I know roaches are a given in FL, but this is much too much
May 27, 2011 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Bugs are flying in the door when we open it. Argh.

It seems every year there's an excess of one kind of insect for a while, sometimes bugs I've never even seen before. This year, unfortunately, it seems to be German cockroaches. We're rural, so they're not a problem in someone else's house and expanding from there; there's just a crapton of these creatures around right now for some reason. They're in the barn, in the pasture, on the outside of the house, they're everywhere out there. And now in here.

At night, when I open the back door to let the dogs in or out, a bunch of these nasties fly in the door. Five, ten, fifteen of them at a time, multiple times throughout the evening. Horrible, now they're inside the house. Saedy dog is old and takes a long time to get through the open door--but even so, it just takes a moment of having the door open to allow them in.

In case it's not obvious, yes, I really do need to let the dogs out after dark :)

In previous years I've kept a screen door closed across the back door; it had a doggy-door flap built into the bottom. I could open the door and the dogs could go in/out, but the screen door kept any bugs out. Saedy's senility/partial blindness unfortunately means that we can't do that anymore; she can't tell that the main door is closed, and tries to go right through the flap and hits her head.

We generally keep the lights out in the room just inside the back door, and keep the porch light on, hoping that bugs will go to the porch light instead of coming through the door. This works with some bugs, but not with the roaches.

posted by galadriel to Home & Garden (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You know the big plastic curtain door flaps they have on commercial refrigerators? I can't find a good picture, but they're like this. If you construct something like that out of screen, with overlapping flaps, it would cut down on bug inflow a lot.

Actually, now that I've said that, a quick googling has shown that they sell something like this. Scroll down for the picture of it being used by a dog. It's hard to tell from your question if the specific build of your door rules out using the doggy door or if you want your dog to stop using the doggy door altogether.

Having grown up in a really buggy area, I can vouch for the screen flaps being effective. (Well, at least more effective than no screen flaps.)
posted by phunniemee at 8:03 AM on May 27, 2011

I am not an entomologist, and this doesn't really solve your problem, but it's very likely this is just a temporary swarm. We used to have swarms of ladybugs on warm Fall days at my old home... they would cluster and die in the curtains, closet door rails, light fixtures; fly into your food and drinks. It was awful. But it was always temporary. Hopefully your buggies go away very soon.

I suggest a riot shield, held in front of you above the dogs, as you crack the door open for them. More practically you could hang some insect netting in front of the screen door and let the dogs out under it. Or, and clearly I'm grasping here, spraying a bunch of air freshener, hardcore Lysol or something, out the screen door before letting the dogs out.

It's worth trying to see if having the lights on at the door repels the roaches at all, since it certainly doesn't attract them.
posted by Sayuri. at 8:10 AM on May 27, 2011

Those plastic flappy things should do it, yes. But even a bead hanging should do the job, and look slightly less industrial. Do they call them door curtains? I'm not sure of the technical term, but those things they had in the Seventies. Flying critters hate them. As a student, my bedroom was flooded with horrid fat, black flies one summer from a dirty flue belonging to the Indian restaurant downstairs. Beads worked a treat.
posted by londonmark at 8:12 AM on May 27, 2011

Aim a standing fan at the door?
posted by noxetlux at 8:12 AM on May 27, 2011

Take two pieces of bug mesh almost as wide as your doorway, and about 4 inches longer. Overlap and sew together at the top. At the bottom, sew a piece of steel rebar rod into each. Glue or nail the whole ensemble to your doorframe so that the rebar just touches the ground.

Dogs and people will find slit between halves of curtain. Most bugs will not.
posted by Ahab at 8:15 AM on May 27, 2011

The product phunniemee mentions actually exists. I've seen it at work at a friend's house and it was great!
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:19 AM on May 27, 2011

The dog door that we have, in the screen door, is made of plastic flappies across the bottom half. The dog can't tell that the non-screen door is closed behind it, and when she's outside, tries to go through it to come back inside and hurts herself.

I can't hang anything across the door or the dog will hurt herself.

I've tried standing right there to open the door quickly before she hits it, but she's unpredictable; sometimes she wanders around multiple times passing it, sometimes she suddenly turns as she's going by and tries to duck inside. With her various problems, hitting her head even once because I misjudge what she's doing is too many times.

It may be a temporary swarm, but it's been going on for a couple of weeks now and I don't know how much longer it will go!
posted by galadriel at 8:26 AM on May 27, 2011

This is our screen/doggy door. We can't use it any more because Saedy hits her head on the main door trying to come back inside; she can not tell when the main door is closed on the other side of it. Anything hanging on the outside of the door would have the same problem.

We often leave the main door open in reasonable weather, but it's late May in FL. Even at night it's too disgusting out to leave the door open while the dogs are outside (and it'd blow our AC bill sky-high).
posted by galadriel at 8:34 AM on May 27, 2011

How did you deal with the main door being closed in the past? Did she scratch on it when she wanted the main door open? Just hang around outside until you could let her in?

You need something solid to put in front of the dog's door when the main door is closed. Sheet of wood or anything obviously solid enough to be visible to the dog. OR you need something soft on the main door behind the doggy door, so that she can bump into it to find out if it is closed.
posted by anaelith at 8:34 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Now that I've seen your picture: Even a piece of cardboard on the main door should do the trick, or anything else opaque (possibly brightly colored, if it is really dark in your yard) which will very clearly indicate "hey there is a DOOR here".
posted by anaelith at 8:37 AM on May 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

She's senile and partially blind. If there is something hanging down and she wants in, she tries to go through it. She can not see or even think to check if there is a closed door behind it.

She sometimes turns suddenly into the door in a way I can't anticipate when she wants in.

Putting something outside the screen door would require opening it, which would just let the bugs in!
posted by galadriel at 9:24 AM on May 27, 2011

What if you hung some jingle bells on the solid door, such that it would make a noise (I realize she'd still hit it) whenever the main door is closed? Hopefully over time, she'd learn that jingle bells = can't get through door and would stop smacking into it.
posted by phunniemee at 9:28 AM on May 27, 2011

i have used, as noxetlux suggested, a fan a few feet back from the door blowing out. The wind is enough to keep the bugs out for the brief time the door is open. However, I am in Wisconsin, so our bugs tend to be small -- mosquito size -- but numerous. A fan may not work as well with something cockroach size.
posted by rtimmel at 9:59 AM on May 27, 2011

We've determined that her senility is such that she can't really learn new things. From time to time she suddenly forgets things she already knew (for example, she used to be able to tell when the door was open or closed, even after she lost some sight), but this particular old dog doesn't seem capable of learning any new tricks.

I mean, putting up a barrier seems like the perfect way to keep bugs out, and so I had one! And I've been trying to work out a way to keep using it, especially for the couple of weeks this has been going on. But she can't manage it anymore, and it's more important to have the door free of obstructions so she doesn't hurt herself. (Among other concerns, her partial blindness is caused by an eye disorder that can be caused by, or potentially worsened by, hitting her head.)

So what ELSE can I do?

I can try turning the lights on in that room tonight and see how that goes. If all else fails I can consider a fan blowing outward (oh! my AC!), but when I went over there to work on the logistics I'm having trouble finding a place I could put a fan, due to the way the door opens and the shape of the room. It's a thought; I'll keep working on it.
posted by galadriel at 9:59 AM on May 27, 2011

I just got one of these and now I keep my back doors - there's a wooden door and a regular screen door - open all the time so the dogs can go through. Basically, it's a hanging screen - hangs from a pressure rod in the door frame so you can just jam the doors open and still have a screen door. It's soft and since Saedy is already used to going through things, it wouldn't bother her. It works. . . pretty well. Okay. Not great, not as good as a screen door, but I think we're looking at about half or possibly a third of the bugs inside that we would have with no barrier at all. The other thing I'm about to do is replace all the outside lights with yellow fluorescents, because theoretically bugs cannot see yellow light and won't be drawn to it the way they are to normal light. Maybe this combination will work for you too?
posted by mygothlaundry at 10:08 AM on May 27, 2011

insect barrier

screen strips

If you shorten these so that they end above the dog's head, it will still reduce the # of bugs. I'd also spray the doorframe, screen, etc., with bug dope, seems to help a bit at my house.
posted by theora55 at 10:17 AM on May 27, 2011

What a dilemma! How about trying to get her out the door more quickly?

My first thought is to get Saedy a lifting harness. I have used that model on Newfoundland dogs to help get them up and carry them outside. It's not an EASY lift, mind you, but it works pretty well.

Alternatively, if she's amenable to crates, you could pop her in a crate and slide the crate outside.

Either of these methods could be combined with a sheet or curtain tacked up over the door, to serve as a bug barrier.

I would turn off the porch light, or switch it to one of those yellow bulbs that bugs can't see. I found that my (rural) porch light attracted swarms of bugs to the general area of the porch. And from there, it's inevitable that some of them will get sucked inside when the front door is opened.
posted by ErikaB at 10:56 AM on May 27, 2011

Would there be value in calling an exterminator to consult and maybe spray in the immediate vicinity of the house?

Alternatively, since Saedy can't see, what about leaving the outside light off as well?
posted by cecic at 11:54 AM on May 27, 2011

You could get one of the heavy freezer-grade strip doors, which will keep cool air in so that you can leave the regular door open while she's outside. (Expensive.) Or you could make a DIY version with a shower curtain, making sure you overlap thoroughly. (Cheap.)

Or you could plastic/glass over the screen part of your screen door (and maybe the top part of the doggie door) to keep cool air in and leave the regular door open while she's outside.
posted by anaelith at 12:05 PM on May 27, 2011

When the bugs come in, are they using the full height of the doorframe? What would happen if you were to cut across your door at doggy height and hinge the bottom to the top, creating a full-width flap you could open independently?
posted by flabdablet at 6:46 PM on May 27, 2011

This isn't really a quick or guaranteed solution, but when I lived in Florida we tried to keep the plant growth near the house to a minimum. Which is somewhat counter-productive, in that the lush plant growth can keep the house cool. But if you've got a bunch of bushes and plants and low-to-the-ground cover near the door, you could try cutting that back. I lived in an older house with plants gone wild all around it, and when we cut stuff back it cut down on the roaches.

My sympathies. They are the worst.
posted by lillygog at 10:58 AM on May 28, 2011

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