When I was in fourth grade, our class was given a test to let us know what types of careers we were geared toward based on how we answered some multiple-choice questions. I wasn’t surprised by many of the career options that were recommended for me—artist, writer, teacher—but one I found completely mind-boggling: pest exterminator. How in the hell did that come up?
I was a nerdy kid who liked to spell, read the dictionary, and handwrite chapters out of my textbooks for “fun.” I didn’t see how that translated into killing bugs and rodents. Well, apparently, there is a small germ for this deep down in my soul, because this year with our cockroach problem, I’ve found the pest exterminator that exists inside of me. We’ve had them bad this year—an apoca-cockaroach-alypse—but after exploring several methods of pest control, I think we’ve finally got a handle on the problem.
We used a fogger when the cockroach problem was definitely more than a few stray ones making their way up the pipes. I had heard that for every cockroach you see, there are ten more hiding, and I wanted them all dead. Now. It turns out, though, that using a fogger is a real pain in the ass. We had to move everything out of our kitchen cabinets and into our living room. Then after we were done fogging, we had to move everything back in and clean all the kitchen surfaces to make sure that we didn’t poison ourselves or our cats. This ended up being an all-day affair, and we found out later that we were supposed to repeat this in twenty-eight day intervals to get rid of new hatching populations. After our first fogger attempt, we just didn’t have the heart to repeat the process. Too much work. Grade: C+
I really, really liked the idea of Pest Offense and wanted it to work, but I was dubious. Pest Offense is a tannish box that looks like a garage opener from days of yore. You’re supposed to plug it into an outlet, and the device will then use electrical current to scramble a cockroach’s senses, creating a force field that shields a person’s home or apartment from pests. It sounded a little too Star Wars for the world I live in, but I was desperate. I read the reviews online for Pest Offense, and they seemed equally divided between “works like a charm” and “what a piece of crap.” I’m afraid our experience fell in the latter category. When I first plugged the device in, I did notice a cockroach that stood rooted on the wall near it. It’s working, I thought. It’s scrambling its brains. Alas, that was not the case. The cockroaches frolicked, more concerned with finding food and water than being alarmed by the pretty blinking light on the box. Grade: F
Our first line of defense, and always one of the most effective, is boric acid. We’ve been carrying around a large squeeze bottle of the stuff since we had our apartment in Bushwick (and it only cost $1.99—the sticker is still on the bottle). You have to make a boric acid barrier in the cracks and crannies where the cockroaches like to go. When we had problems before, we would squeeze a few lines under the sink, and presto, the roaches started dying off. This gets very messy, though, when you’re cleaning or trying to make food. Water mixes with the boric acid and makes a paste like mud. Also, it’s a little hard to explain when company comes over.
“What’s all that yellow powder on your counter?”
You just don’t want to say, “Well, we have a little cockroach problem right now.”
Boric acid is also somewhat toxic. It’s all right when you just need to do a little upkeep underneath your sink, but it made me nervous to have it on the floor or around the counters where my cats might step in it or possibly eat it. Grade: B+
We have a professional exterminator that comes to our building monthly and sprays down any apartment that’s having trouble. All you have to do is put your name on the sign-up sheet in the lobby. I saw that my direct downstairs neighbors had signed up and was terrified of inheriting their roaches once they’d been sprayed. The night before the exterminator was due to come, I crept downstairs and added my name to the sheet, wanting to avoid as much social stigma as possible. The guy came the next day with his canister of bug juice and squirted poison with a nozzle as I anxiously followed behind him, wringing my hands. I told him we’d never had such a problem, but this year it was just terrible.
“Yeah, we been getting a lot of that,” he said. “It’s because we had no winter last year. Cold kills ’em.”
I really didn’t notice much of a difference the two times the exterminator came and sprayed, but I appreciated hearing a reason for this problem and being reassured that it wasn’t because my neighbors were filthy or our apartment. Grade: C
We had a bad week back in early October, spotting two or more roaches on the counter when we woke up in the morning and flicked the lights on in the kitchen, and to top things off, we had a houseguest coming to stay for a week. I sure didn’t want her to wake up to that. I had read a few reviews about Combat Source Kill Max that said it worked well. I was shopping for other things in the Duane Reade when I came across this little box, and feeling dispirited and sure that my problem would never be solved, I went ahead and purchased it.
The Combat Source Kill Max directions said to put drops in the cracks and crevices of cupboards, counters, anywhere the roaches would go. The substance comes in something that looks like a glue gun, and you apply tiny drops that are smaller than the size of a pencil eraser. The stuff works as both bait and poison. It attracts the roaches and they carry the substance back to their lairs, where even more roaches are killed.
I applied drops as directed, and not even an hour later, I saw some big fatties heading along the wall to the poison. They were so anxious for the bait that they didn’t even try and hide. And then suddenly, the carcasses started piling up. This stuff is the shit!
I get a little smug sometimes and want to pat myself on the back, convinced that the roaches are gone and I’m an ace pest exterminator. But every once in a while, one pops out, keeping me humble. It takes maintenance. You have to reapply the bait to keep new roaches from appearing—all part of that life cycle I’ve read so much about. Grade: A+++