Cockroaches! I didn't see that coming. When I first visited the place in May, it was unoccupied and clean as a whistle (or so my selective vision told me). I saw no sign of a roach and didn't even stop to consider that pests might be an issue. When I moved in a month later, I did spy one cockroach, which gave me palpitations, but only mild ones—I'd seen a roach the day I moved into my last apartment, and nothing had come of that. Fast-forward to late July. It was a month after we'd moved in, and suddenly cockroaches were quite literally coming out of the woodwork! (Is that where this phrase comes from?)
This brings me to my moral dilemma. How does a vegetarian who cares for all creatures, great and small, deal with disgusting insects that are invading her home?
Well, every vegetarian has to draw the line somewhere. You can love all living things, but if they don't respect boundaries and they are a legitimate threat to your way of life, then your only recourse is to kill them. I've had to go through the same thing with bedbugs (no one can really blame you for trying to eradicate a pest that feeds on your own body) and ants.
The ants decided my desk at work was the best place for an ongoing party! After trying numerous times to dissuade them with various strongly scented oils, I finally had to resort to extermination. I am not a fan of using baits or poison. They seem underhanded ("Come here little buggy-buggy, I have a treat for you...it's death!") and sadistic (having suffered food poisoning before, I would never wish that kind of fate on anyone!). And the kind of sticky trap that causes animals to rip their own legs off in an attempt to escape is just cruel. Another option I might have mentioned before is diatomaceous earth, a long-established insect killer that works by creating micro-punctures in the animal's exoskeleton, causing it to lose too much liquid to the surrounding environment. I'm not sure death by desiccation is really much better than many others, but at least with a DE barrier, the bugs won't come to any harm if they just stay clear of it and out of my space! So I dusted diatomaceous earth around all the cracks in my window, and soon the ants were gone. Though I was sad about my murderous ways, I could not function at work with ants crawling all over me.
This summer, our house for some reason developed an infestation of flies. I was trying to ignore them, but I was so fed up by the time I went to the Fulton County Fair, I actually picked up a free promotional flyswatter so I could end the constant buzzing around my head. I never needed to put the flyswatter to use, as the flies had pretty much all disappeared by the time I brought it home, and I was relieved to not have to play executioner to countless insects just trying to live their short lives.
Roaches, however, are a whole different story.
This isn't my first brush with cockroaches—when I moved into an apartment for the first time in 2006, I not only met my first cockroach; I met thousands of them. Every night, the roaches swarmed out from the kitchen in droves. They nested in everything. They loved my roommate's laptop so much that they clogged its fan and made it chronically overheat. There were so many cockroaches in that apartment, you could smell them—it is true; they do have a smell. And it wasn't pleasant. It didn't take me long to learn to hate roaches with every fiber of my being—and to show cockroaches no mercy. If I were the type of person to invent mottoes, one of them would be "Thou shalt not suffer a roach to live."
Since I was seeing roaches with more and more frequency as August drew to a close, I unwrapped a package of cockroach baits. With other insects, I think of baits as a dishonest way to trick a poor unsuspecting animal...but with roaches, I think baits are the only way to get rid of them before they've taken over your whole house. However, the baits aren't working. Not only did one of our stupid dogs find and eat one, causing a brief terror (later we learned that the roach poison is essentially harmless to humans and pets), but they didn't seem to do anything to rid us of roaches. If anything, their population has ballooned!
In June, I started by seeing a nymph here or there, creeping around the bathroom or the kitchen sink...then it escalated to a nymph or two, maybe every other day...then I started seeing adults scuttling about. Now (especially at night) I find multiple roaches almost every time I enter the kitchen. One horrifying morning, I found three roaches of various ages, just chilling out in the bottom of a saucepan in the drying rack!
I've had to pull out all the stops for this tenacious population. No method of extermination is too gruesome—though I still prefer a good, honest, and quick demise like squashing them to death. That flyswatter has finally come to use after all; I now pick it up every time I enter the kitchen and prepare to do battle. Last night, I took all the contents out of the two cabinets that seem to be harboring the most roaches, and sprinkled diatomaceous earth along all the edges. And if that doesn't slow down the little vermin, my next step will be a combo treatment with borax.
After that? Well, my sincere hope is that it will be nothing. I hope I'll be able to get rid of the roaches and never see one again. Twice now, I've lived in a house where a new resident brought her own little cockroach collection from an infested apartment (one of those times I was that resident - yikes!), but I've never actually faced down an already-established colony of cockroaches. I can only hope that this isn't going to be a multi-month war like the one against the bedbugs.