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Dealing with insects in your Mexico house and garden

J. Brad Grieve

The streets of Playa San Francisco are cobblestone. Better known as
Bugs like tropical shrubs and palm thatching.
© Christina Stobbs, 2009

This month I think we need to connect with our neighbors. No, not the ones in the next house, the ones that are in your garden, sometimes under your house and — unfortunately — sometimes living with you in your house. The insect world does not see boundaries and bugs will go where the opportunity takes them.

Cockroaches, scorpions, earwigs, mosquitoes, termites, beetles, ants and even fleas, present different challenges to homeowners here in Mexico. They are part of the dark side of our little paradise, and we either have to learn to coexist or we will make each other's lives miserable. Remember that for generations before our arrival, these "neighbors" have inhabited the fields, trees and mountains of this area and our presence general provides them with new opportunities that need to be kept in check so we can enjoy our gardens and homes.

In general terms, we need to know that insects need food and water just like we do, hence our homes present a smorgasbord of possibilities.

Consider the cockroach. It can live for several days without food but needs water everyday. This is why they tend to hang around water sources and, in particular, your drains. Drains of course are generally wet and provide a constant source of water so they can survive everyday. Unfortunately, the environment where roaches live can be a source of bad bacteria that can be transported into your home. Keeping drains covered will minimize the chance they will exit into your home. Another preventive measure is to keep your home and, especially your kitchen, clean. Some cleaning products include repellent chemicals that can deter their entrance into your home. Simple leaking faucets and drains can be an attraction for cockroaches because then want to live near the water they need every day. Boric acid is a common "green" insecticide, and leaving the powder in areas where cockroaches have been seen will help keep them away.

Another annual pest is the common earwig. Usually at the beginning of the rainy season, these little pests will propagate quickly and they love moisture and close tight spaces. Hence we sometimes see them falling out of doorways as we open them. A trick I have learned for these little pests is to lay out some small sections — about one meter long — of old garden hose in the garden overnight. These little pests will love to stay in these dark enclosed spaces. In the morning, prepare a bucket of water with some detergent (i.e. dish detergent, laundry detergent, etc.) and walk around the garden, pick up the sections of hose and shake them into the bucket. As the earwigs fall into the bucket, the detergent in the water will kill them.

Scorpions are an interesting problem, but they have an unusual quality that will give away their location. Like many bugs, they are attracted to water and our gardens can be a great home for them. The unusual quality they possess is that they are fluoresce in UV light or a common black light and will literally glow in the black light. Now this not for everyone, but I have a client who, during the night, patrols his garden and perimeter of the house with a portable black light to search out scorpions. The "glowing" scorpions are easy to find and the client picks up the scorpions with a good set of gloves and keeps them in a jar of alcohol. Of course the alcohol kills the scorpions but there is a benefit in the future. If the client received a scorpion sting, the alcohol from the jar could be used to help reduce the inflammation caused by the sting. This is not recommended, however local myth also says it is effective.

Now I have discussed some simple "green" alternatives to handling a few insect problems but, if you decide to use a fumigation service, ask what type of chemicals they use and how toxic these chemicals are. Some local services are excellent and have a long-standing presence here in the community. Remember to thoroughly clean your house the day before the fumigation and do not clean it again until a couple days after the fumigation. This gives a chance for the insecticides and fumigation chemicals to do their work and reduces the chance the insects will return. Unfortunately, many individuals want to wash away the fumigation before it has a chance to be effective.

Published or Updated on: January 28, 2010 by J. Brad Grieve © 2010
Contact J. Brad Grieve

J. Brad Grieve is a professional civil engineer who has lived and worked in the Lake Chapala area since 1994. He is the owner of Ajijic Home Inspections and you can be reach him by phone: (376) 766-2836 or e-mail.

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