A little piece of my soul has just died.
July 31, 2011 10:37 PM   Subscribe

Say you just spotted a big-ass cockroach, and you are headed out of state for vacation in a little over 24 hours. What do you do tomorrow?

I live in a rented duplex in the midwest and have resided here in peace with little to no interaction with bugs, other than the odd spider or housefly, for five years. But I just now spotted a giiiiant fucking cockroach/waterbug (same thing, right?) in my kitchen. Turned the light on and it fled to darkness and safety under the fridge and now I am freaking. the. fuck. out. I am a tidy person and a diligent cleaner, but I'm not OCD about it: I sometimes leave dirty dishes out overnight. But I've also never seen bugs before. Certainly nothing like what is about to give me nightmares even though I will probably sleep with the lights on.

Anyway, I'm leaving for a week's vacation out of state early Tuesday morning, so I have all tomorrow to... you tell me! Obviously I do a deep clean and take out the trash but do I boric acid the shit out of my kitchen? Set traps? Should I call the landlord first thing in the morning and tell him I need an exterminator? Is this a one-off or is it never a one-off with roaches? I have no experience battling bugs and oh God please help me!
posted by hegemone to Home & Garden (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Any recent changes in the weather? The ants come in here only when it rains. If it's a random one-off event...?
posted by salvia at 10:41 PM on July 31, 2011

You are sooooo clearly not in Australia. Cockroaches, the big ones anyway, fly in and don't indicate any level of hygiene. Ignore it, possum.
posted by taff at 10:43 PM on July 31, 2011 [10 favorites]

If the roach you saw was really as big-ass as you describe it, it probably came in to the house from outdoors looking for water. Honestly, I would be more concerned about a small one. Probably this is a one-off. Sure, put out some traps; that will probably solve the immediate problem. I seriously doubt you're on your way to any sort of infestation, though.
posted by Gilbert at 10:44 PM on July 31, 2011 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: It's basically just been consistently hot as hell for the past few weeks, heat index in the 100's, and mostly dry.
posted by hegemone at 10:47 PM on July 31, 2011

You may have left the window open or something and it came in from the garden. The best thing to do is to buy some glue traps (roach motel) and leave under the fridge, under the sink, and a few other places. There is likely no food around so the roach will be hungry, and will be attracted to the trap.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:48 PM on July 31, 2011

The big ones are icky, but not usually indicative of a systemic problem. The little ones are the nasty infestation type.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:53 PM on July 31, 2011 [6 favorites]

Yeah, a big roach isn't as worrisome as a bunch of little ones. Still, if you're worried about the squick factor, there's a few things you could do. The best thing is to put all your grains and other pantry type foods that might be in plastic bags into sealed plastic or glass containers and clean out all the debris from your kitchen shelves that goes along with it. After that, empty any other storage in your kitchen - say you have a jar you keep for common kitchen utensils, wash it out and dry upside down. Same goes for other storage spaces or overlooked spots of the kitchen. Make sure you've run your garbage disposal, if you have one, thoroughly. Put pet food in a closed plastic container. If you mop, make sure to wring out the mop thoroughly and let it dry before putting it back into storage. Clean out your toothbrush holder. Take the sheets off your bed and wash them, fold them, and put them away until you come back to make your bed. Sweep under rugs and put them out to air in a non wet location until you return. Clear out any other weird dark spots that have been accumulating stuff for a while, etc. Most of this is just stuff to make you feel better, honestly, but it's what I did after we discovered a small mouse that had got onto our porch from a hole in our screen door.
posted by ajarbaday at 10:59 PM on July 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

Also, this is probably totally silly, but if you can trap a few lizards you could release them in your house while you're gone and let them work their magic, though you might find a few mummified lizard corpses down the road.
posted by ajarbaday at 11:02 PM on July 31, 2011

Things to do for peace of mind:
1. Remove sources of food and water
2. Grab some boric acid (sometimes called roach powder...very easy to find...very cheap...follow the directions on the bottle...when they touch this stuff it's a death sentance)
3. Have a relaxing vacation
posted by samsara at 11:07 PM on July 31, 2011

Go to a store and buy yourself some Hoy Hoy Trap-A-Roach glue traps and deposit them liberally around the house, go on vacation and forget about the one roach you saw. if there are more, the traps will have them when you get back and then you can alert the landlord and let him deal with the problem.
posted by motown missile at 11:16 PM on July 31, 2011

Say you just spotted a big-ass cockroach, and you are headed out of state for vacation in a little over 24 hours. What do you do tomorrow?

Honestly? I'd pack for my vacation. Then I'd go on my vacation and worry about it when I got back.
posted by Justinian at 11:56 PM on July 31, 2011 [8 favorites]

Do you have a window air conditioner? Those things don't seal very well and bugs can get in around them.

I'm also a life-long midwesterner. I wouldn't/don't worry about the occasional roach sighting. One or two a summer is pretty unavoidable. As long as you keep your apartment clean enough (and it sounds like you do) they won't have any reason to make camp. If you start to see them consistently, or find an egg, then it's time to call the exterminator.
posted by sbutler at 12:16 AM on August 1, 2011

welcome to the club! long story short of my experience was: don't use traps or chemicals, expect it during extreme changes in weather, take your trash out and keep things dry just to be sure. the big ones go away on their own.
posted by elif at 12:31 AM on August 1, 2011

If it was one of the really big ones that we Southerners call "palmetto bugs" to mask our disgust of giant freakin' cockroaches, he was probably just moseying through looking for a slow-moving small child or a fat goat to spirit away to his mountaintop lair. No worries. The big ones are just passing through; it's the little ones that take up permanent residence that are the really pernicious problem.

Go on your vacation. In the meantime, monster roach will have told his buddies that pickings are slim at your place.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:43 AM on August 1, 2011 [5 favorites]

I have had the single-big-roach scuttling experience. It was way better than having ants or even the occasional tracked-in single cat flea - Mr. Giant Roach just kept going, it turned out. Were I you, I would pretend I had seen nothing, and I would go on vacation and block it ruthlessly from my mind.
posted by gingerest at 1:18 AM on August 1, 2011

The big ass black water bugs are a one-shot deal, usually, and not an infestation. If you're in near Chicago, the following information will apply: they wander up through the drains in the summer, especially when it's really humid. They tend to prefer kitchens and bathrooms, first floors and basements, and brick buildings. They don't usually bring friends or stay long. If you smash them, yucky slime comes out.
posted by esmerelda_jenkins at 2:00 AM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're clean, then should be no issues. I'd buy some roach motels and scatter them around (keep out of the way of pets) and that should give you peace of mind.
posted by arcticseal at 2:11 AM on August 1, 2011

I feel for you, I once had one of those bad boys fly on my forearm like an eagle. ::chills:: It doesn't indicte you're a dirty person but make sure there aren't any leaks and water in your kitchen. Wipe up every night. Don't leave a single dish in the sink. This too shall pass :-)
posted by InterestedInKnowing at 3:04 AM on August 1, 2011

Response by poster: Ok, your calm responses have mostly counteracted my natural response to lose my shit. I appreciate that immensely. I think for peace of mind I'll get the roach traps, cause I'd really just like the one that dared show it self to be dead 'n gone, and not worry or have nightmares while on vacation that my home is being overrun by scuttling evilness.

(But God help me you'll hear from me again if I find out I have a problem when I get back.)

Thanks guys!
posted by hegemone at 6:16 AM on August 1, 2011

OK, but if your goal is to get rid of that one cockroach, traps aren't going to work because the openings will be too small. (I mean, we're talking about a 2-incher, right?)

I agree that you have no reason to be concerned about an infestation.
posted by the_blizz at 7:14 AM on August 1, 2011

Response by poster: Ah, I figured there would be multiple-sized traps available, are the traps just built for the smaller roaches?
posted by hegemone at 7:34 AM on August 1, 2011

We had a serious roach infestation that the management company was completely not concerned about in the rental we just moved out of. What helped us combat it before the move was putting boric acid down on the doorsteps, behind the refrigerator, and underneath the dishwasher where there was a crack in the outer wall that led outside.

We also cleaned everything up and made sure no crumbs or water drops were left out, sending the Roomba through the kitchen every couple of days. We also put food that comes in plastic bags into hard plastic containers like Tupperware, as we found small holes eaten into plastic bags to get to the bread inside, and we think it was the roaches.

We also hired an exterminator to hit the house we bought before we moved in, so that anything that came over in our stuff was met with chemical death.

If you see anything that looks like a little black plastic coffee bean, that's a roach egg case and *that's* when it's time to panic. I have seen far, far more of those than I ever wanted or expected to see in the last six months, and continually think evil thoughts towards the management company who refused to get an exterminator and seemed to consider killing three roaches in a day not a sign of an infestation. (Honestly, it was the last straw that tipped us over into buying our own house.)
posted by telophase at 7:43 AM on August 1, 2011

Data point: a couple years ago I found a roach so big that it stuck out from under both sides of my cat's (very large, very furry) paw. I was basically hyperventilating from abject horror. It was the only one we ever found, thank Darwin.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:17 AM on August 1, 2011

You're going away: turn off your appliances and set off some roach bombs. The windows and doors will be closed and you won't be there breathing it in.
posted by h00py at 8:32 AM on August 1, 2011

Second the boric acid.

But I mix mine with powdered sugar and corn starch. Then I get a long stick and strap an 1/8 tsp measure on the end with a rubber band. I use that to deposit little tiny piles of the mixture all over the house in out of the way places -- under the fridge, in cracks between furniture, at baseboards behind the entertainment center, all doorways, etc, where roaches are likely to hide. Keeps the roaches under control in my house and I live in Houston, the roach capital of North America.
posted by cross_impact at 9:03 AM on August 1, 2011

More on boric acid, the way it works is quite devious. Roaches (as well as other critters) come into contact with it, the fine powder sticks to their legs, they ingest the powder while grooming themselves, and die of dehydration (or something equally gruesome and awful) sometime later. But yes, squeeze some under the fridge (roach powder usually comes in easy to use squeeze bottles), under radiators, near cracks or crevices, near or around the sink, and pretty much anywhere you can imagine a roach trying to scurry where there's food, water, or shelter.

The sugar + corn starch additive is actually fairly brilliant, I'm going to try that next time around!

I've seen boric acid take out numerous other types of grooming bugs as well (I live in an older house so there's plenty of entry points) including beetles, crickets, ants, etc. It doesn't stick to much else and is easy to vacuum up when you feel the war is over. But again, good luck, and have a relaxing vacation!
posted by samsara at 10:12 AM on August 1, 2011

I rented a room in Florida once with a woman so anal about housekeeping that you could eat off her bathroom floor. Heck, you could eat off her TOILET.

She still got the occasional palmetto bug (which is what you are describing.)

They do indeed come in looking for water.

If you have pine straw, etc around the foundation of your home get rid of it. Then, do borax. You'll be fine.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 3:21 PM on August 1, 2011

As others have said, the big ones are wanderers from outside. I keep a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol that dispatches them pretty quickly. I use the concentrated stream spray rather than the mist setting. I can hit 'em from 6 feet away and herd 'em toward the drain or door.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:12 PM on August 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

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