Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pest control

Memphis is great and all but, I must admit, the bugs are freaking me out.

Kyle doesn't usually like to kill bugs. If he finds a spider or an ant in the house, he usually tries to take them outside or lets them go about their business undisturbed. Not all bugs are created equal, though, so neither of us feels bad about killing cockroaches. Especially after living in an old apartment in downtown Sofia where our pest-complaints were met by our landlord's suggestion that we should be happy about the situation. In Sofia living with cockroaches is prestigious because it's a sign you live in an old building, the guy liked to say. Yeah, whatever. We rolled up old newspapers and hit them really hard. That way we didn't have to watch them agonize. One second they were there, the next they were dead.

The first night Kyle and I saw a cockroach in our kitchen here in Memphis, we both just sort of stood there, staring at it. It was so big, we could not believe it. Then, we had to kill it, of course. But it was so big, our usual paper-rolling technique didn't cut it. The bug was tough and it seemed to have all the resolve in the world to keep on livin'. It didn't fight or run. It just would not die. Dealing with it felt less like getting rid of a bug and more like murder. Whatever you want to call it, it was gross.

We had two or three scary evenings where we would slowly walk into our kitchen, inspecting the walls, looking under the table, cleaning out all dishes before using them. We found bug-traps and put them around the house... but then... wait a minute. You use traps or poison if there's a finite population of pests you are trying to exterminate. In a place like Memphis where the weather is warm and humid for most of the year and things (plants AND animals) seem to grow uninterrupted by bad weather or some such, poison is simply a way to attract pests into your home.

Instead, Kyle did some research and found out that there are certain natural products that give cockroaches the creeps. Those things are: red pepper, cedar chips, mint oil and bay leaves. We got ourselves a bottle of TABASCO sauce, which we put in a spray bottle and mixed in with some water until we had our very first batch of home-made pepper spray. We used the mix to spray our kitchen counters, between cabinet cracks and all those little spaces that the cockroaches seemed to love. I am happy to report that there have been no roach sightings since.

I am sharing this story because I hope it will inspire you to never go down without putting up a good fight. In the age of the internets you really have no excuse! You MUST be willing to do your research and look for alternative solutions to whatever problems you may be dealing with. But also, let's face it, this bug-repellent recipe is way too awesome not to be passed along.


  1. First time I ever saw cockroaches in my life was in Sofia. This year my wife and I have been blessedly free of them in our apartment (only 2 out of the whole year; both were small, and we killed them instantly), but we also took precautions early in the spring and sprayed everything.

    Last year was our first year living in this apartment. The cockroaches were so bad that at one point when I opened up a desk drawer there were a half dozen or so that scurried out and tried to find a place to hide.

    Thankfully this year we sprayed early enough that they haven't been an issue. I've also kept the apartment closed almost year-round, running the AC non-stop since it got warm, and we both think that's where they were coming from, because the TWO nights it's been cool enough to have the doors open...we've seen the little buggers the next morning.

    Size-wise, my friends tell me I can't compare with some of the ones out in the Western US, where they can grow several inches long. These here are just pinkie-nail sized, so kind of gross, but not CREEPY gross, like the one you described.

  2. Dude, I feel so bad for whining about our fruit flies.

  3. Those sound like palmetto bugs...urg.

  4. Thank you for this! Haha, I obviously need some pest control! I've only seen the one - thank god, in the bathroom, which is probably due to the stupid leak - warm, wet surface. I will definitely try your natural methods of pest control though, and hopefully the Tabasco will keep us both cockroach free! Hope you're enjoying your new home in Memphis! - Amy

  5. nice to see that this topic is finally getting some airtime. Keeping hush-hush about it doesn't make it go away... BTW, here's some more info about pest control virginia for those interested.