Neri: Solving the pest problem

Nelia G. Neri

THE big problem in most households is the presence of pests. There are different ways of eliminating them but the main principle to keep in mind is not to provide them with anything to eat or nest in.

General rules

1) Wipe up crumbs after each meal, keep all food covered, and don’t leave uneaten cat or dog food on the floor.

2) Fill in cracks or holes in floors and walls.

3) Don’t allow stagnant water to collect near the house.

4) Tie up all bags with garbage in them before putting them out of doors and keep the bin covered.

5) When using insecticides, strictly follow the manufacturer’s instructions which are... keep out of the reach of children; don’t use near food (e.g. cover fruit bowls before spraying); wash off at once if it gets on skin etc.

Common pests and how to deal with them

Ants. Follow their route all the way to the nest and destroy it with a suitable insecticide or by pouring boiling water over it. Or block up the entrance hole with a piece of cotton wool soaked in paraffin. Then spray with insecticide.

Don’t leave jams, sugars and fats where ants can find them.

Bedbugs. Use an insecticide containing malathion, lindane or pyrethrum and make sure it is suitable. Make sure that it is of the right concentration because too high a concentration is dangerous to humans. Spray it into all possible hiding places (bedsprings, frames, webbing and slats of beds) so they are thoroughly wet. Spray but don’t soak the mattress, paying particular attention to seams and tufts. Spray skirtings and cracks in walls and floor boards.

At any sign of another bedbug, spray the whole lot again with equal thoroughness. Better still, burn the mattress and get a new one.

Cockroaches. Sprinkle infected areas with pyrethrum powder.

If the infestation is bad, spray with a suitable insecticide and then sprinkle the powder, carefully blowing or fanning it into cracks and openings.

Fleas. All pets that go outdoors will pick up fleas at some time. Infection with fleas may lead to dermatitis or tapeworm, and fleas may produce a violent allergic reaction in some dogs and cats.

If an animal scratches a lot, check it over for fleas. Part the hair and look for the fleas scurrying away or for their dandruff-like droppings.

Buy flea powders from a vet rather than a pet shop and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Do not use flea powders intended for use on one sort of animal on another. Cats in particular can absorb a number of toxic substances through their skin, and both cats and dogs may be made ill by preparations wrongly applied. Don’t let the powder come into contact with the animal’s eyes or mouth.

While treating your pet, make sure you clean the house thoroughly at the same time; flea eggs can produce larvae in two to 12 days in warm conditions but may remain dormant for two months or much longer in cool temperatures. Vacuum thoroughly especially in crevices, upholstery, skirting boards, cushions, and anything soft and warm. Burn the contents of the vacuum bag or seal it up in a plastic bag.

Wash, burn or throw away the animal’s bedding and use disposable bedding until the fleas have gone. Replace every few days.

A bad infestation of fleas should be dealt with by the local pest control company.

Flies. Flies can spread at least 30 different diseases to animals and people. They breed in garbage and rotting meat, especially in hot weather.

Keep all food and garbage tightly covered. Keep dustbins clean. Make sure animal feces are picked up or covered up.

There are various suitable insecticides. All must be used strictly according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Slow-release vaporized insect-killers are supposed to last six months and pose no health risk to humans or animals, but don’t put them in rooms with the very old or the very young.

Fly papers are effective and don’t pollute the environment.

Mice. Mice are unhygienic and smelly. They eat biscuits, sugar and cheese, chew flexes and leave their droppings everywhere.

Block any holes they may come in by (often under the sink and inside cupboards where the pipes run).

Keep all food in sealed jars and tins.

Keep all garbage tightly covered.

Keep a cat. Often just the catty smell will keep mice at bay.

Set traps. Peanut butter, cheese, bacon and cake make good bait. Put the traps at right angles to the walls where you know mice visit and where children and pets can’t get at them.

Or use an anticoagulant poison specifically formulated for mice. Follow the instructions carefully. You may have to persevere for several weeks. Take care to put the poisons where they cannot be reached by the innocent.

Other poisons are highly dangerous and should only be used by professionals.

Woodworm. A woodworm infestation is recognizable by small round holes in woodwork or furniture, each about the size of a pin head and with sawdust spilling out. Woodworm may bore into furniture, wooden beams or floorboards.

Treatment is best done by professionals.

Small infestations can be treated with a DIY kit. Wear gloves to apply the product and keep it away from skin, eyes and mouth. Work outside or open windows and don’t inhale the fumes.