Insects in the Home

San Antonio Express News
Gardening, ETC
Sunday, February 22, 2004

By Nathan Riggs

The winter of 2003-04 will probably go down as one of the colder winters in recent South Texas memory. While these cold temperatures certainly will negatively affect some insects in South Texas, those insects that call the indoor environment home will be entirely unaffected. Insects such as ants, silverfish and cockroaches are flexible enough to live indoors as conditions dictate.

Generally speaking, my phone at the Bexar County Extension office can ring with calls ranging from bugs to critters to pasture questions, livestock queries and weed control. During winter, though, many callers need advice on dealing with those ants, silverfish and roaches that appear in their kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms.

First of all, do you notice a common thread between the three locations mentioned above? That common thread is moisture. Generally speaking, winter brings cold, dry air that sends insects searching for water in order to stay alive. To reduce the attractiveness of these areas to the insects, be sure that all faucets and connections are leak-free and tight. Drains should also be tight and free of leaks. Check around showers and toilets for leaks, cracked caulk or cracked grout. Not only will checking and repairing these areas reduce the likelihood of ants or roaches, it will tremendously reduce the attractiveness of these areas to termites as well.

Let’s look at some easy ways to deal with these creatures indoors beginning with ants. Ants in winter respond very well to sugar-type baits. A bait mix containing 2 teaspoons of boric acid powder, 1/4 cup of hot water and 8 ounces of corn syrup can be placed in small amounts near areas where ants are seen. Because the sugar in the bait provides quick energy for the ants, they will feed on it readily and share it with their nestmates. Expect ant activity to slow down within seven to ten days. The best container baits to use indoors for ants should contain two wells of bait (one sweet, one protein) in a “double control” formulation. Never spray for sugar ants indoors because it will cause them to spread farther throughout the house.

While ants are generally considered more of a nuisance indoors (except carpenter ants), silverfish are an unwelcome creature for those who have valuable papers, shoe collections or other valuables containing paper or organic glues. Silverfish prefer starches as a primary food source. Frequently, they feed on paper, wallpaper glue, organic glues, and some starchy crumbs. They frequent areas that are high in humidity. To control silverfish, consider applying small amounts of diatomaceous earth (DE) into cracks and crevices where they live, use dry baits containing flour and 2% boric acid powder by volume, or purchase a new bait for silverfish called Nyban. Nyban can be found at local chemical dealer outlets.

Roaches, on the other hand, are both a nuisance and a pest. They can damage food and cause hysteria for the homeowner. Roaches will feed on dry pet food if it is left in the pet bowl. Be sure to feed your pet only the amount it can eat within a few minutes. Use baits or boric acid powders to control roaches. Baits come in the form of little plastic stations or gel that can be applied where needed. Baits are attractive to the roaches and will be shared among the roaches over time. Boric acid powder for roaches should be applied lightly in cracks, crevices and dark places where roaches are known to frequent. Do not apply boric acid outdoors near plants because boric acid is toxic to plants.

Dealing with insects indoors involves a combination of diligence, observation and some sort of control strategy. Try to reduce the unnecessary presence of water in the home by repairing leaks, re-caulking holes and filling grout cracks. This will give ants, silverfish and roaches fewer places to drink, making it harder for them to survive in your home. Use insecticide baits or powders where necessary to provide a more targeted control approach and do not use sprays, as these will cause your target insects to disperse throughout your home.

This article was written by Nathan Riggs, Extension Agent-IPM, with Texas Cooperative Extension in Bexar County.


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