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Scenario: for months you’ve been planning to take your boat out for a spin on a boating adventure. The day finally arrives, and you hop on board only to discover you have company—and no, we’re not talking about a pleasant surprise from your fishing buddy.

We’re talking about uninvited guests that have no intention of letting you embark on a day of fun alone.

Roaches and ants!


Ants and cockroaches are the most common–and most unwelcome—pests on a boat. Let’s discuss how you can prevent these “creepie crawlies” from taking over your boat and tackle an invasion like a pro!

Are Ants & Roaches Dangerous?

For most people, the sight of a single roach is enough to make one’s skin crawl. Now imagine having an army of them on board—or worse, discovering them while you’re out in the middle of the ocean with nowhere to go but overboard!

Aside from inspiring disgust, roaches can be a health hazard. Not only are they germ-infested disease spreaders, but their allergens can trigger allergic and asthmatic reactions in sensitive folks. Such characteristics hardly qualify them as the ideal boating companions.

While ants don’t pose as much of a health risk, the reality is you don’t know where they’ve been. Maybe they’ve trampled on bacteria-infested surfaces during their travels, and could contaminate uncovered food as a result.

Generally, ants are viewed as more of a nuisance than anything else. Seeing one or two ants strolling along the bow is hardly enough to send you into fight mode, but unexpectedly encountering thousands of foraging ants is not a pretty sight.

The bottom line is neither roaches nor ants belong on your treasured vessel.

What Causes Roaches and Ants on a Boat?

So, what causes your boat to become the perfect safehouse for ants and roaches? The answer is pretty simple.

They are in search of food, water, and a place to call home. Ants and roaches will quickly get comfortable if they realize that your boat can offer all three.

But how exactly do they wind up on board? Sadly, in some cases, YOU could be the culprit. You may have transported them via your luggage, footwear, or (particularly in the case of roaches) boxes.

Cardboard boxes and crates that some groceries may be transported onboard in, are the worst culprits for roaches. Leave them on dry land!

What Can Boat Owners Do to Prevent Roaches and Ants On Board?

What can you do to keep ants and roaches on dry land? It’s simple: don’t give them what they want. Being diligent is the first and ultimate defense.

• Don’t leave any food debris or scraps lying around. Keep your boat free of crumbs and clean up regularly.

• Wipe any beverage spills as soon as they occur.

• Store your food in sealed air-tight containers, glass, or any form of durable plastic. Don’t leave food on board.

• Wipe down your surfaces regularly.

• Dispose of all garbage properly.

• If you have any food preparation areas on your boat, clean them with dish soap and water frequently to remove grease.

• Try as much as possible to eliminate moisture on your boat. Avoid dampness around your boat sink if you have any.

• Seek out and seal any gaps, holes, cracks, and crevices on your boat that might harbor ants and roaches. Fit mosquito nets on any ports to prevent ants and cockroaches from crawling in.

• Finally, you might want to inspect all incoming bags, shoes, coolers, luggage, and most importantly, cardboard boxes.

In fact, long-term boaters know that there’s nothing more evil on board than a cardboard box. Even if an adult roach isn’t spotted, chances are their eggs are laid a corner or crevice. Avoid bringing cardboard on board as much as possible.

Make sure to inspect mooring lines carefully as well. These are easy bridges to paradise for bugs!

If you keep your boat on a trailer, there are two very important additional considerations:

First is to remember to empty all food from your boat before leaving. This includes that bag of chips way back in the locker and the empty soda and beer cans. They really aren’t empty to ants and roaches!

The second thing is to keep weeds and grass trimmed low enough that they won’t touch the boat or trailer. These are welcome mats to bugs of all kinds.

What Can You Do Once They’re Already There?

Sometimes it’s a little too late. But what do you do if you’ve tried everything you can to keep these pests away from your boat, but somehow still find them there? Try out the following tips and tricks to give them the boot.

Use Boric Acid

Boric acid is very effective at getting rid of roaches and ants. The good news is that although it’s a nightmare for cockroaches and ants, it’s harmless to humans. It’s also affordable and readily accessible online or at almost any pharmacy.

Simply mix it with a little water and sugar to form a paste, and spoon it into empty bottle tops or small dishes placed around your boat. The water and sugar will attract the pests, who will in turn ingest the boric acid. Boric acid is fast-acting and will kill most roaches in 72 hours.

Roach Traps

Another method is to buy roach “motels” from Lowes or Home Depot. Place the traps inside your cupboards and in the corners of your boat.

What About Insecticides?

We’re all about helping our customers take the DIY approach to pest control if that is their preference. Still, in the case of marine pest control, we do not recommend arming yourself with traditional insecticide and going to town.

This is to protect not only the people aboard your boat but also the surrounding marine life. Toxic chemicals leaking into the water can destroy delicate ocean life, and some over-the-counter pest control products can actually make things worse when used in the confined environment of a boat.

Go Pro

If DIY methods fail, your final option is to go the professional route. Give us a call for a quote on our marine pest control services. We have been servicing boaters in the Volusia/Flagler area for over 20 years, and are fully licensed and insured to perform this unique and specific type of pest control.

Our years of experience (both personal and professional!) in boating and in pest control have allowed us to develop programs that will treat pests where they hide and respect the environment at the same time.

Happy boating!

Sailing the Lipton Cup!


Todd Stebleton is the owner and operator of Universal Pest Control, a family-owned business for over 25 years in Ormond Beach, Florida. He and his wife Natalie are proud to have built a company focused on conducting business with honesty and integrity: keeping customers first, protecting the environment, and providing trustworthy, personal service.

Universal: Honest, Environmentally Friendly Pest Control