Florida bugs

Florida Bugs

Before I moved to Florida, my northern friends always told me they would never move to Florida because of the bugs. I moved down more than a decade ago, and while I’ve dealt with my share of critters, I never felt overwhelmed by them… until this year.

In the past, I’ve dealt with your average crazy ant infestation, fire ants in the yard, an occasional Palmetto bug (aka cockroach), run-of-the-mill spiders and even black widows (which generally stay out of your way).

I don’t like killing any living creatures, including bugs. If there is a way, I will capture a creature in my house and let him or her outside to be free. Spiders, Palmetto bugs, wasps, bees… if I can, I will always try to coax or carry the little fellow out the door.

This year has been a challenge on the bug front. First, the termite swarming is pretty epic this year in my neighborhood. Despite repeated treatment, I’ve had these tiny menaces flying around my lights at night on numerous occasions. Then I got an infestation of crazy ants, which will drive you mad in the kitchen. I was thankfully able to use Terro liquid ant bait to get rid of them. (You can’t really corral crazy ants into going back outside.) I also have some teeny tiny spiders that keep making webs around my living room. I don’t mind them so much, especially if their webs catch any termites. I also had an infestation of millipedes in a potted plan on my porch, thousands of them. I had to remove all the dirt from the plant.

But the most bothersome pest I get occasionally are Palmetto bugs. Many times, I’ll find the poor soul upside down on the floor. In those cases, it is easy to put a plastic container over him, slide a piece of cardboard underneath and carry him out to be released off my second floor balcony. This drop does not hurt him one damn bit, and I can usually see them scurry away after landing. But recently I found a few live Palmetto bugs in my apartment who were not upside down, and I was unable to catch them on first siting. What is troublesome about the cockroaches here is that they are huge. I’m talking about a bug the size of a small Volkswagen. In one sense, that’s good because I’d rather have one huge one than a dozen smaller ones. But they are still slightly terrifying, and cockroaches are super creepy to begin with.

These two cockroaches moved in together behind my stove. Having two cockroaches led me to believe that they might mate, so I knew time was of the essence in getting rid of them. Also, cockroaches can carry disease, and now these squatters were walking all over my kitchen counter. I would come out in the night, shine a flashlight into the kitchen and see the bigger one just hanging out on the windowsill or top edge of the stove. So creepy.

My first thought was to go on the interwebs and see what home remedies others had used for cockroaches. I tried two things. First, I mixed sugar with baking soda and a smidge of water. I placed it in a large jar cover. The baking soda is said to be toxic to cockroaches. I also tried putting some food bait in a large mason jar and oiling up the jar’s mouth. This is meant to lure the cockroach down into the jar and prevent it from getting out. Neither trick worked during my 2-day testing period.

I try very hard to keep poisons out of my life. I was OK with the Terro because it’s not something you spray or that touches your counter. When I went to Lowe’s to find a solution for the roaches, I left with two Roach Motels, and another package of glue traps. Not only are these non-toxic, but they were also the cheapest solutions they had. I did not know until my landlord told me, but cockroaches are attracted to cardboard and glue. I freaked out a little when she mentioned they often go for the glue binding in books.

I set up my Roach Motels that night and kept my fingers crossed.

Later that evening, I went into the kitchen to refill my water glass, and there was the littler roach on the edge of the stove. My heartbeat quickened. This was my chance. I opened my recycling bin and pulled out a magazine. I rolled it up and took a whack. Missed! He scurried over toward my spice jars. Whack! Missed. He then ran out into the open space on my counter. Thwack! Yuck. One down.

I said a little prayer that I would find big brother in one of the glue traps in the morning.

No luck. A few nights passed, and I started to get worried that he was too smart to enter the traps.

Last night, I got up around 4:30 am to use the bathroom. I sat down, and who should walk out of the bathroom but the monster cockroach. He must’ve been behind the toilet. He could hear me peeing, and I could tell he was trying to decide what to do. I was muttering to myself, “Fuck, fuck, fuck” because I knew I needed to get off the toilet before he got away. He ran off a ways, and I got up and found a good shoe.

Last I saw him, he was under my dining table, but now he was gone. The only place he could be was behind a stack of baskets in the corner. I formulated a plan. I took the top two baskets off the stack and moved them aside. At first, I thought I would block one way out from behind the baskets and scare him out the other way so I could hit him with the shoe. Then, it came to me. I got one of the Roach Motels and placed it against one exit. I placed a glue sheet against the other. Roaches can climb, so I knew this wasn’t a fool-proof plan.

After I placed the glue traps, I walked away. Not 10 seconds later, I heard a scurrying and the distinct sound of giant bug legs hitting cardboard. Yes! I could see his hind end sticking out of the Roach Motel. I got the broom and banged the handle against the floor behind him. (Sorry, neighbors!) He scurried further in.

I held my breath. Is he stuck? My apartment is so dry. Could the glue dry out after only a few days?

I got a flashlight and shone it into the box. He was stuck.

I know the humane thing to do would have been to crush the box right then, but the thought grossed me out. I gingerly slid the box into a plastic bag, sealed it with a twist-tie and tossed it out onto my porch.

At that point, my adrenaline was through the roof. I had a hard time getting back to sleep, but I felt such a sense of accomplishment knowing I had defeated this bug without using any harsh chemicals.

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