Why does my Home have so FEW roaches?
November 1, 2011 12:38 PM   Subscribe

I rent a 50 year old ground level home that has NO pests! This in Hawaii where every home has loads of roaches, ants, etc etc. I have seen one roach in 2 1/2 years. and a neighborhood where they abound! WE have used no pesticides in the past 2 1/2 years and the house has not been tented in 5 years I am worried that at some point in the past someone treated this place with something long acting and toxic: worried for my kids mostly. Landlord says not to his knowledge. What tests could one reasonably do to see if toxins are a problem? Is this fear ridiculous?
posted by dougiedd to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have gecko lizards? Gecko's in the wild eat roaches, they don't sell car insurance :) If you have a healthy population of geckos that could explain the apparent lack of roaches.
posted by COD at 12:50 PM on November 1, 2011

Well, when I lived in Florida for 10 years, I actually didn't have that many bugs - but some of my friends and family members sure did! But, some of them left dishes, had pet food bowls out, kids that dropped food/juice places, etc.
Also, my sister's house has a lot of drafty areas and strange half-finished construction - so I'm thinking bugs get in the house easier.

Unfortunately, where I am now is in a woodsy area and it's a townhouse complex - which means neighbors...
I would love to get my hands on some super "go away bug" toxins!!
posted by KogeLiz at 1:04 PM on November 1, 2011

Have you seen dead roaches?

I also lived in Florida for a few years, and while we had occasional Palmetto bugs (giant flying cockroaches), it really wasn't that common to see them inside. The biggest pest we got was a column of ants.
posted by DoubleLune at 1:12 PM on November 1, 2011

I grew up in Hawaii and we sometimes had roaches, and sometimes didn't (we lived in an apartment building). As far as I know, there is no substance that is so toxic that roaches will stay away for years. Or maybe there is - luck!
posted by rtha at 1:19 PM on November 1, 2011

I agree that I don't know of a pesticide that would be efficacious for that long (trust me, folks would use it, no matter how toxic, if there was one!) And that you would see dead roaches if there were some lingering toxin around to kill them.

One reason you might concerned is if your house built on an old pineapple plantation - then if there's exposed soil you might want to have it tested for arsenic. But I would say this is one worry you can put aside unless you hear of some reason to be concerned.
posted by ldthomps at 1:24 PM on November 1, 2011

My too-much-work suggestion is to buy some hissing roaches or other "pet" bug, if they sell these in Hawaii (or giant millipedes, something) and a little plastic terrarium or bell jar and see if they die in your house.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 1:29 PM on November 1, 2011

My guess is no, you have nothing to worry about. As someone said up-thread, if there was poison in your house, you should reasonably expect to see dead bugs every once in a while. Besides, pesticides tend to degrade quickly. Is it possible that you're just more tidy than your neighbours?
posted by KokuRyu at 1:37 PM on November 1, 2011

per my wife, we have found several dead roaches, one live
posted by dougiedd at 1:56 PM on November 1, 2011

My 1st thought was Chlordane. It's been outlawed for decades and wouldn't last anywhere near 50 years but is still around in some people's garage cabinets and will last for several years once applied. A lot of folks in my dad's generation loved that crap, used if liberally and stockpiled huge quantities when it was phased out in the 70s.
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:05 PM on November 1, 2011

(Hit POST too soon) If Chlordane was applied in the months or a few years before you moved in, it could still be viable.
posted by buggzzee23 at 2:06 PM on November 1, 2011

I'm an exterminator. Every once in a while I will come across a crawl-space that was treated with Chlordane 20 or more years ago and to this day they still don't have so much as a cob-web. I really wouldn't worry too much though. At least you're saving money on exterminator fees. Try putting a piece of candy outside for the ants, and then bring it inside and see what happens. If the ants die then maybe you could get a test just for peace of mind.
posted by ambulocetus at 2:08 PM on November 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: I've worked around agricultural contamination issues in the past, but I know very little about Hawaii specifically.

If this is bothering you, I suggest contacting the folks at your State Environmental Health offices. They have information on their website about pesticide issues in residential areas, including houses located on the pesticide mixing area in a former sugar refinery and issues at former agricultural land. It looks like pesticides are a known issue in some areas and they have people who deal with this. (Your county(?) Environmental Health folks may also be a resource, but I don't know which island you're on to look into that.)

I know differences in roach levels can depend quite a bit on other factors, though, so I wouldn't worry unless you talk to the State folks and they say that you have reason to. One building I worked in with MAJOR roach problems has now cleaned them up by replacing sewer drain pipes. The pipes tended to rot out on the top, not the bottom, so they continued to drain properly but gave the roaches access to travel via the sewer lines. Once the lines were replaced, the roaches no longer got into the bathrooms. It could be your house doesn't have any convenient access points and your neighbors' houses do.
posted by pie ninja at 2:21 PM on November 1, 2011

Our house is in a hugely buggy area, and we know it was treated with something. When we moved in there were dead bugs almost wall-to-wall. Now, six months later, most days we find 10 or more dead bugs on the trip from the bedroom to the bathroom in the morning. When I vacuum once a week or so, I suck up maybe 40 or 50 dead bugs.

I think if your place had been treated with something, you'd be finding more than 2 dead cockroaches.

I think it's more likely that you have very efficient geckos, spiders, or something else that eats them.
posted by lollusc at 3:32 PM on November 1, 2011

I own a pest control company here in Florida and I have customers bring in old containers all the time with chlordane. Most of their homes were treated with the chemical and continue to not have bug issues. It great for my business, but I would be nervous knowing that chemical was applied around my home!
posted by whall at 7:13 PM on January 30, 2012

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