To get away from you damned pests!
September 13, 2010 9:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm moving. How do I make sure I don't take the fleas, mice, cockroaches, stinkbugs, and ants with me?

My landlord has been promising to deal with the issues that my quaint little house has developed for some time now. It's a great house, in an amazing location, and it's cheap, so I've held on to hope that the issues would be fixed for way too long. He's committed to the idea that hiring a stoner friend for cheap is going to do the job just as well as professional exterminators, though, and he's let the house fall apart far enough that there's no way to keep the critters out anymore. Especially not with a house full of hoarders about twenty feet from my front door.

None of the infestations were severe, and as they ramped up, I got used to them; I see a roach every now and then, ants by the sink now and then, a stinkbug from time to time, and the mice were theoretical until my cat caught one. Recently, though, my (indoor) cat has developed fleas, and the only place she could have gotten them is from the mice. That, plus the fact that camping out in a tent this past weekend made me feel more at ease than sleeping in my own bed made me realize that it's time to get the hell out.

I have to give 30 days' notice, of course.

The cat is now on Frontline and Prevent, both designed to keep her flea-free, so she should be okay now. Though I have a house full of fleas searching for a new host.

I have abovementioned cat, clothes books, furniture... the usual assortment of stuff in a two-bedroom house. So, how do I move without taking the critters with me? I have no problem with killer chemicals, as long as the cat and I stay safe. What procedures should I put in place before, during, and after the move to make sure my (as-of-yet theoretical) new place doesn't get infested?
posted by MrVisible to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The only surefire way to not take them with you is to make sure they are gone before you pack. Instead of relying on the landlord, if it were me, I'd call a pro exterminator now to spray and set out traps before you start packing. It's not that expensive and the peace of mind is worth every penny.
posted by cecic at 10:27 PM on September 13, 2010

You really don't need to move, man. A flea bomb works wonders. I used to have pets and got fleas every summer when I lived down in the city. Each season, I'd spend at least one day outside of my apartment after I had set off the flea bombs.
posted by zagyzebra at 10:55 PM on September 13, 2010

I have no advice for fleas or roaches, but I don't think the mice will come with you, and you can probably avoid bringing ants if you're just very picky about what food you bring. I had a terrible ant problem in my last place, and by only bringing sealed food, and washing the exteriors of anything questionable, I managed not to bring them when I moved. Your first couple weeks in the new place, be very vigilant- I saw maybe 15 ants my first week, and I killed them carefully and re-washed anything I had doubts about (including ditching a bushy houseplant that I thought might have a nest somewhere in it); I've now been ant-free for two amazing years.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:38 PM on September 13, 2010

I went through a flea problem this summer too, and Frontline on a cat does not work.
posted by at the crossroads at 11:43 PM on September 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

The tactical nuclear warfare option is to treat it a bit like bedbugs. Everything that is going with you to the new place needs be cleaned of vermin and eggs, then go through an intermediate sterile field stage, then get moved to an environment you know is clean.

So (for instance) wash your clothes, dry at a temperature that'll kill eggs, then spray lightly with bug spray and pack in sturdy well sealed plastic bags. Spray the outsides of the bags, then move them as soon as possible after treatment.

With kitchen stuff, just wash very thoroughly, dry, pack in plastic. Only use bug spray if you're willing to wash again as you unpack.

Take care with appliances - roaches sometimes nest inside them. It's usually possible to spray inside them without wrecking them or poisoning yourself, but not always.

If you're really worried about that, (you'll hate this bit) consider disposing of anything that you can't spray, and which might provide a nesting environment for the fleas, ants or roaches. I'm thinking appliances, old couches, mattresses, pot plants etc.

Also, thoroughly flea-bomb and spray the new place before you move in. That way anything that does hatch out of the transported stuff should die as it emerges.

Good luck!
posted by Ahab at 12:01 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

The previous tenants of my current place left me with a pretty bad flea problem. After noticing some of these critters on my cats, I went to the vet and got some Frontline, and it didn't seem to do anything. The flea problem got worse, not better, to the point where I was noticing them around the house and not just on my poor cats.

After a few weeks, I went to a different vet (since I had just moved) and picked up some Revolution (this particular vet did not even carry Frontline) -- the Revolution was much better. I also picked up some premise spray, and some heavy-duty flea shampoo. It was a huge pita (sealing away all the dishes, washing every fabric item, spraying the @#$#@ out of my apartment, not to mention bathing my extremely irate felines), but I am now on the downward slope of the flea infestation, and can rest fairly comfortably in my apartment again. A flea bomb might work for you, instead of a premise spray, but my place is tiny and came furnished so I didn't really have anywhere to move the furniture.

But yeah. Frontline did nothing, and after I noticed its ineffectiveness, I searched through askme and found that many other people had observed it to do nothing, as well. I'm quite happy with the Revolution.

I agree -- the best way is to try to curb the infestation before you move. I just wanted to share my cautionary Frontline tale as I know how miserable a flea infestation can be for felines and humans both.

Best of luck.
posted by ZeroDivides at 12:08 AM on September 14, 2010 [1 favorite]

Getting rid of your mattress may be required. I took all of my washables out to a third location, washed them there, sealed them in plastic, and took them to the new place - all the bugs I have now are obviously from new, local sources.

Your cats (and you) have to be flea-free before you move. I agree that the mice won't come with.
posted by SMPA at 3:50 AM on September 14, 2010

Dusting powdered boric acid around the place and then vacuuming most of it up a day later worked wonders for me on a flea infestation in an old cabin. It's safer than other pesticides (tho direct or extended exposure isn't good for cats, so keep a room free for the cat the first day, then dust that one on the second day) and poisons/dries out the fleas pretty quickly. The powder is cheap and available at any good hardware store.
posted by mediareport at 5:15 AM on September 14, 2010

a bug bomb (or several depending on the size of the house) then ortho indoor/outdoor home defense every week. Both can be found at any hardware store. Plus other measures for the fleas.
posted by Neekee at 5:54 AM on September 14, 2010

Boric acid also does wonders with roaches. (It's also sold under the brand name Roach Prufe. ) You put it in the corners of the room and along the baseboards, and the roaches walk through it and it clogs up their lungs and they die. Yay!

And Nthing Revolution. Only thing that works for fleas on my house full of cats.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:12 AM on September 14, 2010

One thing not to bring: your cord of firewood (if you have one). I guarantee the mice will come along for that ride.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 7:48 PM on September 14, 2010

Response by poster: Well, I let the landlord know I was on the verge of giving notice, and apparently having tenants who pay early every month is worth something to him after all. He came over yesterday, surveyed the situation, and then started to take some actual action.

He brought in a professional pest control guy, who sprayed for the fleas and such, and did a good assessment of what the mouse population is actually like, which is less than I'd suspected. Then he brought out his handyman to start taking care of the places in the house where the mice might be getting in. He also committed to keeping the pest control up to date from here on in.

Plus, he's going to be insulating the attic, which should make last winter's ridiculous heating bills more reasonable.

I'm going to implement some of the tips brought up here, and see if things get better before I decide to leave.

So the moral of the story is, every so often, freaking out on your landlord does a world of good.
posted by MrVisible at 11:13 AM on September 17, 2010

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