Bugging Out

Every insect on earth has its place, but not in your home

Not all creepy-crawler horror stories are make-believe. Take, for instance, the true tale about the botfly that laid eggs in an unsuspecting Washingtonian enjoying a rainforest tour in Belize. She learned the hard way there’s a reason hikers are told to wear long sleeves and long pants. Back in D.C., her doctor told her a red lump she’s developed was an infected mosquito bite and prescribed antibiotics. Seeing movement under her skin led this sleuthing Jane Doe to the Internet and a botfly diagnosis. She followed the virtual advice and strapped some pricey prosciutto to the bite site for the night. Come morning, she peeled away the meat to find a feasting baby botfly.

While your chances of encountering a botfly in the District are slim — if not impossible — there’s no denying there are insects and arachnids ready to give you the willies in any clime. And they’re all around you at this very moment.

”Statistically, any given person is probably no more than four feet from a spider,” says Charles Kramer, technical director at Atek Pest Management. ”They are truly numerous and all around us.”

But spiders are on your side in this fight.

”Spiders are predators and will eat other insects,” says Kramer. “In fact if there weren’t any spiders around, we would probably be buried with insects.”

If you feel as though your home is currently buried with insects or on its way to becoming so, you have a problem. In this late-spring season, you’re not alone. Before seeking outside help, there are some amateur tricks worth attempting. First, identify the pest.

”This is the kind of weather that brings ants out,” says Kramer. “Most ant species spend their time outdoors, but they will occasionally go indoors, either for moisture when there’s a drought or because they happen to find a supply of food.”

If you’ve got an ant problem, Nature’s Green Remedy, a blog on all things green and insect-related, suggests making your own eco-friendly repellant by placing dried peppermint leaves, an equal mix of water and vinegar, chili powder, black pepper and cream of tartar where you think the ants are coming from.

You can take it one step further by creating an ant exterminator: Mix fine-grained sugar with borax, which is poisonous. Be extremely careful with this home remedy if you have pets or children.

When dealing with cockroaches, the simplest methods work best.

”Quite often roaches will follow the plumbing,” says Kramer. “If you see where the pipes come in, usually there’s a big space around that pipe. They’re getting in through there.

”And if they aren’t paying rent, then you don’t feed them or give them shelter,” he says. ”Get out the caulking gun.”

If you think you’ve got a problem with ants, roaches, termites, bed bugs or any other pest requiring help beyond home remedies, enlist a professional.

”One thing we encourage is people taking samples [of the pests],” says Kramer. “It always helps to have a critter on hand, to be able to identify it and determine what to do. Once you identify it, you know where it’s coming from, you know why it’s living there, and you know whether or not it truly is a pest.”

There are also greener options if you need a professional but are averse to poisons. Fantastic Pest Control, for example, offers pest-control services in D.C. and Maryland, employing organic and chemical-free extermination.

Atek Pest Management is one of several pest-control services in the area that strives to be eco-friendly by ”minimalizing pesticide” usage, according to Atek’s owner Stuart Harper.

”We do what is called Integrated Pest Management,” Harper says. ”Lots of times, when people use pesticides it’s the equivalent of putting out a match with a bucket of water. It’s not necessary. It’s overkill. The idea is that when you do a thorough inspection and you make an accurate diagnosis of what the problem is, you can be more surgical in your application with the goal of minimalizing pesticide use.”

To reach Fanatic Pest Control, call 866-402-0468. For Atek Pest Management, call 301-864-3939.