In my line of work I run into a great many do-it-yourself-ers, and I do everything I can to help them. If they succeed in solving their bug problem with my help, hopefully I’ve gained their trust. If they don’t, maybe they’ll come out of it with a greater appreciation for the work pest professionals do, and call on us when the situation calls for it.
Two of the most common pests homeowners and professionals encounter here in Florida are ants of all kinds and American roaches. Ants are pretty well understood by almost everyone and cockroaches are, well, disgusting!
(Check out a related post, Are Roaches a Health Risk?)
What might be lost on readers from the northern latitudes is that the American roach, known locally as “palmetto bug,” is a huge bug! While maybe not as massive as the Madagascar hissing cockroach, American roaches are (grossly) impressive nonetheless. Oh yeah, and they fly! Their size and abilities tie them with ants as public enemy number one for all Floridians.
So what do DIYers need to do to rid their homes of these demons? If they don’t reach immediately for the can of bug spray, most will go to the internet for information. This is a good first step since the web offers many images for easy identification, along with plenty of solutions…some good, some not so good.
While anecdotes and old wives’ tales claim anything from chalk to apple cider vinegar will do the trick, their consistent success rates are spotty at best. We like to keep things simpler…
The Whack-and-Spray Approach
If confronted with an acute problem of one or two ants, or a single palmetto bug, a quick-thinking DIYer may consider the nearest flip-flop as a solution. That’ll work just fine IF you’re fast!
If that doesn’t do the trick a can of bug spray will, as long as you don’t spray around food — you might take yourself out, too! If you’re waging war in your kitchen, a window cleaner like Windex is a less hazardous alternative. One way or the other, problem solved.
What if the problem is a non-stop highway of ants, or an ungodly swarm of palmetto bugs? When palmetto bugs run (fly?) in packs, the flip flop or aerosol approaches are rendered largely ineffective. Smacking endless bugs is a lame way to get tennis elbow, nevermind the resulting mess.
When ants are the problem, aerosol poisons can make the problem worse by driving them to inaccessible hiding places or dividing the colony into two (or more) colonies. This is termed “budding” and often happens when ant trails are sprayed with repellent pesticides.
So what can you do?
Level 2 Warfare
American Roaches/Palmetto Bugs
(If you do want to identify them, here are plenty of reference images.)
Baiting for palmetto bugs isn’t rocket science, since these trash goblins will consume almost anything. Your best bet is a bait formulated for roaches. The easiest are “self-contained” bait stations since they’ll keep children and pets away and safe from the poisons.
The key thing to remember here is that the bait stations must have openings large enough for the palmetto bugs to enter. These guys are BIG and eat a lot, so check the baits frequently to make sure they aren’t empty.
As with palmetto bugs, baits are the next best step for treating ant problems IF surfaces haven’t been contaminated with bug spray. If you’ve already attempted with sprays, the insecticide’s odor will tip the bugs off that something’s afoot–and they’ll avoid the baits entirely.
So! Rule one: don’t use baits and sprays in the same area at the same time.
Rule two: use the appropriate bait.
The trick with ants is to observe what they are already eating. If they’re beelining for spilled fruit juice or animal crackers, a sweet bait will be the ticket. If they’re gravitating towards grease spills, they’re feeding on proteins.
Choosing a bait that matches their palate is more important than identifying what species they are. Liquid, solid, and granular baits are all available and effective; just follow the directions on the label.
Armed with this information, do-it-yourself-ers can feel confident to take the battle to the bugs. If it doesn’t work out, there are always professional bug men available to lend a hand. In Volusia and Flagler counties, the best ones work at Universal Pest Control!
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