New apartment needs debugging.
July 5, 2017 1:25 PM   Subscribe

My husband and I just moved into an amazing garden apartment in Brooklyn, along with our little dog. Yay! Of course, the garden comes with bugs. Nah, no thank you. Help us sort-of-preemptively debug our place/get rid of the silverfish we already saw in the tub this morning?

Of course, we’re expecting some buggy-ness. It’s a garden apartment! I can totally handle the errant roach, fly, or beetle.

But with the appearance of a silverfish in our tub this morning, I’m in full NOPE mode. My husband dispatched the bug with some Raid, but I foresee more. And individual shots of bug killer can't be sustainable long term, right?

I also would like to preemptively guard against any other bug who may infest.

(I've read the many Ask.Me questions about ridding one's self of bugs, and on the internet at large, but none of the answers are concrete or specific enough for what I'm looking for!)

Question about general bug exterminating:

+ Diatomaceous Earth is a-go; I’m grabbing some on my way home. To confirm, this will not hurt our elderly dog? He is quite low to the ground and snuffles around a lot, and I’ve read that breathing it in is bad.

+ Should we put it around our exterior wall in addition to inside our apartment?

Questions about silverfish exterminating:

+ Does Diatomaceous Earth work in bathrooms? I have also read that it needs to stay dry, but that seems difficult in the bathroom. However, I did see one article that says to mix it with vinegar to make a paste and scrub everything down with it. Thoughts?

+ It seems silverfish like humidity. Should I get a dehumidifier? Do they actually work? If so, recos?

+ Where the eff do the bugs come from? The drain? If so, is there something I can pour down there?

Any other advice is also appreciated!
posted by functionequalsform to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Find the point of entrance/infestation and have your landlord (and possibly an exterminator) deal with that.

I'm pretty sure everything you are talking about (Raid, diatomaceous earth, dehumidifier) is no bueno for you and your pup, plus these measures will be ineffective. For example, the dehumidifier works as a heater, in essence, and leaving your dog in an over-heated environment is really unsafe.

If there is a leak in the pipes behind a wall or similar that is encouraging an infestation, that really is for your landlord to deal with. At most you should pay for an inspection from a qualified exterminator, a large part of what they should do is look for and identify things like leaky pipes or unsealed cracks that are encouraging pests. But, like, this is really for your landlord to deal with. Get in touch with them.
posted by jbenben at 1:42 PM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think it's on par with the ditomaceous earth as far as effectiveness and pet/human safety, but I've had pretty decent success with boric acid in powder form. We moved into an older house and were seeing wayyy too many silverfish and spiders, but we too have a pet so we couldn't really go the nuclear route.

While the sealing on the recently-replaced windows was great, the weatherstripping on the doors (where it actually existed) was a joke so we fixed that first. This seemed to help a little, but I realized that we have a lot of gaps around baseboards, trim, etc. so after some research I got some boric acid powder and sprayed it in any little gap I saw (as well behind outlet covers and in the corners of bathroom and kitchen cabinets) with one of these things. Some would end up on the floor or other unintended places but I just wiped it up. That was a couple months ago and I've seen almost nothing since then. I will probably have to redo it again eventually but it seemed to really help. (I should also probably just get some caulk and seal up all the aforementioned gaps, so if that is an option for you, it's probably worth the effort that I've just been too lazy to put forth.)

Also, for killings ants and spiders on the spot, I really like this Orange Guard stuff. It smells good and is pet safe.

Finally, I am sure you'll get some great answers here but I've also found a lot of helpful info searching past threads on Reddit (like r/homeimprovement).
posted by lovableiago at 1:44 PM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

A lone silverfish? I thought silverfish were on the "doesn't matter" end of the insect spectrum?
posted by salvia at 2:13 PM on July 5, 2017 [7 favorites]

And here I am thinking that if you see one or two, there's a good chance many more are lurking? But I don't know.
posted by functionequalsform at 2:49 PM on July 5, 2017

Diatomaceous earth (food grade) is fine for you & your pup. Industrial grade can have needle-shaped particles (e.g., "asbestiform") which are bad for your lungs, but food grade does has extrememly low concentrations of the dicey morphologies and, chemically, you and the pup can eat it by the spoonful.

Boric acid is not safe to eat-- you can use it behind the tub, etc., where your dog can't go, but stick with the D.E. anywhere accessible.

In my experience, silverfish like *paper* and *cardboard* more than water. So there's boric acid in the bottom of my file cabinets.
posted by janell at 3:24 PM on July 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Just be aware that you cannot get rid of all the bugs in a garden apartment. Silverfish are benign anyway.
posted by fshgrl at 6:13 PM on July 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Look into barriers -- tight-weave steel or copper wool, caulk, etc., at any wall/floor boundaries (baseboard) or penetrations (e.g., around water pipes, radiator valves, drains).
No poisons traipsed around the place by the bugs or things that ate them, and no dried carcasses attracting others like you'd have with desiccants. Bonus: also blocks small rodents.

PS: German cockroaches are the ones where 1 seen = 50 hiding nearby. They're the absolute worst creatures ever. I mean, remarkable for their resilience, but just awful. Get pros for those if you find them. I'm confused about the silverfish because these are very small and one wouldn't blast them with raid; are you talking about the 2"-ish waterbug/American cockroach? Barriers are very effective for those guys, and one or two isn't a problem.
posted by 0.692 at 9:12 PM on July 5, 2017

I sprinkled whole cloves around my baseboards when I had silverfish and the bugs stopped appearing. Vacuuming them up a month later smelled delicious.
posted by Capri at 5:49 AM on July 7, 2017

I've definitely seen the occasional lone silverfish over the course of many years in various houses without ever seeing a, swarm or whatever they'd be called (a school? :) ). I'm sure they have relatives, but I'm under the impression that they don't cause significant problems, so it's not a big deal. This is unlike, say, termites or bedbugs, where if you see even one, you do need to go ballistic, because this unseen collective could destroy your house or bite you while you're sleeping.
posted by salvia at 11:18 AM on July 7, 2017 [1 favorite]

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