oil
- Cloth rags
Consult a local pest control company if you have a severe indoor or outdoor gnat infestation. Professionals have access to insecticides that aren’t available to non-professionals.
Apply repellent that’s labeled for gnats on your skin to prevent getting bitten. Avoid wearing scented lotions or perfume when going outside, because these might attract gnats. Wear clothing that covers most of your body to avoid easy access to your skin and avoid going into the garden during dusk or dawn, when biting gnats are most active.
- Consult a local pest control company if you have a severe indoor or outdoor gnat infestation. Professionals have access to insecticides that aren’t available to non-professionals.
- Apply repellent that’s labeled for gnats on your skin to prevent getting bitten. Avoid wearing scented lotions or perfume when going outside, because these might attract gnats. Wear clothing that covers most of your body to avoid easy access to your skin and avoid going into the garden during dusk or dawn, when biting gnats are most active.
Kimberly Caines is a well traveled model, writer and licensed physical fitness trainer who was first published in 1997. Her work has appeared in the Dutch newspaper “De Overschiese Krant” and on various websites. Caines holds a degree in journalism from Mercurius College in Holland and is writing her first novel.