MARTHA'S VINEYARD, Bermuda, the Virgin Islands, Europe. Vacation paradises of the typical well-off American, right?Well for the average well-fed cockroach, the exotic dusty corners of your kitchen or the lucious green mold on your bathroom tiles are equally attractive spots for summertime jaunts.
Problem: When they make their reservations, they come to stay. So how do you tell these uninvited houseguests -- whose numbers include not only roaches, but ants, spiders and mosquitoes as well -- that they must vacate the premises tout de suite?
The first step is making them feel unwelcome -- and if this doesn't work, then resort to pesticides and exterminators.
"Our homes -- with their nooks and crannies -- are built to promote pest problems," says H. Tim Crowe, vice president and secretary of Rollins, Inc. "Cockroaches especially seek enclosed areas, since they are thigmotropic insects; they like to have something touching them on all sides," adds Barry Robinson, branch manager with Orkin Pest Control in Landover, Md.
Insects come from all over. Outdoor insects often migrate indoors seeking shelter, food and water -- the three things pests need to survive. They come into the home via sewage and water pipes, telephone lines, deteriorating caulking, ill-fitting doors, holes in screen doors, greenery that is planted flush against the house, and clutter. Your clutter may not seem like clutter, but carefully piled firewood, well-stacked car tires and paper bag racks hold great attraction for many pests.
According to Crowe, insects tend to find the door through which you usually enter the house and hover around it, awaiting your arrival. "Before you open that door, it's a good idea to get into the habit of first looking up at the top of the door frame for spiders, flies, ants and mosquitoes."
Dr. Philip Spear, senior director in research for the National Pest Control Agency, says "Although yellow porch lights are somewhat less attractive to night-flying insects than white lights, the yellow lights are not repelent and will still lure some insects out of the dark."
Another way insects, particularly roaches, get into your home is in grocery bags and soft drink cartons. Since roaches are thigmotropic, says Orkin spokesman Robinson, "they often hide in the folds of a shopping bag, which most people, without thinking, just fold up and store in a dark closet. This is just what they [the roaches, not the people] like. If there are any roach eggs [which are about the size of a match head] in the bag's folds, they can yield as many as 50 new roaches." Soft drink deposit bottles also attract roaches since most consumers put the emptied but still sweet-smelling bottles back in the carton until they are returned. It's a good idea, suggests Robinson, to rinse out the bottles first and return them as soon as possible.
More advice: Always take the garbage out of the house each night. Most household pests are nocturnal creatures and come out at dark especially if you're serving them a gourmet meal in your garbage pail.
And don't think these late-night munchers are picky. They're not. They like pet food as much as people food, so seal those bags of dog food every night. If your dog food bag is hard to close, Crowe suggests putting it in a larger bag, such as a plastic garbage bag, and then closing it up. National Pest Control's Dr. Spear warns, "If you feed your pets outside, don't leave their leftover pet food out over night. The overflow from a German shepherd's dinner can support a nice-size army of rats."
Leaving dirty dishes to soak over-night in the sink is another bad habit. The loosened food particles float to the top and provide both food and water for the uninvited houseguest.
Crowe is convinced that there is a direct correlation between keeping tight lids on stored food and reducing the cost of living. "Food should be stored properly -- I prefer glassware, metal and Tupperware, in that order. When insects get into badly stored food, you waste money by throwing the food out; or if you don't discover the insects, your medical bills go up when you have to be treated for ingesting infested food." In addition to food poisoning, insects can cause a number of illnesses: jaundice, conjunctivitis (pink-eye), gastro-interitis and even paralysis.
When you move, beweare of what you pack. Even if you never saw any pests in your old home, when you begin packing you may be distrubing pests that haven't left their nests in years. When you move into your new place, you may be bringing along these freeloaders as well. Many exterminating firms offer free inspections. If you think you may have a pest problem in your new home, it's worth your while to have a professional tell you where you're most vulnerable.
Spider webs should always be brushed away on both the inside and outside of your home. Once spiders have built their habitats, they often travel outside the web, particularly at night, in search of food. In this search they sometimes bite humans, a bite that can be serious.
Clean the inside of your TV set with one of the smaller vacuum attachments to get at any collected dust. One species of roaches like high, dry places such as TV sets. They won't stay around long if they're disturbed.
Roaches that prefer damp places are harder to get at since they like the bottoms of refrigerators and tiny, narrow spaces between the dishwasher and the counter. For these roaches, an exterminator is sometimes needed.
Clothing should always be put away for the season laundered for dry cleaned. Soiled material is attractive to insects.
Be sure to cap your toothpaste. Indoor pests like the sweet peppermint scent of toothpaste. Also, keep any open bottle of liquor well-closed. And make sure you don't leave your newspaper long in front of your door. Roaches can easily slip in between the pages, and before you've gotten to the Living section the roaches are in your home.
Inspecting the house regularly can also save you from the onslaught of the bug season. If you can see daylight through the cracks along your door frame, they're not shutting properly; garage doors should also be made to fit tight (they rarely are) and bathroom fixtures should be caulked.
Although Crowe works for the nation's largest and oldest (77 years old) pest control agency, he advocates preventive measures that will keep the problem away as opposed to merely taking care of the problem once it occurs. "This costs the consumer less time and money," says Crowe. "If householders are not willing to spend time to take the preventive measures, they need to have a professional exterminator come on a monthly basis, which can become pretty costly."