As northern states wake up from the slumber of winter, snowbirds everywhere begin packing their bags and stowing their sunshine gear for the trip home. A ‘snowbird’ is usually a retiree who lives in a northern state but has a home in the south that they come to in the fall to escape the harsh winter. Conversely they head back home in the late spring to enjoy the milder summers and to catch up with the grand kids.
Most snowbirds go to great lengths to get their homes ready for the months it will be empty. All the lawn furniture gets put in the shed and locked away, phone lists are updated for the neighbor who’ll be watching over the place and all the necessary calls are made to the cable company, post office and water companies to arrange for the service to be suspended. Another favorite maintenance chore that almost all of them do is to put several pie tins or other such container filled with mothballs and charcoal all throughout the house. The charcoal or some use kitty litter is suppose to keep the moisture in check while the moth balls are intended to chase any and all bugs away. From the amount some use I think it would keep even an elephant out of the home.
A lot of my customers are snowbirds and even though they shore up their home in a similar manner they still leave me a key or arrange for the neighbor to let me in. Leaving no obvious stone unturned the typical snowbird doesn’t want to have bugs whether they are there or not but there is one tip that almost everyone forgets.
Plastic wrap your toilet
Silly as it must sound the commode is a main artery into your home and if left unprotected it provides free entry for roaches or anything else that may find itself in the plumbing system. As stated snowbirds or anyone leaving a home empty for long periods of time will turn off the water. This is a smart thing to do to avoid flooding from broken pipes but once the water is no longer flowing and the bowl of the commode goes dry it becomes Interstate 75 for unwanted pests.
Whether you are on city water, shared cistern or private septic system doesn’t matter as roaches (especially American and Australian roaches) thrive in those sewer environments. The constant supply of food and water makes it perfect for them and they really never have to leave the dark abyss if they don’t want to. With your absence however the daily food delivery dries up and they begin looking for new sources. Able to follow air currents with ease they make their way up the pipes and emerge into your home.
Once inside these roaches usually die off quickly for the lack of food and water as well as the treatment barrier they run in to. That’s little consolation for the homeowner when they arrive back at their winter retreat only to find tons of dead roaches all over the place.
For my customers I always give them tips on how to seal up the home for the time they are gone.Some listen and have very few problems while others feel that they are paying me and that should be ‘my job’ to keep the bugs out. Even for the folks who take my advice there is one thing that seldom gets done and that is to put plastic over the commode thus sealing it off and keeping the roaches out. Either way those are the homes I usually have to pick up 15 to 20 (or more) dead roaches every time I go. It’s hard to convince someone that you’ve been diligent in your service while they were away when every step you take across the kitchen floor sounds like you’re walking on croutons.
This simple and easy step is something you should consider even if you have a professional pest control service. All the spray in the world is great and even treating the empty bowl will help but the residual life of the chemical won’t be long and there isn’t a whole lot of products that are labeled for use in plumbing anyway.
Today I ran across three such snowbird accounts and two took my advice and one did not. One even had a variation of the plastic wrap I had not seen before. They filled a zip lock bag with water and placed it over the commodes bottom drain making a very effective barrier. The other who did not remember my tip had at least twenty roaches that I cleaned up and so I went into the cabinets and found the plastic and wrapped it for her. Her home has only been vacant for a short time so you can see how quickly things can escalate. All the pictures in this article are thumbnails and you can click to enlarge. Almost all of the dead roaches are American roaches and each of these homes get treated every two months. While my clients were home not one of them ever had so much as an Earwig inside so you can imagine the horror if they came home to such a mess.
I encourage all of my clients to look at my site and endeavor to teach everyone the virtues of good pest control and pest proofing their homes. Looks like I’ll need to do some more of that in a couple of months when this one gets back or maybe she’s reading this article right now and recognizes her commode. Either way she’ll know I was there by the lack of bugs and perhaps the surprise if she goes to use the potty without looking first. (oh boy-I hadn’t thought of that)
So after you have put the plastic Flamingos away for the summer don’t forget the other plastic that should now be on your list.